07/11/2008 12:00AM

Fasig-Tipton sale opens under new owner


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The select yearling sale season opens Monday with Fasig-Tipton's two-day July yearling sale, the first auction at Fasig-Tipton's Lexington headquarters since the Dubai company Synergy purchased the historic sale company.

Fasig-Tipton executives say that, despite that dramatic change in ownership, little else will change in the short-term.

"I would expect there will be a lot of thoughts and a lot of ideas about how to improve all of our sales in the future, so I would expect there might be some changes in the future," said Fasig-Tipton's chief operating officer, Boyd Browning. "But none are on the drawing board yet."

Synergy is headed by Abdulla al-Habbai, a close associate of Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, the yearling market's dominant buyer and a rival of the market's other major player, John Magnier's Coolmore Stud of Ireland. But auction officials have been careful to point out that business at Fasig-Tipton will continue as usual, without favoring one party over another, and with "assurances" and "encouragement" to both Darley and Coolmore representatives, said Browning.

John Ferguson, the chief bloodstock advisor to Maktoum who also served as a spokesman for Synergy in announcing the Fasig-Tipton purchase, has said that Maktoum has no financial stake in the auction house and will take no role in running it. But the ruler of Dubai undoubtedly has influence over al-Habbai, a young businessman in his 30s with no previous known involvement in the North American Thoroughbred world. That could bolster the July sale's immediate fortunes.

"A Dubai-based concern now owns Fasig-Tipton, and certainly they have a vested interest in making sure the sale gets off to a good start," said bloodstock market analyst Michael S. Brown of SireAverages.com. "It will be interesting to watch."

Fasig-Tipton's July yearling sale posted mixed results in 2007 after enjoying record returns in 2006. The 2007 auction sold 354 horses for $36,441,000, an increase of 2 percent from the 2006 gross. But the average of $102,941 and median of $80,000 each fell 11 percent from the previous season's record levels, and buybacks climbed from 25 percent to 32 percent.

This year's catalog of 568 yearlings is down slightly from last year's 582.

The first 322 yearlings in the catalog make up the New Sire Showcase, yearlings sired by first- or second-crop stallions. This year's group features the first crop of yearlings by 17 Grade 1 winners, including Horses of the Year Ghostzapper and Saint Liam; champion 3-year-old and dual classic winner Afleet Alex; champion turf males Kitten's Joy and Leroidesanimaux; and multiple Grade 1 winners Southern Image and Pico Central.

A few of the yearlings expected to attract attention due to their close relationship to notable performers are:

Hip No. 10, a Wildcat Heir half-brother to Oprah Winney; Hip No. 84, a Leroidesanimaux half-sister to the dam of Point Determined; Hip No. 126, a Domestic Dispute colt that is a half-brother to Storm Punch.

Hip No. 131, a Purge half-sister to Bear in the Woods; Hip No. 202, a The Cliff's Edge half-sister to Recapturetheglory; Hip No. 293, a Roman Ruler son of Jeanne Jones; Hip No. 314, a Eurosilver half-sister to Lantana Mob; Hip No. 330, a Malibu Moon filly out of a half-sister to champion sprinter Midnight Lute.

Hip No. 347, a Songandaprayer colt out of a full sister to Balto Star; Hip No. 426, a Songandaprayer half-brother to the dam of Commentator; Hip No. 429, another Songandaprayer colt, a half-brother to Futural; Hip No. 439, a Grand Slam half-brother to Wander Mom; and Hip No. 541, a Dixie Union half-sister to She's Got the Beat.

The sale runs Monday and Tuesday at Newtown Paddocks, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m.