08/13/2012 7:46AM

Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred sale strong on second day


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Spurred by two $300,000-plus yearlings, the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale on Sunday night posted impressive gains in average and median even as sellers scaled back their expectations for the amount of money buyers would be willing to spend.

The sales topper, a $330,000 Tapit colt out of the stakes winner Cozzene mare Derrianne, was one of 14 horses to sell for $100,000 or more on Sunday night, the final night of the two-day sale. That was a dramatic improvement over the first session on Saturday night, when six horses sold for $100,000 or more. The two-day total of 20 fell just shy of the 21 horses that sold for $100,000 or more at the 2011 sale, but three horses sold this year for a higher price than the $250,000 sales topper last year, all on Sunday night.

Mandy Pope, the breeder of Grade 1 winner Tizway, purchased the sale-topping Tapit colt, and after signing the ticket, she said that she had been shut out from buying all the other horses on her short list, expressing a sentiment of other buyers during the robust bidding of the session.

“We just really liked him, and we haven’t able to buy anything else,” Pope said. “It’s been impossible to get the other colts that we wanted.”

Colts sold especially well during the two-day sale, accounting for the 10 highest-priced horses at the auction, held at the recently renovated Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs, just blocks from Saratoga Racecourse. Of the 20 yearlings that sold for $100,000 or more, 14 were colts.

As strong as the Sunday session was at the top of the market, the 33 percent buyback rate for the session also indicated that sellers adjusted their expectations for what the market would bear in an effort to get their middle- or lower-market yearlings sold. During the Saturday session, the buyback rate was a troubling 43 percent.

Overall on Sunday night, Fasig-Tipton sold 74 horses for an average price of $67,230, a 19 percent gain over the Sunday night average of $56,277 last year. Median was $46,000, a 2 percent gain over median of $45,000 last year. Gross was $4,975,000, a 36 percent jump over the Sunday gross of $3,658,000 last year.

“It would be a little bit of an understatement to say we had a strong session tonight,” said Boyd Browning, the president of Fasig-Tipton, after the Sunday session concluded. “There’s obviously significant demand for a quality New York-bred.”

Coupled with robust gains in average and median for the Saturday night session, the overall average for the entire sale was up 15 percent, at $62,551 for 138 horses sold, compared to an average of $54,238 for 124 horses sold last year. Median over both nights was $50,000, compared to $35,000 last year, an increase of 43 percent. Total gross for the sale was $8,632,000, up 28 percent over the gross of $6,725,500 last year.

Sales officials had high hopes for the New York-bred sale this year following significant gains in average, gross, and median at the 2011 sale. Those gains were largely attributed to optimism over the potential impact of slot-machine subsidies on purses at tracks in New York due to the planned opening of a casino at Aqueduct in late 2011, ten years after the casino was first authorized by the legislature.

Since the casino opened, purses at the tracks operated by the New York Racing Association have been raised by approximately 40 percent, to the highest average daily levels in the country. The state’s breeding program has also received a cut of the slot-machine supplements, and that in turn has made some breeders selective about setting low reserves on the horses being offered in the New York-bred sales, Browning said, perhaps explaining the high overall buyback rate of 38 percent during this year’s sale.

“When you factor in all the breeder awards and owner awards, [some breeders] are more willing to take a shot” by retaining their horses to race them, Boyd said.

The second-highest-priced yearling at the sale, a $320,000 colt by Exchange Rate out of the Lord at War mare Zambezi Belle that is a half-brother to the multiple New York stakes winner Law Enforcement, was purchased by Charlotte Weber, the owner of Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, Fla. Weber said the colt will “hopefully start out in New York-bred company, and then go a little higher from there.”

“I think he’s a nice colt,” Weber said. “And this was a good opportunity to buy a nice New York-bred colt.”

The highest-priced filly to sell at the sale was a $160,000 daughter of Bernstein out of the Quiet American dam Silence Please. The filly, a half-sister to the New York stakes winner Sky Music, was bought by Robert Ribaudo, who, when asked what he liked about the filly, responded sarcastically, “Not the price.”

Expense notwithstanding, Ribaudo said that the filly was “just a classy looking filly, real racy,” and that she would be sent to Florida for breaking and training.

The buyer list at the auction included prominent Florida pinhookers, Kentucky bloodstock agents, and New York-based owners and trainers, including John Kimmel, who bought a $190,000 Candy Ride colt for Summit Thoroughbreds, a racing partnership based in New York. Kimmel trained the colt’s mare, Unbridled Hope, and he said he planned to target the colt for the now-richer New York-bred restricted races. But he also said he hoped the colt would be good enough for longer distance races in non-restricted races. 

“We thought he was top-notch, not just good enough to win the New York-bred races, but the open company races as well,” Kimmel said. “The mare could win those mile-and-a-quarter races, so we think he can do the same thing.”

While the gains at the sale would appear to indicate that buyers remain optimistic about the future of New York racing, buyers also expressed trepidation that New York’s legislature would seek to recapture some of the casino purse supplements over the next several years, citing the sometimes hostile political environment in New York to the racing industry. One of those buyers was Weber.

“I’m cautious, but I’m trying to remain optimistic that they won’t take it away,” Weber said. “It’s like they gave a kid a candy bar, but they said he can only have one bite.”