08/01/2014 4:11PM

Fasig-Tipton Saratoga: Select yearling sale will test upper market


Three weeks ago, the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July selected yearling sale gave the industry its first milepost for the 2014 yearling market. On Monday and Tuesday, the pulse of the upper market will be tested at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale.

The two-day sale will take place August 4-5 at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., with each session beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern. It is the first of two elite-level North American yearling sales on the auction calendar, followed by the first book of the Keeneland September yearling sale, which starts Sept. 8.

“We’re very, very optimistic,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning Jr. “It’s great to have five horses that were [2013-2014] Grade 1 winners on the front of the Saratoga catalog this year. The sale’s been a great source of high-class runners for many years, and I think we’ve got a tremendous catalog here, so we couldn’t be any more excited.”

This year’s edition of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga catalog includes 165 entries, a 9 percent boost compared with 152 cataloged in last year’s renewal (14 hips were withdrawn as of Aug. 1). Browning said the boutique setup of the sale, with more than 80 horses cataloged for each session, affords each horse a spotlight in front of high-end buyers, which can lead to competitive bidding if the yearling fits the bill.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase your horse,” Browning said. “You certainly have less competition than you might at other sales venues because of the limited number of horses.”

Fasig-Tipton’s New York sales grounds are located within close proximity of both Saratoga Race Course and the Oklahoma training track, giving all of the high-profile trainers who populate both venues easy access to the auction.

The first session’s evening start time is scheduled around the Monday afternoon race card at Saratoga, allowing the owners and trainers at one of North America’s preeminent Thoroughbred meets the ability to attend both the races and the auction without fear of missing one or the other. The clientele, location and timing of the sale, Browning said, are some of its biggest drawing points.

“You’ve got a great level of interest and enthusiasm for the business at Saratoga,” Browning continued. “There’s no question that the auction process is part psychological, and people feel good and are excited to be at Saratoga with the great racing. The greatest group of trainers that exists anywhere in the United States is located right across the street from the sale grounds.”

While the yearlings of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale were perhaps selling to a different audience than the horses that will go through the ring this week in Saratoga, the Kentucky sale can provide a snapshot of what one might expect for the remainder of the yearling season.

As such, the July sale maintained the trend of an improving yearling market, posting modest gains in gross receipts and average price. With the bloodstock market still seeking to establish equilibrium on its way back from recession-era lows, stability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when heading into a major sale.

“I thought Fasig Kentucky July indicated some positive trends for sure, and Saratoga tends to attract more end-users, particularly with its nearness to the racetrack and people coming in for the races,” said Meg Levy of consignor Bluewater Sales. “We have pretty much the same expectations that we’ve had in past years. We’re just bringing up a handful of very select horses, and we have high hopes for them. It’s just a great place to sell a real American, athletic racehorse.”

Levy noted that the Saratoga sale is unique in that the potential for risk and reward is greater from a seller’s perspective than selling a yearling in Central Kentucky, where the bulk of the horse population is foaled and raised. However, Fasig-Tipton Saratoga’s clientele, history, and most importantly the potential to sell a high-dollar horse make it worth the roughly 800-mile trip.

“The expenses of going up there are quite a bit higher than selling the horses [in Lexington, Ky.], which probably hurts Saratoga in a way because back in the day, [more] breeders came from Virginia and other places nearby,” she said. “It’s less risk and easier for all of us in Kentucky to sell the horses in our backyard, but taking them to Saratoga is special. It’s for that once-in-a-lifetime horse, as far as I’m concerned, and you can see that in the results. It’s a great place to do our best matchmaking.”

Last year’s Saratoga select sale finished on nearly even terms with the 2012 renewal, with 108 yearlings sold for revenues of $31,870,000. That marked a decline of 0.4 percent compared with 2012, when 107 horses brought an even $32 million.

The average sale price fell 1 percent at last year’s Saratoga select sale, from $299,065 to $295,093. However, the auction posted an 11 percent increase in median price, jumping from $225,000 to $250,000. The buyback rate also saw significant improvement, falling from 34 percent in 2012 to 21 percent in 2013.

“I don’t see any reason for a dramatic movement for the statistics in any direction,” Browning said, projecting the market for 2014. “When you have a limited number of horses, a few horses can skew a few of the statistics, but I think we’ve got a fairly similar market and a fairly similar catalog, so I think we’ll see similar results.”

A $1.225 million Dynaformer filly topped last year’s auction, selling to Borges Torrealba Holdings via Three Chimneys, agent, during the opening session. The Kentucky-bred filly, now named Lady Zuzu, is a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Optimizer; she has yet to make a start but has posted seven recorded workouts since June for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, the most recent a four-furlong breeze July 27 at Saratoga.

Both sessions of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale will be streamed live at DRF Breeding. Click here to view the sale.