Updated on 09/17/2011 10:02PM

Fusaichi Pegasus filly brings $2 million

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The filly, Hip No. 47, is out of the Grade 3-winning mare Collect Call.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Taylor Made Farm, owned by the sons of the late Gainesway Farm manager Joe Taylor, had to persuade Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez to enter their 2004 Fusaichi Pegasus filly in the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga auction.

The couple have years of experience breeding Quarter Horses and Paints. But they have been in the Thoroughbred business only since 2000, when they bought a handful of horses, including the filly's dam, Collect Call. Their plan was to breed for the racetrack, not the sales ring. But Collect Call's filly, Taylor Made assured them, was something truly special who could command a hefty price in a strong yearling market. The breeders eventually gave in, and for the first time, they put a horse up for auction.

On Tuesday night, the Rodriguezes were amply compensated for the loss to their racing stable when wine tycoon Jess Jackson outdueled liquor importer Lee Einsidler and bought the Fusaichi Pegasus filly for the night's top price of $2 million.

"We usually race our horses," said Rod Rodriguez. "We thought if she didn't bring a good price, we'd race her, because that's what we do. That was more than we were expecting."

"They really had to talk us into it," added Lorraine Rodriguez of Taylor Made. "We owe them everything."

The price was roughly twice what auction spectators had thought Hip No. 47 would bring in a yearling market that many had predicted would be conservative.

But Jackson, represented at this auction by John Moynihan, has not been noted for conservatism in recent years, buying property in Kentucky and Florida and bidding aggressively to acquire choice bloodstock for a potential breeding empire. The Rodriguezes' filly held a lot of attraction: She is by a hot young sire whose reputation grew again with Roman Ruler's win in the Aug. 7 Haskell, and her dam is a Grade 3 winner who placed in three Grade 1 races on her way to earning $434,000. The Fusaichi Pegasus filly, currently named Call Collect, is the mare's first foal.

Moynihan, cornered by the press after signing the ticket on behalf of Jackson's Stonestreet Stable, waxed lyrical about the filly, calling her one of the best he has seen in the last five years.

Taylor Made's Steve Castagnola, one of the men who encouraged the Rodriguezes to sell their prize filly, agreed.

"It's a good start to the breeding program," Castagnola said.

The Fusaichi Pegasus-Collect Call filly was one of two lots to fetch seven-figure bids on Tuesday night. The other was Hip No. 60, a Giant's Causeway-Exchange Place colt from the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Affirmed Success. Demi O'Byrne, the agent for Coolmore associate Michael Tabor, signed the ticket. Coolmore stands both Giant's Causeway and Fusaichi Pegasus.

Lifted by those stratospheric prices, the session sold 51 lots for a total of $16,525,000, resulting in an average price of $324,020 and a $250,000 median. Seventeen lots failed to reach their reserves. Last year, when the auction was three days instead of the current two-day format, the opener sold 50 lots for $14,225,000, yielding a $284,500 average and a $240,000 median; 15 horses did not meet their reserves at that session.

Looking over the sale results, Fasig-Tipton's chief operating officer, Boyd Browning, was especially pleased to see some relatively new players - like Jackson and Einsidler - on the buyers list.

"We'd like to see more of those," Browning said. "We all need to work extremely hard as an industry to market our sport."

Owner Tracy Farmer, who won the Aug. 6 Whitney with Commentator and saw his colt Sun King finish second behind Roman Ruler in the Haskell the following day, pointed out that the races themselves were the best advertisements to draw new owners to the game.

"There are a lot of owners who have winners here tonight," said Farmer, musing on the heady combination of racing and sales at the Spa. "It's good for the industry."

Rod and Lorraine Rodriguez concur. Lorraine's father had bred, owned, and trained a few Thoroughbreds as what she called "a backyard racehorse person," years before she and her husband established their Cottonwood Creek Ranch for Quarter Horses and Paints in northern California. When their farm veterinarian encouraged them to consider getting into the Thoroughbred game themselves, it was the prospect of racing that drew them in. Their success - with such runners as Collect Call, Grade 3 winners Bossanova and Roman Dancer, and multiple stakes winner Fair Apache - now extends to the auction ring.

There may be more to come, too. The Rodriguezes still prefer to race their own stock, but after Tuesday night's triumphant debut, they may return to the auction ring again. If so, they'll be loaded with some flashy pedigrees. Collect Call, the $2 million filly's dam, is in foal to the commercially fashionable sire Unbridled's Song, and Fair Apache produced a Lemon Drop Kid filly this year.

"We're very fortunate," Rod and Lorraine said in unison.

"He never likes to sell anything," laughed Lorraine.

"But with Taylor Made's guidance, you know," Rod said, "I think we certainly have to listen to what they tell us."