07/14/2010 5:38PM

Medaglia d'Oro colt sells for $450,000 on opening day at Fasig-Tipton yearling auction

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s July select auction opened Tuesday with some evidence that there’s still demand for Thoroughbred yearlings. But, as many sellers anticipated, buyers remain as choosy as ever in the Thoroughbred industry’s tighter economic conditions.

Sire Medaglia d’Oro remained as popular as ever as Fasig-Tipton July’s first of two sessions kicked off the 2010 boutique yearling sale season. At 3:30 p.m. Eastern, a Medaglia d’Oro half-brother to Grade 2 winner Principle Secret was the session leader after bringing $450,000 from agent Dick O’Gorman for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

The auction takes place at a time when buyers and sellers alike are concerned about falling purse levels and an uncertain bloodstock market. Sellers are hoping the yearling season, which has been beset by significant declines in the last couple of years, will stabilize in 2010.

O’Gorman, representing Maktoum’s chief bloodstock advisor John Ferguson, signed the ticket for Hip No. 159, the $450,000 gray or roan Medaglia d’Oro colt out of Beright, by Gray Slewpy. Meg Levy’s Bluewater Sales agency consigned the colt.

“Quality will out,” Levy said. “Everybody wants the best stuff, and they want the proven stuff, the proven sires. I think the market for quality is as good as it’s ever been.”

But most of the Tuesday session was devoted to yearlings by first-crop sires in the New Sire Showcase.

That part of the catalog included 144 yearlings, who grossed $5,257,000 and averaged $75,100; their median price was $60,000. Buybacks in the freshman showcase were 42 percent.

Consignor Levy sold 4 of 4 yearlings by mid-afternoon, and credited that success to savvy clients who set their horses’ reserves within reach in a conservative marketplace.

“They were very sharp and forgiving as far as their reserves,” she said, “and I think that’s where everybody needs to be.”

“The top end of the market is stable,“ said O’Gorman. “Below the top end, things are still rocky.”

The New Sire Showcase’s top price was the $250,000 that Mandy Pope paid for Hip No. 52, a Street Sense colt out of Hishikatsu Ballado, by Saint Ballado. Consigned by the Taylor Made agency, the colt is from the family of Twice the Vice.

Pope, accompanied by advisors Chris Brothers and Kim Heath, said she’s decided to take a tilt at the yearling-to-juvenile resale business in a year when juvenile sales enjoyed some gains but the yearling prices, Pope hopes, are likely to remain low.

“We’re going to try a little bit, hoping the market’s a little soft. We can buy some nice-quality horses, and see where we go,” she said, adding that her foray into pinhooking will be small, totaling perhaps five resale prospects. “We’re just going to be very selective, and whatever we have we’ll also be comfortable racing ourselves.”

After the 2010 juvenile sales in the spring, professional yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers warned that, even with overall market gains, individual sellers’ profits were still spotty, and Pope acknowledged that reselling a $250,000 yearling at a profit seven months from now is a gamble.

“A little nervous,” she said, when asked how she felt about the Street Sense colt’s price. “You’ve got to be about $400,000 as a 2-year-old. That’s going to be hard to do, so everything’s got to go just right.”

Allied Bloodstock, the agency founded this year by former Stonewall Farm managers Bert Welker and Clark Shepherd, sold a Discreet Cat half-brother to stakes winner Navigator for $235,000.

The Discreet Cat colt’s buyer, the public partnership group Twin Creeks Racing, will add him to a 16-horse racing stable.

Allied Bloodstock’s day started off on a gloomy note when the first of their three-horse consignment failed to reach her reserve on a $62,000 final bid. Welker said that the daughter of champion Lawyer Ron and Amada, by Unbridled, had been the subject of “encouraging” inquiries for potential private sale, but the Discreet Cat colt’s sale understandably added to a sense of relief. Twin Creeks was a repeat customer for Welker, who sold them the $370,000 Medaglia d’Oro filly Our Perfect Ten last year through the Warrendale Sales agency.

Twin Creeks manager Randy Gullat, stopped by Barn 1E to see the stable’s new purchase and shed some light on buyers’ state of minds at a time when purses are declining and the market is still trying to find its footing.

“High-quality horses are still hard to get, and we’re trying to find quality that will fit our program,” Gullat said. “I do think how much we’re going to spend on that horse has come down some. I think the lower purses do play a factor. It puts more emphasis on getting the quality horse that we feel really good about.”

Gullat said the Discreet Cat’s price was at the “upper end” of his planned budget for the colt, but added, “This is the one horse I wanted in the whole sale.”

For buyers like Gullat, longed-for market stability, for now, remains elusive.

“I just don’t know where the market is. I came here with huge question marks. I didn’t know where Sheikh Mohammed would be, where the upper end of the market is, and I’m still trying to feel my way around and figure it out. I think most consignors are holding their best stock back from this sale, so it’s hard to read, and I think the market’s going to be confusing all year long. A stable market would benefit everybody.”