07/14/2010 5:38PM

Medaglia d'Oro yearlings hot at Fasig-Tipton sale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. − Yearlings by Medaglia d’Oro, the sire of champion Rachel Alexandra, were hot commodities again Wednesday at Fasig-Tipton’s July select yearling sale in Lexington.

One day after a $450,000 Medaglia d’Oro colt topped the two-day auction’s opening session, a Medaglia d’Oro half-sister to Grade 1 winner Divine Park brought a session-leading price of $350,000. Selling was still underway Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., with that filly, Hip No. 245, still the leader.

“Medaglia d’Oro half to a Grade 1 winner − it’s hard to beat on that, isn’t it?” Virginia-based bloodstock agent Debbie Easter said after signing the ticket on behalf of buyers Carter and Wick McNeely‘s Morrowdale Farm. “You know, he’s the hottest sire around right now, so I figured they’d be some other folks bidding.”

Another Medaglia d’Oro, this one a $230,000 colt out Grade 3-placed Future Act, was the session’s second-highest-priced yearling at that hour. Agent Frank Brothers bought him on behalf of Starlight Partners. Denali Stud, agent, was the consignor. And Hip No. 293, a Medaglia d’Oro-Merry Me in Spring colt brought $200,000 from Pike Racing, agent; Gainesway, agent, was the seller.

A pair of yearlings had brought $225,000 by 3:30. They were Hip No. 221, a Malibu Moon-Five Star Dream filly that Carolyn Vogel’s Crossed Sabres Farm in New Hampshire bought from Candyland Farm, and Hip No. 307, an Unbridled’s Song-Misty Rosette colt that agent Tim Kegel bought from Ashview Farm, agent.

Easter said she was at her limit when she cast the final bid that secured Hip No. 245, a dark bay with a splashy star and snip that were reminiscent of Rachel Alexandra’s distinctive markings. The filly’s pedigree would have made her the object of buyer’s desire.

“That’s what you want when you’re trying to make a broodmare band,” Easter said, adding that the filly’s attributes also included “a huge walk and a lovely neck and shoulder.”

Easter pronounced herself “very psyched” to acquire the filly from Brereton Jones’s Airdrie Stud. The daughter of High in the Park eventually will join the McNeelys’ racing stable, which also features Grade 1 winner Funny Moon.

Easter bought Funny Moon, most recently seen finishing third in last month’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont, for $175,000 at this auction in 2000. That was the beginning of a long-term plan, Easter said, to buy a pair of yearling fillies annually.

“They’re trying to slowly build a broodmare band by buying some yearling fillies,” Easter said of the McNeelys, who live in Charlottesville, Va. “The nice thing about her is that being a half to a Grade 1 winner and by Medaglia d’Oro, that never goes away. For us, that’s huge, for what we’re trying to do.”

Professional pinhookers − yearling-to-juvenile resellers − appeared hesitant to venture above $150,000 to buy inventory for the 2011 2-year-old auctions. Ciaran Dunne, who sells juveniles under his Wavertree banner, bucked the trend by spending $187,000 for Brookdale Sales agency’s Elusive Quality colt out of Freudenau. In 2004, Freudenau’s Wild Rush colt set a record $1.6 million price at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s February auction. But most were active in the under- $100,000 range to avoid paying retail prices for horses they’ll have to resell.

“Very healthy” was how one pinhooker, Eddie Woods, described the auction Wednesday.

“Good horses are bringing everything they should bring, and there’s no room for mediocrity,” he said. “It’s going to stay that way for a while. But there are plenty of people here for a good horse.”

Woods said pinhookers are anticipating the select juvenile sales, which posted some gains in 2010, will continue to have a relatively small number of buyers in 2011.

“Everything has to stack up right there,” he said of 2-year-old sales. “We always have worries in our market because we sell into such a narrow opening. We have about half a dozen strong buyers for the good 2-year-olds, and if one of them doesn’t show up, that’s a great loss. If one guy doesn’t show up at a yearling sale, it’s not a big deal.

“Pinhookers are the backbone of this sale, but there aren’t any pinhookers in our game,” he said. “There are fewer people wanting to own a horse now, it looks like. There are plenty of horses around but not enough owners at the moment. Probably, people are backed up financially and are waiting for things to get better.”

The question now is whether the results from a relatively small auction will serve as an accurate barometer of the overall yearling market’s state.

“Six thousand, maybe more than 6,000, yearlings will go through the auction ring in 2010,” Fasig-Tipton CEO Boyd Browning said after the Tuesday session. “We’ve had such a small population go through the ring so far, and we live in a time when there is uncertainty amongst sellers of virtually anything, whether it’s horses or real estate. This might give sellers some confidence, but I don’t see euphoria in the barn area saying, “We’ve weathered the storm, the crisis is over, and we can go out and change the way we’re doing business. I think this is still a very conservative selling bunch.”