05/19/2017 1:16PM

Midlantic sale now in the big time

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The evolution of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training from a largely regional affair to a legitimate venue for seven-figure horses is a fairly recent development but hardly an overnight success.

Prior to 2015, the auction house based on the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium had never put a horse through the ring for $1 million or more. Paget Bennett, Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic sales director, said the previous record hovered around $850,000, and while the auction certainly was a place where a seller could get a fair-to-outstanding price for a horse, it was known more for stocking the barns of trainers in Maryland and the surrounding states.

But each of the past two renewals has produced a horse who added an extra comma to the price tag, starting with a Midlantic-record $1.25 million Smart Strike filly in 2015, followed by a $1 million Uncle Mo filly last year.

The high-priced horses give sellers enough confidence in the market to enter higher-quality stock in Maryland sales, while recent success in graded stakes by sale graduates has kept the interest of elite buyers. All of that, combined with the lucrative statebred programs in the region, is creating a snowball effect that bodes well for the sale’s long-term health.

“We always were able to sell an expensive horse, and it was just nice to be able to break through and hit that seventh digit on the board,” Bennett said. “It just takes time, and everybody just keeps coming. Luckily, when the first one sold, we had two people that wanted that horse badly enough that one was not going to back down, and that’s how you get to a million, and the same thing happened last year.”

The sale will take Monday and Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern. The under-tack show was held on the Maryland State Fairgrounds’s five-eighths dirt oval. This year’s catalog features 572 horses on offer, making for a 3 percent smaller catalog than last year.

The sale remains the primary juvenile auction venue for nearby statebreds and is patronized by horsemen throughout the region. Thirty percent of the catalog is made up of horses bred in Maryland, New York, or Pennsylvania – the three largest programs by size and prestige in the vicinity.

“So much good is happening in Maryland with the racing and the breeders’ awards,” Bennett said. “Everybody’s heads are picked back up again, and they feel good about racing horses.”

The 2016 Midlantic juvenile sale cataloged about 100 more horses than the previous edition and saw 337 horses sold for $23,136,400, marking a 2 percent increase in gross. The average and median prices declined from record levels in 2015, which was not unexpected given the catalog expansion. The average price of $68,654 was down 23 percent, while the median fell 29 percent to $32,000. The buyback rate closed at 26 percent.

Last year’s sale was topped by an Uncle Mo filly out of the unraced Tale of the Cat mare Dream Street who sold to trainer Linda Rice as agent for Chester Broman for $1 million. Pike Racing consigned the filly as agent. The filly was later named Modest Maven and has been working toward her debut at Palm Meadows in south Florida.

The standout graduate of last year’s sale is Malagacy, the winner of the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. The Shackleford colt races for Sumaya U.S. Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher after selling last year for $190,000 from the consignment of de Meric Sales, agent.