08/15/2002 11:00PM

New gavel in town: Fasig-Tipton returns


There will be a new look to the Woodbine yearling sale beginning on Sept. 3, when the Kentucky-based Fasig-Tipton sales company comes to town to operate the auction for the first time since 1990.

Fasig-Tipton has a two-year agreement with Woodbine Entertainment and the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society to run the select and open yearling sales, which will take place this year in a span of four days instead of the usual three weeks.

Michael C. Byrne's Canadian Breeders' Sales Company had operated Ontario's Thoroughbred auctions for the past 11 years, but Woodbine, seeking a more streamlined sale system and less possible conflict of interest - Byrne is a consignor and stands stallions - cancelled his company's lease for the sales barns and pavilion last fall.

The three-day sale (Tuesday, Sept. 3, and Friday and Saturday, Sept 6-7) will offer 471 Canadian-bred yearlings, approximately the same number of yearlings cataloged in 2001.

Last year's select and open yearling sales suffered significant drops in gross sales and average price, but changes made to this year's sale should lead to some improvement.

A repository, providing radiograph and other information about each yearling, will be available to buyers for the first time.

Walt Robertson, the president of Fasig-Tipton, believes the repository will help boost buyer confidence.

"It's certainly worked well for us," said Robertson. "The reason I like it is that it enables a buyer with a little less money to expose himself to more horses. He can vet five times as many horses for less money.

Anything we can do to lengthen a prospective buyer's shortlist of horses is a good thing."

Despite recent declines in premier yearling sales this summer, Robertson is encouraged by last week's solid New York-bred sale at Saratoga, operated by Fasig-Tipton, which realized a 14 percent increase in average price. The recently completed California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Del Mar sale of predominantly California-breds also had an increase in average price.

"I feel good going into it," said Robertson. "I hope we can bring to your sale what we bring to our other sales - some American buyers and a selection process that will work. We want to put the best available horses in front of the buyers."

John Carey, who has 36 yearlings in his consignment, said his "fingers are crossed" that more buyers will be out for this year's sale.

"People can't just keep going out and claiming all the time," said Carey. "Hopefully Fasig-Tipton will be bringing some buyers up, and there should be enough local buyers."

* Graded stakes winner Crown Attorney, who stands at Carey's T.C. Westmeath Stud in Shelburne, Ontario, has 17 yearlings from his first crop in the sale.

* More than half of the yearlings in the sale are Ontario-sired, but some of those are missing their Ontario Sires stakes nomination logo on the catalog page.

* Buyers of yearlings will be entered in a draw to win one of three trips to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France, Prague, or the Breeders' Cup at Arlington International, offered by the CTHS.