08/11/2011 11:42AM

New York breeding prospects looking even better

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. − Consignors at this weekend’s Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale hope Aqueduct’s planned gaming machines will boost the auction average, even with a larger catalog and concerns over the general economy.

In 2010, the sale posted mixed results. The catalog was 28 percent smaller than in 2009 and produced a 16-percent drop in gross as 94 yearlings sold for $3,676,000. Average price dipped 4 percent to $39,106, but median climbed 11 percent to $30,000, and the buy-back rate also improved, falling from 46 percent in 2009 to a more manageable 34 percent.

This year, as consignors put the final polish on their sale yearlings, prospects for New York racing and New York-breds are looking even better, thanks to Genting New York’s planned opening of 5,000 video lottery terminals and other gaming machines downstate at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The casino is slated to open in October, and by the time these Fasig-Tipton New York-breds head to the racetrack for their first starts next year, Genting’s machines could be pumping about $40 million into New York’s purses and $6 million into statebred breeding funds.

Several major stallion operations, most notably Vinery and Adena Springs, already have sent stallions to New York in anticipation of the swelling breeders’ fund tide. That commitment to the New York breeding business shows up in Fasig-Tipton’s catalog. In a year when other yearling sales are slimming down because of smaller foal crops, the New York-bred auction’s catalog grew by almost 23 percent. There are some new consignments this season, too, headed by Vinery’s 31-horse offering.

“We think it’s going to be the up-and-coming market, with the slots,” Vinery’s public sales director, Derek MacKenzie, said. “We wanted to get in there and ride the wave, I guess you could say. We did a lot of recruiting up there, and we did acquire yearlings when we took over [Empire Stud and Sugar Maple Farm in New York].”

Among Vinery’s sale yearlings are a Giant’s Causeway colt (Hip No. 353) who is a three-quarter-brother to New York stakes winner Light Tactic, and a Purge filly (Hip No. 274) who is a half-sister to Ava K., a multiple stakes winner in New York. Vinery also offers a Grand Slam half-brother to four-time stakes winner and $436,117 earner R Betty Graybull. He sells as Hip No. 336.

“You can’t take anything that isn’t a really good physical to that kind of sale,” MacKenzie said. “We concentrated first on bringing good physicals, and you hope the family goes along with it. We have some from lesser-known stallions that are really good physicals, and we’re thinking that these New York trainers are going to love these when they see them. New York-breds should be a premium, especially this year.”

Smaller consignors, too, brim with optimism.

“I’ve got good hopes for the sale,” said Tammy Jacobs, whose Legend Land Farm is bringing a Silver Train-Skyladywalker colt (Hip No. 212) and a Harlan’s Holiday-Glimmer Twin colt (Hip No. 328). “I think a good horse will sell good anywhere, especially with New York coming on fire. I think it’s going to be a good sale, and this year will be a big turnaround. Everyone’s been anticipating it, the buyers and sellers right down to the grooms, breeders, and stallion owners.”

As for the incursion by larger Kentucky-based farms, Jacobs said it is all part of healthy progress.

“It’s definitely a positive sign,” she said. “When you have nice farms like Vinery and Adena Springs move into the area, it’s a sign that everyone across the country is looking here.

“I took advantage of the down market and went to Kentucky myself and bought some very nice mares by very nice stallions,” she said. “Hopefully, it will come back and help me by paying off at the yearling sales. If it doesn’t, I have a batch of very nicely bred yearlings that it won’t bother me at all to keep and race them.”

One possible cloud on the horizon: new worries that the U.S. economy’s recovery will stumble backward into a “double-dip” recession. Still, New York breeders and sellers believe optimism about New York racing – and the potential for a lucrative return on these yearlings at the racetrack next year – will lure bidders.

“My take on it is there aren’t any good investments in banking or the stock market currently,” Vinery’s MacKenzie said. “The fact is, purses in New York are getting stronger and stronger. If people want to try a different investment, this might be the way to go. There’s no point leaving money in the banks right now, so if they’re sitting on any cash at all, they might be interested in trying horses with the purses being so strong. And I’m thinking there are enough racing people who are pretty excited about New York, and they’ll still come buy yearlings.”

The catalog features a number of pedigrees that are likely to draw attention. Among the first-crop sires, 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown has a foal out of $265,120 earner Sugar Punch (Hip No. 224) and a half-brother to Grade 3-placed That’srightofficer (343). Sunriver, another firster, has half-brothers to Grade 1 winner Buy the Sport (319) and Grade 2 winner St Averil (268). Bustin Stones’s debut yearlings include a half-sister to near-millionaire graded winner The Judge Sez Who (357). Young sire and 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, whose first runners are 2, is represented by a half-sister to graded winner Z Fortune (323).

Among more established sires, Medaglia d’Oro’s lone entrant is a half-brother to graded winner Northern Soldier (256). Empire Maker has a half-brother to Grade 1-placed Ginger Pop (325). Hip No. 258, a Bernstein filly, is a half-sister to classic-placed Icabad Crane, who earned almost $500,000. Hip No. 320 is a Posse half-sister to Grade 3 winner Final Mesa. Jump Start has a colt out of major earner Karakorum Splendor (348). And E Dubai’s four include a half-sister to Grade 1-placed Yawanna Twist (242) and a half-brother to Private Emblem (361).

New York sire Read the Footnotes has a half-brother to graded-placed stakes winner Age of Humor (260), and another New York stallion, Hook and Ladder, fields a half-brother to 2011 Grade 2-placed Manchurian High (293).

And those are just some of the 216 yearlings on offer.

Fasig-Tipton’s New York-bred preferred sale takes place Saturday and Sunday at the auction house’s Humphrey S. Finney Sale Pavilion in Saratoga Springs. Sessions begin each night at 7 p.m., and the auction will stream live at www.fasigtipton.com.