03/08/2018 2:26PM

N.Y.-breds see huge gains at sales


The North American yearling auction market saw a general rising tide in 2017, but it impacted each statebred program differently.

Of the nine states that had 80 or more yearlings sell at public auction last year, five posted a higher average sale price than in 2016. Canadian provinces were not taken into consideration.

Among the country’s larger jurisdictions, New York saw the greatest rise in year-to-year average in terms of actual dollars.

The Empire State’s program moved 485 yearlings last year for an average of $59,704, marking an increase of $13,939 from the previous season when 477 New York-breds averaged $45,765. The increase of 30.5 percent was also the highest growth in average by percentage among the states that sold 80 or more yearlings in 2017.

The rise in popularity for New York-breds at auction is hardly a new development. Interest in the statebred program saw a sharp uptick in the early 2010s when the state’s purses and incentive programs were bolstered by the addition of casino gaming at Aqueduct. What is unprecedented is the rate of growth that segment of the market continues to see as the end of the decade approaches.

New York-breds hit a 20-year high by average sale price in 2017, after previously raising that bar in 2013 and 2015.

“I think right now, the sky’s the limit,” said Chris Bernhard of Hidden Lake Farm, a top breeder and consignor in New York. “We’re in a fairly stable environment in the horse business, we’re in a fairly stable environment in the economy, and the stock market is strong.

“The buyers that are in the game are always going to be looking for horses, and with the purse structure in New York, with the restricted company where you can run your maiden special, non-winners of one, and non-winners of two before you go against open company, or as an owner you’ve got an ability to get an owner’s award on top of the purse if you decide to go to open company, I don’t think there are any other venues out there that can come close to competing.”

Helping the case for the state’s program is a dedicated high-profile marketplace in the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., an event that has seen its profile grow in near-lockstep with the rise in interest regarding the statebred program.

The auction posted all-time highs in gross, average, and median in 2017, and sold the most expensive offering in its history that year when a Cairo Prince colt brought $500,000. That transaction came just days after a New York-bred Curlin filly changed hands for $750,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale.

Bernhard consigned the record-setting Cairo Prince colt, and said he expects to foal out about 120 mares in 2018. In addition to the state’s monetary incentives, he said the national success of runners like Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold and Grade 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits has boosted New York’s reputation as a place where successful runners can be born and raised.

“The market has been segmented toward quality over the past couple of years,” he said. “You can’t have blank pages and bad physicals or X-rays. You’re not going to get those horses sold anywhere. In New York, I’m proud of my fellow breeders who are saying we need to raise these horses better, and maybe cull out some of the mares that shouldn’t be bred, and continue to upgrade. Hopefully we’ll continue to see a trend with the stallions as well.”

The second-biggest jump in average among the nine states with 80 or more yearlings sold was Pennsylvania, which saw its average yearling price grow $11,988 to $55,653 from $43,665. The number of Pennsylvania-bred yearlings sold rose 4 percent to 127 from 122.

Coming in third was Kentucky. Perennially the country’s most populous and highest-grossing producer of auction stock, the state’s average sale price rose $11,786 to $96,483 from $84,679. Louisiana’s average yearling price rose $2,071, while California’s increased $353.

Four states in the 80-plus group posted declines in year-to-year average, with the biggest drop coming from Maryland. The average price for state-breds dipped $1,789, about 5 percent, to $34,692 from $36,481. Horses sold rose to 192 from 180.

It was the second straight year of a declining average for Maryland after finishing at $43,421 in 2015, the highest return since 2007.

Other 80-plus states to finish with a lower average sale price in 2017 included Oklahoma (down $683), New Mexico (down $799), and Florida (down $863).