11/06/2011 9:12PM

One-night Fasig-Tipton sale scores big gains

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Barbara D. Livingston
Funny Moon in 2009. She was top seller Sunday night at $2.3 million.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Fasig-Tipton’s one-night November sale on Sunday proved that international players at the summit of Thoroughbred breeding are still ready to spend for quality, though even prominent spenders warned that average horses remain hard to sell.

The $2.3 million sale-topper Funny Moon led a parade of 13 million-dollar  mares Sunday, and they pushed the November sale to huge gains in average and median over last year’s figures. The session sold 79 horses for $32,745,000, up 17 percent from last year’s $27,996,500 gross for 89 horses. The 2011 average price jumped 32 percent, from $314,567 last season to $414,494, and median roared up by 54 percent, from $130,000 last year to $200,000.

Buybacks were 26 percent, down from 33 percent last year. The number of million-dollar horses climbed from nine last year to this season’s 13.

The session’s top-priced weanling was a $450,000 Street Cry half-sister to champion English Channel. Waratah Thoroughbreds bought the chestnut daughter of Belva from the Paramount Sales agency.

But broodmare and racing/broodmare prospects stole the show.

“We very much liked the mare, and we only had two or three mares on the list for the sale,” bloodstock advisor Lincoln Collins said after signing the receipt for Funny Moon, who sold in foal to Indian Charlie. “She was an extremely good racemare. She’s good-looking, we like Indian Charlie. It’s a very solid pedigree. What more can I say? At this level, they’re all expensive, but it was in the ballpark for what we thought she’d bring.”

Bloodstock advisor Debbie Easter took a particular interest in Funny Moon’s sale. Easter paid $175,000 for the Malibu Moon mare back in 2007 for her friends, Carter and Wick McNeely, who recently had enlisted Easter to help them build a small, high-quality broodmare band for the Morrowdale Farm operation run primarily by Carter. Funny Moon gave the team one of their biggest successes when she won the 2009 Coaching Club American Oaks; she went on to earn $530,900 at the races. But the construction downturn affected the McNeelys’ core business, concrete and building material manufacturing, prompting them to leave the horse business, at least for now. The horses selling at Fasig-Tipton November included Funny Moon, the first Grade 1 winner Easter bought. 

Easter has had a good year in 2011. Summer Soiree, a filly she bought privately for a partnership, sold privately to Team Valor just before the Kentucky Oaks for what Easter confirmed was a significant profit. Summer Soiree went on to win the Del Mar Oaks. And there have been other stakes-performers to celebrate this year, but the Morrowdale dispersal is poignant for Easter. 

“It’s sad,” Easter acknowledged. “We enjoyed doing this as friends, and we had some luck. But economic times are different from what they were. Carter enjoyed the mares and the babies, and she had a few broodmares. We were trying to improve and upgrade her broodmare band. We bought two yearling fillies a year and ran them to see what they could do. Funny Moon and West Court were in the first group that we bought.”

West Court, a Gone West daughter of a Storm Cat mare, earned more than $85,000. 

“We’ve had some luck at the sales, too, and it’s been good,” Easter said. “The highlight was having success with your friends. Winning a Grade 1 race is spectacular, but this game is so hard, winning any race is awesome. Being able to do that with your friends is something really special.”

International buyers were prominent all evening at the top of the market, led by Shadai Farm’s $1.6 million bid for Dubawi Heights. The Dubawi 4-year-old came to the auction off a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, but she already was a two-time Grade 1 winner, thanks to wins in the Gamely and Yellow Ribbon this year. She is from the good European family of My Branch, and she is a half-sister to English champion Tante Rose. The selling agent was Noel Murphy’s Castle Park Farm and likely was a personal best for the Lexington-based Irishman.

Fasig-Tipton’s catalog originally featured 17 Breeders’ Cup entrants, but six had scratched by the time the auction opened at 4 p.m. They were Turbulent Descent, Self Preservation, Tanda, Awesome Belle, Grace Hall, and Fort Loudon. Of the remaining sale nominees arriving from Churchill Downs, only one other brought a seven-figure bid. That was $1 million that Filly and Mare Sprint third-placed finisher Her Smile, consigned by Denali Stud; the buyer was Adena Springs. The Taylor Made agency’s Ask the Moon, sixth in Royal Delta’s Ladies’ Classic, came close when hammered down to SF Bloodstock for $800,000. The others were Turf Sprint sixth finisher Rapport, whom the VanMeter Sales agency sold to Dapple Bloodstock, agent, for $700,000; Ladies’ Classic fourth Ultra Blend, whom Three Chimneys Sales agency sold for $700,000 to Katsumi Yoshida; and Tamarind Hall, tenth in the Filly and Mare Sprint, sold for $250,000 to Summerfield Sales from Three Chimneys Sales.

Satans Quick Chick, eighth in the Ladies’ Classic, was a $600,000 buyback. Euroears, whom Andrew Gardiner, agent, offered as a racing or stallion prospect off his ninth-place finish in the Sprint, also was a buyback at $320,000.

Buckleupbuttercup wasn’t in the Breeders’ Cup, but she won the Chilukki Stakes on Saturday’s undercard, beating May Day Rose by a head. That bumped her up from Grade 3 winner to Grade 2 winner, and the 4-year-old Najran filly sold for $600,000 to Segenhoe Thoroughbreds. Sweezey and Partners consigned the gray filly.

American stalwarts Aaron and Marie Jones, longtime clients of consigning agent Taylor Made Sales, also stole some limelight. The Eclipse Award-winning owners and breeders spent $1.5 million for Bonnie Blue Flag, who sold in foal to Medaglia d’Oro. A Grade 1-placed stakes-winner in her own right, Bonnie Blue Flag also is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Diamondrella. Bonnie Blue Flag, a 4-year-old, is by A. P. Indy’s son Mineshaft and out of the Dixieland Band matron Tap Your Feet.

“She was obviously one of the nicest mares in the sale,” said bloodstock agent Doug Cauthen, who signed the ticket on the Joneses’ behalf. “We thought she was the best physical, and she was just a lovely mare. The Joneses are constantly trying to upgrade their broodmare band and want o have an elite broodmare band. This mare will fit right in.

“It was more than I hoped,” Cauthen said of the price. “I hoped we’d get her for $1 million-ish, but the fancy ones that have the pedigree and the race talent tend to cost more than you hope, but what you expect.”

John Sikura of Hill ’n’ Dale Farm endured some testing moments early in the sale when a handful of early horses from his consignment did not reach their reserve prices, including Turbulent Descent’s dam, Roger’s Sue. The Forestry mare was believed pregnant either to A. P. Indy, now pensioned due to infertility, or to Medaglia d’Oro, and she had a final hammer price of $1 million. That wasn’t good enough to top her undisclosed reserve, and she returned to owners that Sikura described only as “a partnership.” 

But Sikura’s night got considerably better an hour or so later, when the striking gray Zaftig left the ring with a new owner at a $1.4 million bid. The buyers were Goldikova’s breeders and owners, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer. The 5-year-old Grade 1 winner was in foal to Candy Ride, who started his stud career at Hill ’n’ Dale.

“You have to have a really unique, special mare to  stand out from the crowd, and she’s a Grade 1 winner in foal early with an international, active family--all the criteria people want for high-end mars that make $1 million,” Sikura said. 

Hill ’n’ Dale did it again later in the session. The agency also sold $1.4 million Cat Dancer, the dam of Drill in foal to Tiznow, to Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables; and $1.25 million A Z Warrior to the Blandford Bloodstock agency. 

The Lane’s End agency also enjoyed a spate of big sales. The Farish family’s farm sold $1,550,000 Mona de Momma, in foal to Malibu Moon, to Alpha Delta Stables (Reynolds Bell, agent); $1.2 million Crisp, in foal to Bernardini, to Adena Springs; and $1.2 million Miarixa, the dam of Blue Bunting but not currently in foal, to the Blandford Bloodstock agency.

Hilda’s Passion, who has recovered from surgery to repair a condylar fracture and was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect, arrived at the auction looking plenty fit. But she likely will retire after being bought for $1.225 million by Katsumi Yoshida. 

Pachattack parlayed her third-place finish in the Ladies’ Classic into a $1.2 million price as the evening’s first seven-figure horse. Bloodstock agent Alan Cooper represented buyer Flaxman Holdings, the Niarchos family’s breeding operation, and said the 5-year-old Pulpit mare will return to training with Graham Motion. 

Bernard McCormack’s Cara Bloodstock was consigned Pachattack, who also has placed in the Personal Ensign and Spinster Stakes this year.

Also bringing seven figures was C. S. Silk, who sold for $1 million to Town and Country Farms.

The session also auctioned a lifetime breeding right to Congrats. That went for $132,000 to an undisclosed buyer.

The relentless tide of million-dollar mares made the market seem very healthy. But even as Lincoln Collins signed Funny Moon’s $2.3 million receipt on behalf of My MeadowView Stable,  he had a word of caution.

“The real thing is going to be very competitive,” Collins said, referring to horses that hit buyers’ high standards. “But if it falls short of the real thing, it’s much stickier going. I think if you’ve got something the market really wants, that the big players want, it looks as if the money’s there. I think it’s getting harder and harder to buy at the top end. A lot of people at the top end are gaining confidence, and I hope that confidence will gradually seep down through the rest of the market. But, for the time being, it’s going to remain a pretty selective market.”