07/18/2013 4:56PM

Rising tide seen at auctions

Fasig-Tipton photo
Grade 1 winner Starship Truffles sold for $1 million at the Fasig-Tipton July sale.

Fasig-Tipton Kentucky capitalized on two trends last Monday – a strengthening market for young stock and a healthy demand for racehorses – and got the summer auction season off on a positive note.

The company’s selected yearling sale in Lexington ended with double-digit percentage gains in average (up 10 percent to $89,785) and median (up 20 percent to $72,000), as well as a lower buyback rate at 27 percent versus 33 percent a year ago. And its inaugural racing-age sale, which immediately followed the yearling auction, produced a $1 million topper in Grade 1 winner Starship Truffles, a $105,800 average, a $45,000 median, and a 15 percent buyback rate.

The bottom line: Select yearling sales between now and September appear to be on the rise, and you probably can put the Fasig-Tipton July racing-age sale on the calendar again for next year. Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning said the latter fulfilled the company’s goals of attracting 50-75 good racehorses and a broad cross section of buyers, from racing-action devotees to breeders looking for race fillies they could add later to a broodmare band.

It also helped to generate valuable market crossover, as owners, trainers, and agents shopped both the yearling and racing-age catalogs, Browning and numerous sales participants agreed.

“We felt there was a need in the marketplace and feel that we fulfilled the need,” Browning said. “I think there’s tremendous interest for people to make a purchase today and get it on the racetrack from the next three days to the next three months.”

The racehorse/yearling market cross-over wasn’t limited to buyers. The Hidden Brook sales agency consigned six yearlings, sold racing-age sale topper Starship Truffles, by Ghostzapper, to Castleton Lyons for $1 million, and bought one of the racing-age lots – the 4-year-old El Corredor colt Frasero – for a racing client.

“In the current environment we’re in right now, I think the public-auction route is the best way to go,” said Hidden Brook partner Jack Brothers. “It’s in an open forum, and Fasig-Tipton does a terrific job marketing their sales horses to a great network of buyers. You’re protected by the conditions of sale, there’s easy access to vets, and you can see how horses handle the environment of the sales. I have no doubt that we did better [selling Starship Truffles] at public auction than we would have done privately.

“There were horses in the sale that had just established themselves or broken their maidens within the last month to emerge as good racehorses, so if you can be that nimble and put a catalog together of horses of racing age on short notice, it’s good for the seller because they have a quick outlet. And there’s great demand for racehorses right now. Purses are growing again, and you have a lot of options at different tracks.”

Agent Chad Schumer also found the racing-age sale a quick outlet for a buyer. Schumer picked up the unraced 3-year-old colt Nordic Bull, a son Flashy Bull from the family of Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly, for $42,000 on behalf of a client who’s looking for fast interim action while developing a long-term plan.

“I knew the horse was sitting on a race, and the guy I bought him for is kind of a new guy in the business,” Schumer said. “He really wants to buy a yearling, and he will buy a yearling, but he didn’t want to wait. He was looking for some action. We’d tried to claim a few horses, and it hadn’t worked out.

“There was a lot to choose from, all different types of horses,” Schumer said of the racing-age session. “One thing I would say – and it’s a good thing for Fasig – some of the lower-level claiming horses I thought brought fantastic prices.”

At the yearling auction, Hidden Brook sold half of its six-horse consignment, including a $150,000 Line of David colt out of Sister Girl Blues to Bradley Thoroughbreds; the other three yearlings failed to reach their reserves. But Brothers said he saw reason for optimism about the market from top to bottom this year.

“There was strength across the board,” Brothers said of the yearling market. “Look, there’s no mystery as to what people are looking for. They look for the same kind of athletic horse. It’s a discriminating market, so you’ve got to come with the goods. I think we approach the market a little more intuitively than we have in the past, too. Expectations are realistic on reserves.”

Select yearling buyers are still gravitating toward proven sires, and stallions with a good supply of runners and a high ranking among leading sires by average price (two or more sold); Tapit led that list with two yearlings who averaged $275,000, and Bellamy Road was next with three averaging $191,667.

But freshman yearling sires also made some splashes, most notably Darley’s Desert Party, who stands at Sequel Stallions New York. The Street Cry horse, who topped Fasig-Tipton’s Florida select 2-year-old sale at $2.1 million five years ago, sired the July yearling auction’s most expensive lot, a $460,000 filly out of Lil Cozette whom the Allied Bloodstock agency sold to Nat Rea.

Desert Party also was the yearling sale’s second-leading sire by gross receipts, with five sold for $626,000. Only the established Harlan’s Holiday grossed more, with eight bringing $943,000. Among leading sires by average (two or more sold), WinStar’s Super Saver was the highest-ranked first-crop sire (and fourth overall), with a $178,333 average for three yearlings.

Brothers noted that two beneficial trends were at work in the yearling market, starting with better alignment of supply and demand, thanks to sharp production cuts after the 2008 bloodstock crash.

“And I think, as breeders, we’ve bred our horses smarter the last few years,” Brothers said. “I think more breeders thought, ‘We might end up racing this horse if the markets don’t bounce back.’ ”

For now, at least, it looks like the select market is bouncing the right way for those horses.

“I think it was a combination of factors,” Fasig-Tipton’s Browning said of the yearling sale, “and I think it bodes well for the rest of the yearling marketplace in 2013.”

2013 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July leading first-year sires of yearlings by total sales
Sire No. sold Total
Desert Party 5 626,000
Warrior's Reward 6 620,000
Super Saver 3 535,000
Majesticperfection 5 418,000
Discreetly Mine 5 315,000
Kantharos 1 300,000
Line of David 4 292,000
Tale of Ekati 3 290,000
Munnings 4 251,000
Hold Me Back 3 192,000
2013 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July leading first-year sires of yearlings by average (2 or more sold)
Sire No. sold Average
Super Saver 3 178,333
Desert Party 5 125,200
Warrior's Reward 6 103,333
Tale of Ekati 3 96,667
Midshipman 2 87,500
Majesticperfection 5 83,600
Line of David 4 73,000
Hold Me Back 3 64,000
Discreetly Mine 5 63,000
Munnings 4 62,750