03/04/2009 12:00AM

Sale prices down, but could be worse

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MIAMI - Fasig-Tipton's select 2-year-old sale Tuesday at Calder Race Course confirmed that the top-end juvenile market, at least for now, is about 35 percent lower than last year. But as at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s bellwether select juvenile sale last month, some participants were relieved it wasn't worse.

"You're never happy about being down 30 percent, but the world around you is down more than that," Fasig-Tipton's chairman, Walt Robertson, said immediately after the auction, soon after the evening's final summary revealed that gross had fallen 25 percent, average price was down 32 percent, and median was 35 percent lower than last year. It's true, at least, that the stock market is down farther than 2-year-old Thoroughbreds, as Fasig-Tipton chief executive Boyd Browning pointed out. On Feb. 25, 2008, the day before last year's Calder auction, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up by 189 points at 12,570. The day before this year's auction, the market ended down 119 points at 7,062, a year-to-year drop of 44 percent.

"In the world we live in, we've got to be satisfied with it," Robertson said of the Calder market.

Even in the down Thoroughbred market, some yearling-to-juvenile resellers saw their equine assets mature well and pay off from 2008 to 2009. The $1.6 million sale topper, a Medaglia d'Oro colt currently named Cup o' Joe, started his sale career as a $325,000 yearling buy-back for breeders Fred and Jane Brei's Jacks or Better Farm in Ocala, Fla. He turned into a home run at Calder, justifying the Breis' gamble in keeping him.

Three of the more expensive yearling purchases sold, with varying degrees of profit. Hip No. 174, a $400,000 Ghostzapper-Holiday Runner filly, was a wash for Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds, which paid that for her as a yearling in 2008. Hip No. 244, an A.P. Indy-Penny's Fortune colt, resulted in a profit for his seller. Originally bought for $525,000 by Hugo Merry Bloodstock, he brought $560,000 on Tuesday from John Ferguson, adviser to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum. Hip No. 271, an Unbridled's Song-Rubywood colt, fared even better. The $450,000 yearling purchased by Robert LaPenta bloomed into a $1 million juvenile, also bought by Maktoum.

Speedy performances at the breeze show appeared to translate into profitable sales. Topping the eighth-mile work tab in 10.20 seconds at the Feb. 27 breeze show were Hip No. 66, a $435,000 Dixie Union-Above Perfection filly sold to Grace Stables (yearling price $340,000); Hip No. 125, a $155,000 Sky Mesa-Dancewiththebride colt sold to Merry-Meehan Bloodstock (yearling price $50,000); and Hip No. 210, a $260,000 More Than Ready-Love Sick colt that went to Paul Cole (yearling price $90,000).

The fastest quarter-mile worker, in 21.40 seconds, was a $425,000 Trippi-Xtra Emblem colt sold to Hirotsugu Hirai (yearling price $95,000).

F-T now includes private sales

Starting with the Calder sale, Fasig-Tipton will now include private sales transactions in its sale results.

The sales sheets on the sale grounds and online will denote with a "PS" any private purchases that take place after the hammer has fallen for horses that failed to reach their sellers' minimum prices. The cut-off time for including private transactions in the sale results will be approximately 15 minutes after the sale, according to chief operating officer Dan Pride.

"We're doing this to give a more accurate reflection of the business that happens during the sale," Pride said the morning of the Calder auction.

In addition to carrying a "PS" designation, private sales will include buyer and price, Pride said.

At the end of the Calder auction, nine horses were listed as private sales, ranging in price from $25,000 to $190,000.

"I think it's great," said consignor Mike Mulligan. "We all want buyers to have complete confidence in what's going on in every segment of the game."

Pope finds filly that fits her bill

Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm in Citra, Fla., has been on the lookout for a nice filly or mare since last year's fall sales in Kentucky. She came close when she was the underbidder on $950,000 Almonsoon at Keeneland January. But when she arrived at Calder with adviser Davant Latham she was still hoping to find something she could race, then retire to her broodmare band.

The long search finally paid off when Pope spent $600,000 for a Giant's Causeway-Yard Art filly. The chestnut filly consigned by Wavertree, agent, is from the immediate family of two very good broodmares in Ascutney and Words of War. Ascutney is the dam of 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Raven's Pass and Grade 3 winner Gigawatt, while Words of War produced European champion and Del Mar Oaks winner No Matter What and Grade 2 winner E Dubai.

"We probably had seven or eight on our short list, and she was the top one," Pope said of the filly. Pope said $600,000 was her limit for the purchase.

"She fell at the top of what she'd bring. Hopefully, she'll make a stakes horse and a wonderful broodmare in the future."

Pope only buys fillies and keeps most of her broodmare band in Kentucky, though a few reside with her in Citra. She breeds commercially and is looking to expand her broodmare band.

"I was hoping, with the economy, it would have brought her price down a little closer to the $400,000 to $600,000 range," she said. "I don't know that we got much of a discount on her."

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