Updated on 09/17/2011 11:59AM

Top buyers less active, numbers down a touch


LEXINGTON, Ky. - launched the summer yearling auction season with financial returns that suggested little has changed in the market since last year.

The two-day auction offered just 425 yearlings this season, well below last year's 536, due to mare reproductive loss syndrome's reduction of the general 2003 yearling crop. Gross receipts for the auction fell 11 percent this year, from $31,790,000 to $28,202,000, for 303 lots sold. Average price was also trimmed in 2003, dipping from last year's $97,815 to $93,076, a decline of 5 percent; median fell 4 percent, from $70,000 last year to $67,000.

The Fasig-Tipton sale took place under unusual circumstances this year, in that it did not follow the Keeneland July yearling sale. That boutique auction, which normally runs for two days immediately before Fasig-Tipton's, and traditionally features the nation's most fashionable and expensively bred stock, was canceled this year.

Fillies were the top sellers at this year's sale. New Mexico racetrack owner Stan Fulton bought an $800,000 daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus and La Chaposa at Wednesday's opener to top the sale. The dark bay or brown filly is a half-sister to a pair of Grade 1 winners, Chaposa Springs and You and I. Paramount Sales, agent, sold the sale topper.

The auction's second-highest price, also a filly, was the $500,000 that Jaime Carrion paid Mulholland Springs for a Mr. Greeley yearling out of the stakes-winning Topsider mare Good for Her. Longtime central Kentucky breeder Robert Courtney represented Carrion in the bidding. Good for Her's other foals include the Marquetry stakes winner Chris's Bad Boy.

Despite across-the-board declines, Fasig-Tipton officials pronounced the sale as "solid" and interpreted the fairly shallow drops in average and median as a sign that buyers were not turning too bearish on the summer yearling market. In the sale's most positive sign, the buyback rate - the percentage of horses that failed to reach reserve prices set by their sellers - dropped from last year's 39 percent to 29 percent.

Fasig-Tipton chief operating officer Boyd Browning said that the decline in buyback rate contributed to the slips in average and median price - an effect that tended to make the sale company more optimistic about the meaning of those drops.

"The median and average have gone down a little," Browning said, "because, as the buybacks have gone down, you're seeing more people selling their horses in the lower to middle market."

A number of upscale buyers were on hand at the auction, including Michael Tabor's representative Demi O'Byrne and Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's advisers. But the names of those and other powerful buyers were sparse on sale receipts. O'Byrne bought only one horse, a $275,000 Thunder Gulch colt out of the Secreto mare Halholah, and the name of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley organization never appeared on a ticket. Satish Sanan's Padua Stables bought just two lots, a $230,000 Two Punch-Carrie the Flag filly and a $200,000 Cape Canaveral half-sister to graded stakes winner Tricky Squaw.

But pinhookers, resellers who will take their yearlings on to the early spring juvenile sales next year, took up the slack. Among the auction's most prolific buyers were Leprechaun Racing, Tony Bowling and Bobby Dodd, Cam Allard, and other resellers.