Updated 08/07/2012 06:27 AM
Optimism high but numbers down at first night of Fasig Tipton sale
$500,000 is usually more than enough to get yourself a sizeable house, but on Monday night in Saratoga, it was top thoroughbreds commanding those kinds of prices. YNN's Matt Hunter has more on the opening night of the annual Fasig Tipton yearling sale.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Going once, going twice, sold to the highest bidder: in this case, bidders with a seemingly endless supply of cash.
Monday night marked the opening of the 92nd annual Fasig Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale, one of the premier thoroughbred auctions in the world.
"You kind of point horses toward this sale,” said Jacob West, a buyer and account manager for Taylor Made Stallions in Lexington. “You know pretty much from the day they're born that they're going to end up here and hopefully bring top dollar."
"This is a premier sale, it's a marquee sale, boutique type,” Gainsway Farm director of Sales Michael Hernon said. “It's not a vast number of horses but they're high quality."
Every potential buyer is looking for the same thing: a regally bred horse that has the potential to end up in the winner's circle after a rich stakes race like the Kentucky Derby or Travers.
Among those in the sales ring Monday night were horse racing royalty like trainers Todd Pletcher and D. Wayne Lukas and celebrity chef Bobby Flay. However, no one was more prominent than Sheikh Mohammed Maktoum, the billionaire ruler of Dubai.
"Sheikh Mohammed is probably the largest, most significant thoroughbred owner anywhere in the world,” Fasig Tipton sales announcer Terence Collier said. “Every sales company in the world dies to have Sheikh Mohammed come to the sale and support it."
According to a recent study by Bloodhorse Magazine, the Fasig Tipton Saratoga Select Sale produces more stakes winners than any other thoroughbred auction in the world. That list of winners includes this year's Belmont Stakes champ Union Rags.
It's just part of the reason so many potential buyers come to Saratoga ready to spend big.
"Buyers always like to follow success and a sale that is producing winners is the one they mark off on their calendar,” Collier said. “Saratoga is certainly one they look forward to."
One of the early top sellers was a Hip Number 6, a $500,000 Distorted Humor colt purchased by Sheikh Mohammed. Before the night was over he would also purchase the sale’s first millionaire: a $1.2 million colt (Hip No. 80) sired by the Irish stallion Street Cry, who sired 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta.
George Bolton and Stonestreet Stable, best known for owning 2009 Horse of the Year and Preakness and Woodward Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra, purchased the second millionaire (Hip No 91): a $1.1 million Empire Maker colt.
"As it gets up into the top price ranges it distills down to a couple of people and it's like a battle,” Collier said. “They're both sitting there wondering where the next guy is going to go and it's a very exciting moment for us all."
Viewed as a barometer of the overall thoroughbred industry, many consignors headed into the sale optimistic this year would bring top prices and make strong strides from last year's gains.
"This is the second major test. The economy looks good, the catalog looks good so we're expecting big things," Collier said.
"Historically it's been a very significant sale on the calendar and I think it will produce many good future runners," Hernon said.
In the first night of the two-night sale, 52 horses sold for a total of $13,590,000. The average price was $261,346, down from last year’s two-night average of $319,340.
The sale resumes Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Fasig Tipton’s Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion on East Avenue. A second sale strictly for horses bred in New York State is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday night.