Larry Best didn't have plans to attend the Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred Yearlings Sale when the sun came up on Monday. He'd never even shopped at the sale before.
By the time the mid-afternoon slipped into the late afternoon, the former medical device executive known for making splashy purchases at auctions walked out of the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion with the most expensive offering in the sale's history.
To hear him tell it, Best laid eyes on Hip 592, a Malibu Moon filly, for the first time just two hours before he made the $775,000 bid that ensured the New York-Bred sale would rase the bar for its record price for the fourth straight year.
“I didn't even intend to shop, but I had nothing to do this afternoon, so I came over to look at some horses,” he said. “It's a beautiful day. I had other business to do this morning, got done early, came over to watch things, and I started looking at horses, and here we are.”
The bay filly is the second foal out of the winning Street Sense mare Savvy Sassy, herself a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Southdale and graded stakes producer S S Pinafore. Grade 3 winner Iron Courage can be found further down the page.
Though the purchase was allegedly made in the relative spur of the moment, Best said the thought process behind it was based with an eye toward the long game. The owner noted his affinity toward Malibu Moon as a broodmare sire as part of his decision.
“My gut speaks to me, for better or for worse,” he said. “It's just a beautiful physical, and then you look at the pedigree. If you're willing to be patient on the breeding side, and you look five, six, seven years out, I should get a good return if I breed her to the right sires, which I will. I thought it was a safe bet. Did I pay more for her than I wanted to? Yes. I was going to be happy around $600,000, but quality costs money.”
Don Robinson, owner of the Winter Quarter Farm consignment, watched the proceedings from his usual spot in the back ring. He saw bloodstock agent David Ingordo bidding on the horse nearby, but whoever he was locking horns with him inside the pavilion wasn't giving up.
“I didn't know what was going on up front,” Robinson said. “I was stunned. I had no clue she'd sell like that.”
Robinson said the level of attention the filly received in the days leading up to the sale was positive, but nothing that would have led him to believe a price like what was seen on Monday was ever possible.
“It was always good, but you never know what that means,” he said. “Her half-brother had those kind of vibes last year. I think he was vetting more than she was. He brought $205,000 and I was over the top, so you don't know what it means. I had no dream of this price. We're just thrilled.”
Winter Quarter Farm, a Kentucky-based consignment, handled the filly as agent for breeders Oak Bluff Stables and trainer Christophe Clement. Clement was the first person to greet Best in the back row of the pavilion after the ink was put on the sale ticket.
Monday's record-breaking price eclipsed the previous mark set last year when Shortleaf Stable bought a Pioneerof the Nile colt for $600,000. In 2017, Waves Bloodstock secured a Cairo Prince colt for $500,000, and Cheyenne Stables bought an Uncle Mo colt for $450,000 a year before that.
“It just goes to show you that the quality that the consignors are bringing increases, and I think the buyers have tremendous confidence at the top end,” said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. “The leading buyers are buyers that could be at any sale anywhere in the United States, and in some cases around the world, and people have confidence in the New York-breds, and I think that's attributed to the program and the strides that it's made.”
First-Crop Outwork Filly Sells For $500,000
The first crop from Grade 1 winner Outwork saw a watershed moment on the commercial stage on Monday afternoon when a filly by the WinStar Farm resident hammered for $500,000.
Trainer Jeremiah Engelhardt signed the ticket on the filly, offered as Hip 495, for the All About The Girls partnership and Travis Durr. The filly is out of the unraced Tiznow mare Light and Variable, whose two foals to race are both winners: The English Group 3-placed stakes winner Bye Bye Hong Kong, as well as juvenile Our Country, a Constitution colt who broke his maiden at Saratoga on Aug. 3.
Bred in New York by WinStar Farm, the filly's extended page traces back to cornerstone fourth dam Get Lucky, putting her in the family of champion Rhythm, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Grade/Group 1 winners Bluegrass Cat, Girolamo, Imagining, and Got Lucky, and leading Mid-Atlantic sire Not For Love, among many other notable runners and figures in the stud book.
“Nowadays, Fasig-Tipton is bringing a nice-quality horse here,” Engelhardt said. “Some of these horses could have sold last week at the select sale. Fasig is doing a really nice job, and making sure they're bringing the right horses here, and it shows in the prices.”
The trainer had been chasing foals by Outwork, a 6-year-old son of Uncle Mo, at the auctions for a while, and he finally got one for his stable under a bright spotlight.
“I've been outbid on a lot of them, so I'm glad we got this one,” he said.
The transaction continued what has been a big season of yearling sales in upstate New York for consignor Denali Stud, which handled two of the four horses to bring $1 million or more during this year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale.
“First and foremost, she was a beautiful physical,” said Denali Stud's Conrad Bandoroff. “She showed a lot, she had a lot of class, and everyone was on her. They loved her from the profile, and obviously, she had a big and timely update, and that goes a long way. The mare looks like she's going to the two-for-two for foals that are graded stakes horses, and knowing you can bring something over here that's a physical standout with a live pedigree makes our job a lot easier.”
Final Figures Strong, But Decline From Record Heights
The tough part about showing record-setting growth over the course of several consecutive years is that failing to continue forth into the stratosphere means showing declines, even if the returns are still among the best in the auction's history.
Such was the case with the 2019 renewal of the New York-Bred sale, which had the unenviable task of following the most numerically successful renewal in the auction's history. Despite not keeping up with the record pace from 2018, it still finished as a top three-to-five sale all-time by the measurables, not to mention the record-priced offering that went through the ring on Monday.
The two-day auction closed with 186 horses sold for revenues of $16,200,000, down 12 percent from last year's sale, when 172 yearlings brought an all-time high $18,492,000. This year's gross was the third-highest in the auction's history.
The average sale price finished at $87,097, the third-best performance all-time by the sale, which marked a 19 percent decline from a record $107,512. Closing at $60,000, the median fell 21 percent from a record $76,000 and finished as the fifth-best return in the auction's history. The buyback rate closed at 30 percent compared with 34 percent the previous year.
“The RNA rate showed pretty significant improvement this year compared to last year, which probably led to a decrease in the average price and the median,” Browning said. “We were coming off an unbelievable jump last year compared to 2017. I thought it was a very strong sale. The buyer base continues to be very good for this sale and continues to improve.”
This year's renewal was a deviation from the norm for the New York-Bred sale in terms of scheduling. Normally held on Saturday and Sunday nights after the races at Saratoga Race Course, this year's renewal featured a night session on Sunday that featured about a third of the catalog, followed by an extended session on Monday that included the remainder of the offerings.
Reactions to the change in schedule were positive from both sides of the auction ring.
“I think people have definitely had more time to get their looks in,” said bloodstock agent Nick Sallusto. “All of the horses are absolutely getting their best opportunity, so it's probably an improvement. It'll probably take another year or two more to know for sure.”
Bandoroff noted that moving the sale to a dark day on the Saratoga racing schedule also freed up a lot of schedules that might have otherwise had an eye to the racetrack, or getting ready for the next day's races.
“You get trainers over here, it gives the buyers more time, which from their feedback, they had said they would have liked more time for this sale,” he said. “This is a great place to market and sell New York-breds, but the buying criteria is demanding and you have to have the horse. It's hard to sell an average to bad horse anywhere, and that's going to be the course wherever you are.”
Monday's closing session, which featured roughly two-thirds of the total catalog, finished with 120 horses sold for $10,227,500. The average sale price finished at $85,229, the median was $55,000, and the buyback rate was 29 percent.
To view the auction's full results, click here.
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