By Jessica Martini
Bidding returns to the Fairplex Sales Pavilion in Pomona Tuesday for the one-session Fasig-Tipton California Fall Yearlings and Horses of All Ages Sale. The action begins at noon, with 251 catalogued yearlings, and–for the first time–21 weanlings and broodmare/broodmare prospects in a section of horses of all ages.
“The catalogue is very strong,” said Fasig-Tipton's California representative Mike Machowsky. “There are some good-pedigreed horses and some good stallions on top of that, with Kentucky-sired Cal-breds, as well as our local sires.”
Shoppers were out in force on the sales grounds Monday, according to consignor Adrian Gonzalez of Checkmate Thoroughbreds.
“We have been very busy, more than usual I would say, so we are very optimistic that hopefully some of the Keeneland momentum from last week will carry into this week,” Gonzalez said. “There were probably a lot of California connections who didn't get the horses they wanted to get at Keeneland and so now they are kind of forced to shop here if they still need something. I am hoping that's the case.”
The California sale comes just on the heels of Keeneland's marathon yearling sale and has made for long hours between Kentucky and back.
“My crew were literally taking horses to the ring at Keeneland on that last session [Friday] and got on an airplane and got here because we were shipping in horses the next day,” Gonzalez said of the turnaround time between sales. “They have not had a single day off.”
The timing of the auctions may also impact potential buyers.
“So far, it's been mostly trainers,” Gonzalez said of the make-up of shoppers on the grounds. “Very few pinhookers. I think part of the timing of this sale didn't really help us with the Florida guys. I know they were probably super busy at Keeneland and probably just got home to check on whatever they bought. And it's probably hard for them to get back on a plane and leave again. I know there are a few agents here who will probably represent some of the Florida pinhookers. Unfortunately, Eddie Woods and Becky Thomas and those people aren't here and they do usually attend our California sales.”
Checkmate Thoroughbreds will offer nine horses in the horses of all ages sale and Gonzalez said it was a welcome addition to the yearling auction.
“I am hopeful that we can sort of start a new trend here,” Gonzalez said. “It seems like in California all we really have is a mixed sale in January that has sort of turned into a place to sell your lesser quality stock that you don't want to carry on another year with. We don't really have another avenue to sell anything we are really excited about it. Fasig was game and gave us this opportunity to put some stuff that we did like into the sale and get a crack at it and just see if there is a market. I believe there is. It seems like right now one of my weanlings is probably my most popular horse in the barn, even more popular than a lot of my yearlings. I hope that translates into bidding activity, but certainly, in terms of looks, we are getting a lot of traffic on the weanlings.”
Fasig-Tipton had its first sale in California in 2019 and has struggled to gain traction in the market due to circumstances well beyond its control. Before its first 2-year-olds in training sale, it came up against safety concerns at Santa Anita and then last year it was forced to juggle its schedule in the face of the global pandemic.
Gonzalez thinks the strength of the catalogue for Tuesday's auction might help the company gain momentum going into next year's 2-year-old sale.
“I think that the catalogue is quite deep, probably deeper than any yearling catalogue I can remember for a long, long time,” Gonzalez said. “The breeders are showing up with their good stock and are offering them up for sale. For a number of years, the purses were high enough and the sales were low enough, that if anybody had something good, they didn't really want to sell it. I think now, if you bring a good one to the sale, you can get good value for it. I think that has turned into a stronger catalogue and any time there is a stronger catalogue, it forces the buyers to come out and see what's here. Hopefully this will turn the tide for Fasig out here and we can have a strong sale.”
Local connections will have plenty of incentive to buy Tuesday, according to Machowsky.
“I trained for 30 years out here, so I know how important it is to have Cal-breds in your barn to win races and create a good racing stable for yourself,” Machowsky said. “And if you want to have a nice Cal-bred, the yearling sales are where you need to buy. If you race in California and you want to race Cal-breds, you need to be here and shopping. A lot of the better Cal-breds that are going to be running next year are here on the grounds.”
Last year's California Fall Yearlings sale, held at Los Alamitos Race Course due to the pandemic, was topped by a $200,000 son of Stay Thirsty, one of three offerings to reach six figures. In all, 166 yearlings sold for $3,735,700 for an average of $22,504 and a median of $10,000.