Fasig-Tipton will consolidate its July, Saratoga, and New York-Bred yearling sales into one selected yearling auction–the 2020 Selected Yearlings Showcase–to be held Wednesday and Thursday, September 9-10, at its Lexington, Kentucky facility. The company came to the decision after evaluating the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic for the last several weeks and it was made after consultation with Keeneland, whose September Yearling Sale begins Sept. 14.
“We are excited to offer our buyers and sellers a selected yearling venue in Kentucky,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning. “We envision this catalogue will include yearlings that would traditionally fit our Saratoga Sale, as well as those that would fall in the upper echelons of our July and New York-Bred yearling sales.”
The July, Saratoga, and NY-Bred Selected Yearling Sales will return to their traditional dates in 2021. The company intends to conduct the remainder of its 2020 auction calendar as scheduled, including its upcoming Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale June 29-30 in Timonium, Maryland.
Fasig-Tipton will also offer a group of selected New York-Bred yearlings as part of the Saratoga Fall Mixed Sale, to be held Oct. 20 in Saratoga Springs.
“2020 has been a difficult year so far, and we are all being forced to make decisions that we never envisioned having to make,” said Browning. “We waited as long as possible to come to these determinations, conducting our due diligence to ensure that we make informed decisions that are in the best interests of our buyers and sellers.”
“The 2-year-old sales season needs to conclude before yearling sales begin–which makes a traditional July Sale unfeasible,” Browning continued. “Our two Saratoga auctions are tied closely to the race meet. We desperately want to see a traditional Saratoga race meet as much as anyone. However, the details for the race meet–including whether spectators will be permitted– are understandably not finalized. We are at a point in time where we must provide our sellers with a definitive schedule so that they can make sales plans for their yearlings.”
Browning continued, “We considered several different dates in August and early September for a Kentucky sale, but the Sept. 9 and 10 dates make the most sense from a variety of perspectives. For the travel convenience of buyers, as well as coordination of potential health and safety protocols, our sale and Keeneland September are best served to be positioned closer together. Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland have been in steady contact with one another and are working together in a cooperative effort to do what’s best for our industry during these challenging times.”
Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said, “Keeneland is committed to do everything possible to help our industry navigate these extraordinary times. These past few weeks, we have had many conversations with Fasig-Tipton about constructive efforts to benefit the industry, including scheduling of sales and consistent safety protocols. We will continue to work together on policies and measures to keep participants safe and provide assurances to our customers as we move forward.”
Fasig, Keeneland Cooperation Lauded
Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds was among many praising the spirit of cooperation between the two sales companies.
“It is heartening,” said Finley. “I know one thing. These things don’t happen in an hour after a quick meeting. There’s a lot of outreach to the sellers, the buyers, the facilities, and consideration of the world situation in the Thoroughbred world. I’m a big fan of the sales companies we have in existence today and they are doing everything they can to balance everybody’s interests. When we do that and we collaborate, we’re always in a better position.”
Finley said that it should be a model for the rest of the sport to follow.
“Let’s be honest: I fully expect and we should all demand that more of our top leaders and our organizations cooperate with one another as soon as possible. I know a lot of times it has been easy in the past to say, ‘We need cooperation,’ so here we’re seeing cooperation and we should give credit where credit is due.”
Doug Cauthen agreed.
“The effort and cooperation of the two sales companies has shown great leadership and insight during these difficult times and the fact that they’re going to share protocols and create best practices that will make it easier for both sellers and buyers to navigate the sales is an integral and key part of making this whole sales season happen. This only makes it easier and logical to sell and shop at both, no different than it was when it was at Saratoga. Kudos.”
Browning said that unique times call for unique measures.
“I think that both sales companies realized that cooperation in 2020, during this unprecedented time, was the right thing to do for both sellers and buyers in the marketplace.”
Derby Provides Fitting Backdrop
The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale annually takes place against the backdrop of world-class racing across the street, but this year the auction will be held in the shadow of the pageantry of the Kentucky Derby, which will be held Sept. 5. The timing is ideal, said Justin Casse, who shops at both Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton every year.
“I am very happy that they went this route and that they decided to have it in the days following the Kentucky Derby,” said Casse. “I think it’s a good way to come off the heels of the Kentucky Derby and go right into the sale, much like they do with the Preakness with their sale in Maryland. This will be followed by a sale following the Derby, which gives an adequate amount of time leading up to the sale, and an adequate time after it leading up to Keeneland. I have already reached out to my partners to nominate some horses to it.”
Casse also said that it was gratifying to see the sales companies, traditionally competitors, working in tandem for the benefit of the buying and selling public.
“I think it is crucial that the industry works together,” he said. “My hope is that all of the American sales companies would have been consulting with each other from the beginning, because uncertainty doesn’t help any of us. In the game that we play, there’s enough uncertainty we have to prepare for as it is. The more certainty we can give the buyers and sellers, the better off we all will be.”
Brian Graves of Gainesway, which traditionally consigns horses to all three auctions, agreed the Derby would provide a fitting backdrop for the 2020 sale.
“It’s good that we will have an opportunity to showcase Saratoga-type horses around a big race meet and especially a big race day,” said Graves. “I think it’s smart of Fasig to combine the upper end of the July market with the Saratoga market and also spotlight the select New York-breds. I think it would be difficult if you had to wait on that [New York-bred] sale until October in New York with no race meet going on.”
Graves continued, “Obviously we will support the auction, because it’s always important to have more than one place to sell your horses. Drastic times call for drastic measures and I think Fasig always does a good job at handling things the best they can.”
New York-Bred Quandary for Sellers
Denali Stud is typically a leading consignor at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga, the New York-Bred sale, and Keeneland September, and vice president Conrad Bandoroff praised the move.
“I think under these extenuating circumstances, they’ve had to really come together and make some hard choices,” he said. “With it looking more and more each day like there will not be spectators at Saratoga, it made the sales untenable. I know in our ongoing discussions with Fasig, there were several dates they were considering, one being in August, and I think with how aggressive Governor Beshear has been in Kentucky, this makes the most sense logistically because buyers and agents will now come to Kentucky one time and that will help in whatever proposal they put in front of the governor’s office: here are the protocols we’re going to follow at our auctions and hopefully it’s a plan he’ll approve. I have to give credit to both sales companies for working together for the benefit of the industry.”
Bandoroff said that while the situation wasn’t ideal, they would offer their top New York-breds in the sale as well.
“With our upper-end New York-breds that fit the criteria, we will support the Fasig-Tipton sale,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we won’t be able to have the New York-bred sale in Saratoga because it is our belief that’s the best place to sell New York-breds, but it’s difficult. I think there will be good support for that section of the sale.”
Becky Thomas said her New York-based Sequel Bloodstock would likely retain many of its yearlings with an eye towards selling them at the juvenile sales next year.
“I applaud Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland for working together and trying to work towards the best possible solution and I certainly understand Fasig-Tipton’s position,” Thomas said. “For us, big sellers in New York with New York-breds, without spectators at the racetrack, we don’t have a buyer base. Throwing an extraordinary number of horses on a market without a buyer base is not something for me. I want to take a much greater slice of horses to the 2-year-old sales next year that would ordinarily be in the yearling sales.
She continued, “The ability to maximize our New York program requires me to put those horses in front of a New York buying base. It’s a much more expensive endeavor to be able to breed and sell horses that are New York-bred. We have a lot of travel expenses, state income tax in addition to federal income tax. The cost of doing business is much higher, so I must put those horses in front of the people that will give me the highest opportunity to earn the most.”
The Kentucky-based Hunter Valley Farm is another major presence selling in the New York-bred market, annually purchasing weanlings at the Fasig-Tipton Fall Sale to pinhook at the yearling auction in August.
“I think it will be difficult to attract an audience to New York this year in the present circumstances,” the farm’s Adrian Regan said. “So the move to Kentucky is a good move, but we will miss Saratoga this year. When we go to New York, we are going to sell to the home team, that’s why we do it. That’s why Fergus [Galvin] goes up to shop in October and that’s why we go back up to sell because you are bringing your product to the home town. Obviously, it’s not going to be the same having it in Kentucky, but it’s a very fair compromise at the moment in the present climate. Full compliments to Fasig for announcing their plans early so we can make our plans. And it’s great to see Fasig and Keeneland working together. We are grateful to them for coming together to support us.”
Dave Reid of Preferred Equine has been consigning yearlings to the New York-bred sale for several years. He also operates the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale for Standardbreds, the leading Standardbred yearling sale, scheduled to be held Oct. 6-10 this year.
“We’ll consign our New York-breds to the Fasig-Tipton sale in Lexington,” said Reid. “Being based out of Westchester County, New York, we’ve been dealing with the COVID situation from early on, including the loss of three horsemen in our industry. I’ve been trying to keep in constant contact with industry players from Canada, the U.S. and Europe in my role as a sales manager for Lexington Selected to get a gauge on what everyone is thinking, along with watching the daily press conferences with [New York] Governor [Andrew] Cuomo and [New Jersey] Governor [Phil] Murphy. Obviously, the COVID situation is very fluid, as everyone knows, and with the uncertainly of the Saratoga meet, I can understand the management of Fasig-Tipton making this announcement. Preferred Equine has always been treated very fairly by Boyd and his team, and we’ll look forward to supporting them by taking our New York-bred consignment to Lexington.”
Reid said he felt that others would feel the same.
“Having sold at Saratoga the last five or six years, and while attending the Keeneland September sale, I see similar buyers at both venues, and I believe that the buyers in the marketplace will make arrangements to have representation at the adjusted sale date.”
Philip Antonacci, Preferred’s Thoroughbred Sales and Bloodstock Executive, Tweeted his support as well.
“We will be there in full force ready to service our clients’ needs,” he said. “Excited about a new opportunity and to show off some superstars. Thanks for navigating these unprecedented times so well.”
A Compact Schedule for Buyers
Jon Green is the racing manager for DJ Stables, which is based in New Jersey, and he said he thought the timing was ideal for people who have to travel to the sales from outside of Kentucky.
“There’s definitely precedence to doing this as far as having the sales be back-to-back,” said Green. “It works very well with Night of the Stars and Keeneland November. From a logistics standpoint for someone being from out of town, it couldn’t be scheduled any better. I think it’s ultra-convenient for an out-of-town outfit like us. It’s going to be the high-end horses who generally sell at the Saratoga sale, the better New York-breds, combined with the Book One Keeneland September horses. For our program, it couldn’t be drawn up any better.”
All yearlings catalogued in the Selected Yearlings Showcase will be approved on pedigree and physical conformation by Fasig-Tipton’s selection team over the next several weeks, ahead of the sale’s June 15 entry deadline.
Nominations for the Selected Yearlings Showcase are now open at www.fasigtipton.com. Yearlings already nominated to Fasig-Tipton’s July, Saratoga, and NY-Bred Yearlings Sale do not need to re-nominate. There is no fee to nominate.
To learn more about Fasig-Tipton’s 2020 Selected Yearlings Showcase sale, please visit fasigshowcase.com.
Nominations close May 8. Entries close June 15.