By Jessica Martini
TIMONIUM, MD – The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, delayed two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, opened Monday with trepidation in the air, but the clouds of fear and doubt dissipated and, for two days at least, there was a feeling of a return to normalcy in the industry. The auction featured solid demand for horses at all levels and concluded with a remarkable 19.2% buy-back rate.
“We had a terrific day Monday and I said I hoped and prayed that we could keep the momentum going and the RNA rate at a low or acceptable range,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning. “Overall, we are just thrilled with the activity that we've observed the last two days. I think it restores some confidence among our buyers and sellers. It proved to us that there remains a legitimate viable marketplace out there. The resiliency in the industry continues to be on display.”
At the conclusion of the sale, 303 horses sold for $23,572,500. The average of $77,797 fell 13.7% from last year's record-setting figure of $90,104 and the median dipped 7% to $40,000. But this is one year in which the success of the sale likely goes beyond the raw numbers.
“When we started the process last week, there was fear in people's eyes,” Browning said. “There was legitimate fear for their livelihoods. And if you look at them today, the fear has been transformed into relief. 'Thank God, I was able to sell horses.' It probably won't be the most lucrative year financially for many pinhookers, but I think the survival rate at the end of the day will be dramatically higher than many would have assumed 60 days ago.”
The two-day sale was topped by a $1.1-million son of Uncle Mo who sold to Michael Lund Petersen during Monday's opening session. Tuesday's session was topped by a colt by Candy Ride (Arg) who sold for $875,000 to bloodstock agent Gary Young. The juvenile was consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stable.
“I think the market has been solid,” Dunne said Tuesday. “All of the big buyers have been here and they've shopped it hard. We've had some [horses] that were disappointments, but we've had more that surpassed expectations.”
Of the auction's success under difficult and uncertain conditions, Dunne said, “The thing about horse people is that we're eternal optimists, no matter what they throw in our faces. And you have to be because horses will try to disappoint you at every level. So you learn to roll with the punches pretty good. I think that's what we are seeing from everyone, from owners to agents and trainers, everybody is trying to make the most of it and trying to conduct their business like we're going to have a future. Which we will.”
Consignor Cary Frommer enjoyed a standout auction, with 19 juveniles sold for $2,396,000 and an average of $126,105. Her consignment was led by a $600,000 son of Flatter who sold Tuesday. The results made up for all the precautions and social distancing at the sales grounds this week.
“I can't be complaining about my mask right now,” Frommer said with a laugh. “The market is definitely strong for the right horse. I am never surprised when a good horse brings a lot of money, but I am surprised when some of the horses you were worried about bring good prices. And that's what seems to be happening, at least with me.”
The Midlantic sale had been originally scheduled for mid-May and its place on the calendar was in doubt as recently as Memorial Day. Browning gave credit to Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic team for the successful auction.
“I take my hat off to our team in the Maryland office,” Browning said. “There were days we didn't know what we were going to do in a geographic area that was impacted by COVID more than we were in Kentucky. We really didn't have a firm decision until right around Memorial Day that we would be able to have the sale and they've done a remarkable job. This sale was a testament to the hard work of Paget [Bennett], Penny [Woolley], Polly [Mooney] and Anna [Thorp].”
Candy Ride Colt Lights Up Midlantic Sale
Gary Young made the highest bid of Tuesday's second session of the Midlantic sale, going to $875,000 to acquire a colt by Candy Ride (Arg) (hip 443) from the Wavertree Stables consignment. Young was bidding on behalf of an undisclosed client, but the agent did say it was the same buyer for whom he acquired a colt by Not This Time (hip 1254) for $1.35 million at the OBS Spring Sale.
“I knew we would have to pay for him and we did,” Young said.
“I think he is a very good horse. We're going to give him a couple months to recoup and then he'll go to California and we'll go from there.”
The seven-figure Not This Time colt has joined the Bob Baffert barn in Southern California and when asked about who would train hip 443, Young said, “It's probably going to be a guy with white hair.”
The bay colt, who worked a furlong at last week's under-tack preview in :10 1/5, is out of Causara (Giant's Causeway), a daughter of graded winner Lady Belsara (Boundary).
Bred by Brian Kahn, the colt sold for $215,000 as a weanling at the 2018 Keeneland November sale. He was purchased by Ron Fein's Superfine Farms for $175,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton October sale.
“The colt has been very well received all week,” said Wavertree's Ciaran Dunne. “We thought earlier in the year he was one of the best colts we had on the farm, one of the better horses we've had in a while. He had a little setback which forced him to miss OBS March and we rerouted him to here. He is such a big colt we were worried coming up here how he would handle the racetrack and the turns, but obviously he did and he breezed really well. At the end of the shank, he's always been a wonderful horse, so once you cross all the bridges you just have to sit back and watch.”
Fein was represented by his first seven-figure sale last year at the OBS Spring sale when selling a colt by Liam's Map for $1.2 million through the Wavertree consignment.
Flatter Colt Finds a Home on West Coast
Trainer Mark Glatt, acting on behalf of a new client, added a colt by Flatter to his stable when purchasing hip 360 for $600,000 from Cary Frommer's consignment Tuesday in Timonium. Mike Machowsky handled the bidding on the phone.
“Mike did the in-person inspection,” Glatt explained. “Because of the move to Del Mar, I was not able to get back there for the sale this year. I have a new owner in the business and he was very much interested in the sale. I did all the homework here that I could and the colt passed Mike's physical evaluation. We decided to take a shot at him and fortunately we were able to get the horse.”
The chestnut colt, who worked a furlong last week in :10 1/5, is out of the unraced Wildaboutshopping (Wildcat Heir) and is the unidentified buyer's first horse..
“He was just looking for a racehorse,” Glatt said of his client. “Something that looked like it had a lot of potential. He kind of left it up to me to search out certain numbers and he was looking himself–he had a friend of his who is familiar with the business. It kind of worked out because I sent him a list of numbers and it seemed like we all came to the same horse. That's why we zeroed in on the Flatter colt.”
Frommer was consigning the colt on behalf of his breeder, former Hobeau Farm manager Craig Wheeler. Hobeau Farm is responsible for the juvenile's second dam Shopping and Frommer sold that mare's son Trappe Shot (Tapit) for $850,000 at the 2009 Midlantic sale as part of the historic farm's dispersal.
“I was nuts about him from the time he shipped in to me,” Frommer said of the colt. “Barry Berkelhammer had him before he came into me, so he filled me in and he was so laid back. He gained weight at the sale, nothing phased him. He was a fun horse to be around.”
Also on behalf of Wheeler, Frommer sold a filly by Into Mischief (hip 31) for $250,000 during Monday's first session of the sale.
Ellis Doubledowns for Templer
California trainer Ron Ellis has been busy shopping the juvenile sales for longtime owner Richard Templer's Doubledown Stable and made his second purchase of the Midlantic sale when going to $375,000 to acquire a colt by Tiznow (hip 296) from Bobby Dodd's consignment Tuesday morning.
“I loved the way he moved,” Ellis said of the bay colt. “He is bred to run long, but he worked fast (:10 1/5). “He checked all of the boxes as far as soundness, which is hard to do. I tried to buy his brother a couple of years ago, but we couldn't get close to him. So we got this one for a little better bargain.”
Out of Tanglewood Tale (Tale of the Cat), the colt is a half-brother to 'TDN Rising Star' Tale of the Union (Union Rags), who Dodd pinhooked for $925,000 at the Midlantic sale in 2018. Dodd and Brad Grady's Grand Oaks purchased that colt for $90,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. The team purchased the Tiznow colt for $130,000 at that same sale in 2019.
“I didn't necessarily buy him because I had that horse. I really liked this horse,” Dodd said. “It was really just a coincidence that I had had the other horse.”
Asked if there were similarities between the two colts, Dodd said, “They were both built the same. I really like Tiznow, but this horse doesn't look like a Tiznow. He's out of a Tale of the Cat mare and looks more like him.”
Ellis purchased a colt by Union Rags (hip 67) for $140,000 during Monday's first session of the Midlantic sale. At the OBS Spring, the trainer purchased three juveniles: a colt by Malibu Moon (hip 971) for $200,000; a colt by Frosted (hip 367) for $160,000; and a filly by Speightster (hip 515) for $85,000.
Of the market in Timonium, Ellis said, “It's buyable. I think it's ok. I don't know when you pay $375,000, you can say it's a bargain, but I've seen the market a lot stronger in other years.”
Dodd agreed it's been a buyers' market, but taking uncertain global conditions into consideration, it has been strong enough for sellers.
“We have been doing ok,” Dodd said. “I think this is a pretty good market if you have the right horse, but it's always that way. I think they are still discounted. I think this horse a year ago would have brought $600,000 or $700,000. So I feel like they are buying them at 50 cents on the dollar. But that's ok. We still make some money and we are out of the trap and got a little cheese. So we're happy.”
Quick Turnaround Pays for McKathan
Kevin McKathan had high hopes when he brought a daughter of Dialed In over to work ahead of the OBS Spring Sale earlier this month, but the filly's breeze over the synthetic disappointed and the Ocala horsemen decided to scratch her from the auction and try again over the dirt track in Timonium. The juvenile (hip 552) duly delivered a :10 flat co-bullet work and sold for $310,000 to Lauren Carlisle Tuesday.
“She worked in :10 1/5 down there [in Ocala], but I didn't think she handled the synthetic surface,” McKathan said. “I really thought when I brought her over there, she'd be a :9 4/5. I was in love with her all year. So on the synthetic, she seemed to scramble, didn't start well, she was on the wrong lead. She just didn't look good or comfortable over it. In my mind, I knew I had the opportunity to bring her up here and let her showcase herself. Because at our home track, she had looked beautiful and that was not what I was seeing on the synthetic. That's why I took the shot and brought her up here.”
There were just two weeks between sales, but McKathan was concerned about the quick turnaround.
“It did not concern, just knowing her, everything is so easy with her and she's a good-minded horse,” he said. “Racehorses breeze every week anyway, it wasn't like she needed the time. It wasn't too much to bring her and breeze her, the travel and everything, she got over that really good. We were kind of easy on her up here.”
Out of Fall Fantasy (Menifee), the filly is a full-sister to GI Breeders' Cup F/M Sprint runner-up Chalon. McKathan purchased her for $165,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.
“I loved her as a yearling,” McKathan said. “She was a beautiful filly. She cost plenty of money. I believe the Jacksons were the underbidder on her as a yearling, so they made me pay for her. But I just loved her and with the pedigree I thought there was a little upside on her. So we took a shot and it worked out.”
The juvenile was consigned Tuesday by SBM Training and Sales.
“I am happy with it,” McKathan said of the result. “It was good money made by everyone. Anything can happen at sales, but in this kind of year, I feel like that was nice.”
Speightster Colt an Unexpected Pinhook Success for Trombetta
When Mike Trombetta purchased a colt by Speightster for $25,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling Sale, the plan was to race the youngster, but the trainer called an audible and returned the juvenile to the sales ring where he sold for $130,000 Tuesday in Timonium. Consigned by Best a Luck Farm, hip 528 is out of stakes winner Fancy Diamond (Eastern Echo) and worked a furlong last week in :10 1/5. He was purchased by High Point Bloodstock as agent for Irish Smith.
“I bought him to race, being a Maryland-bred, but he did well in Florida and the way things were going this year, to cover my bases, I thought I would put him in the sale and see how it goes,” Trombetta said. “He continued to progress so nicely, I figured we would go ahead and give it a try.”
Asked if he was happy with Tuesday's result, Trombetta said, “Oh yes. Absolutely.”
He continued, “We race most of them, but once in a while, if you have the right individual, it's nice to try to make a buck.”
Trombetta agreed there was plenty of uncertainty over what the market would be like in Timonium this week.
“I think everybody was worried, but I think it was better than most people thought it was going to be.”