By Bill Oppenheim
Now, I wasn't there to see the bidding myself, but I need to have a word with that canny David Loder about that $995,000 bid which bought the sale's only War Front colt right at the end of Tuesday night's session at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga; couldn't you just have rounded it up? It wouldn't have made any difference to War Front's average, no (it would have been $712,500 for two sold rather than $710,000), but it would have taken the sale's gross receipts to exactly $53 million instead of $52,995,000, which means myself and all other reviewers are going to have to say this hot sale grossed “almost” $53 million every time we refer to it.
And a hot sale it was, too: with an 11% smaller catalogue, exactly the same number (156) sold as last year, which meant one of my favorite metrics, the clearance rate from the catalogue, improved by a massive 7.7%, from 61.9% last year to 69.6% this year–almost 70% for a select yearling sale, that doesn't happen much these days. With the exact same number sold, the nearly $53-million gross and $339,712 average were each up 16% over 2016. Our own projections beforehand were that the number sold would likely be in the 140's, that the sale would gross between $45 and $50 million, and that the average would be around $300,000, so in all those categories the sale ran about 10% ahead of our projections. It doesn't take too much slicing and dicing of the numbers to see it was a strong sale. This is an elite sale, no doubt, so making projections based on 156 horses selling is always dangerous, but there's certainly reason to be optimistic rather than pessimistic about the next 10,000 or so yearlings which will go through the ring in the next three months.
Our mantra throughout the year so far has been “compare to 2015,” because last year did drop from 2015 highs. The North American and European auction market as a whole made a big recovery in 2013, but has remained relatively stagnant since. In Saratoga's case, its big recovery had actually been delayed until 2015. From 165 catalogued and 114 sold (a healthy 69.1%) in 2014, for the 2015 sale the number catalogued jumped 26%, to 209, of which 145 sold, a 27% gain over 2014 while still sustaining a 69.4% clearance rate from the catalogue. So a big win, as the gross jumped by 40%, from $33.2 million to $46,755,000. The average also gained 10% (to $322,448), but actually what was more important was that Fasig-Tipton proved they could sustain an average of plus-or-minus $300,000 even while increasing the numbers, essentially by a quarter (see the Weekly Sales Ticker for detail).
So, yes, once again, compare to 2015: that year, 209 catalogued, 145 sold (69.4%); $46,755,000, average $322,448. This year: 224 catalogued (+7% compared to 2015), 156 sold (+7%, and 69.6% of those catalogued); gross $52,995,000 ('almost' $53-million, and + 13%), average $339,712 (+ 5%). Throughout this year so far, when we've done those comparisons to 2015, the two years have been pretty similar, marginally up or down. For us the really significant figure is that the number sold from the catalogue went back to 69% and change, while sustaining a 7% rise in the number catalogued and sold, plus a 5% increase in average. Given the 13% rise in gross, it's probably not being over-optimistic to say the Saratoga sale was up around 10% from its previous 2015 post-Crash highs. If the next 10,000 or so yearlings to sell could do that, we'd be justified in calling it a strong, and very good, marketplace.
As far as sires go, when the market is strong you have to be a little careful not to fall into a “rising tide lifts all boats” scenario where everything looks good; even when the market is strong, some do look even better. Though none of the top five on average after Fasig July and Saratoga had more than four sold, nonetheless the right names are at the top. Darley's Medaglia d'Oro has been the number three sire in North America, behind Gainesway's Tapit and Claiborne's War Front, for most of this decade, and while a clear third in a field of a few hundred is very good form, nonetheless it's good to see him hit the number one ranking once in a while, and right now Medaglia d'Oro's $756,250 average (4 sold) tops both War Front ($710,000, as you know, 2 sold) and Tapit ($600,000 average, 4 sold). “Medaglia” had the $1-million sale-topping Fasig July filly, and colts which sold for $900k, $575k, and $550k at Saratoga. Click here to see the top 50 North American sires by yearling average after the two Fasig sales.
One of the best ways to make money in the horse business is to guess right about young sires, and four of those are among the top eight North American sires by average thus far. Hill 'n' Dale's Curlin stood at Lane's End for $35,000 in 2015, and his four sold have averaged $587,500 so far, topped by the $1-million Saratoga colt–though he has had 11 through the ring. WinStar's Pioneerof The Nile, who had 3-year-old Cairo Prince and 2-year-old American Pharoah by the end of 2014, stood for $60,000; three of his six offered so far have averaged $458,333. Coolmore Ashford's Scat Daddy stood what turned out to be his final season for $35,000, and not surprisingly nine sold, of 11 offered, for an average of $396,666; and the same firm's Uncle Mo, whose first yearlings had just sold, stood for $25,000 in 2015. He's already had 23 through the ring, of which 18 have sold, for an average of $332,500. Spendthrift's Malibu Moon was of course long since established (he stood for $95,000 in 2015), and he's had seven sell for an average of $433,571 so far, ranking him sixth on this list.
A total of 15 sires have had two or more sell for an average of $300,000 or more so far. Established sires which stood for $50,000 or more in 2015 among these included: Lane's End's Candy Ride (Arg) (2 fillies offered and sold, average $355,000); and WinStar's Tiznow (4, $332,500) and More Than Ready (6, $318,333). Two sires who have made good starts with their first 2-year-olds made this list: Claiborne's Orb, who has averaged $336,428 with 14 sold from 15 offered–everybody loves Orb; and Darley's Animal Kingdom, with two black-type winners already, had four sell, of five offered, for an average of $326,250. WinStar's Super Saver (that's four WinStar sires in the top 15) had three average $311,666; and Spendthrift's remarkable Into Mischief had 10 sell (of 17 offered) for an average of $305,000, off his 2015 stud fee of $35,000.
Five sires with their first yearlings rank among the top 50 on average. Three Chimneys figured to have the top first-crop yearling sire in 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge, who has had nine sell (of 11 offered) for an average of $274,444, which by the way is over nine times his $30,000 stud fee. They probably didn't expect to have the exacta, but with an $825,000 Saratoga filly, the 2013 GI Hopeful S. winner Strong Mandate claims second spot, with five sold, for an average of $263,400–over 26 times his $10,000 stud fee! Airdrie's Cairo Prince, whose foals have been wowing buyers since they appeared last fall, ranks third, with nine sold for an average of $172,777–itself more than 17 times his entering $10,000 fee (since raised to $15,000 due to overwhelming demand), with Ashford's Verrazano fourth at this point, five sold averaging $169,400. WinStar's Fed Biz, like Cairo Prince a market darling from last year's foal sales, ranks fifth among first-crop yearling sires with two or more sold (Hill 'n' Dale's Atreides has had one sell for $135,000), with eight sold, for an average of $119,375–nearly
10 times his entering $12,500 stud fee. Saratoga is of course a boutique sale, and most sires' averages will fall a good bit as thousands more yearlings arrive in the marketplace, but what's significant about the averages so far is we see what prices the top individuals can command.