The Sizzle Is Back at Saratoga

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Hip 168 | Fasig-Tipton

by Jessica Martini & Christie DeBernardis

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Following a bidless 2020, the sizzle was back at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion with a vibrant concluding session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale Tuesday in upstate New York. The session was punctuated by three seven-figure transactions, led by a colt by Into Mischief who sold for $2.6 million to Coolmore's M.V. Magnier.

“Whatever adjectives you want to use to describe it: fantastic, vibrant, energetic, dramatic,” Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning said Tuesday night. “You've heard me say it before and I will say it again. It begins with the quality of horses that were on the sales grounds. We were lucky to have an exceptional group of horses on the grounds this week. You could feel the buzz on the sale grounds. We had a few more breakout horses today just purely by the alphabet. All in all, it was a near-record sale. To accomplish that coming off a disruption in 2020 was remarkable.”

Through two sessions, Fasig-Tipton sold 135 horses for a total of $55,155,000. The average was $408,556 and the median was $350,000. Records of $411,459 (average) and $350,000 (median), respectively, were set in 2019. With 45 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 25%.

“We were fortunate to have a very, very strong catalogue,” Browning said. “I could hardly be happier right now. It wasn't the sale of the century, but it was awfully close to the sale of century. It lays the foundation for us to begin to work for the next century of great horse sales in Saratoga. I promise you we will do our part to make sure that happens.”

The $2.6-million sale topper–super sire Into Mischief's highest-priced yearling ever–was consigned by Gainesway on behalf of his breeder Don Alberto Corporation. He was one of four lots to reach seven figures. That matches the number of million-dollar yearlings sold at the 2019 sale.

A colt from the first crop of Bolt d'Oro sold to Larry Best's OXO Equine for $1.4 million early in Tuesday's session and was followed some thirty hips later by a $1-million son of Quality Road purchased by Kindred Stables. Lane's End's Quality Road had five of the top 16 offerings Tuesday, while his first-crop stallion son City of Light occupied another two spots at that level.

The domestic buying bench continued to be deep at the boutique auction, with the top 15 lots purchased by 12 individual buyers.

While top lots were in high demand, consignors did see some weakening at the lower levels of the market.

“The right horse brings triple and the others are tough,” Hill 'n' Dale Sale Agency's John Sikura said. “I assume everyone is having the same experience. You have to have enough good individuals to make up for the others.”

Gainesway consigned two of Tuesday's top four yearlings and the operation's Brian Graves said he saw a noticeable uptick in activity during the auction's second session.

“It was a little spotty in here on the first night and you do get to wondering as a consignor sometimes if things are going to be fair or if you're just going to be in a buyer's market,” Graves said. “I was wondering that the first night, but when the quality came here tonight, they seemed to open up. I think there were better horses today and I think the market really opened up this evening.”

Bloodstock agent David Ingordo was busy buying at the auction and said he found plenty of activity throughout the market.

“It can be spotty if you don't have the right horse,” Ingordo said. “But if you do, you better get tied on. The middle market is still good. There are people buying horses, a buddy of mine, Tom McCrocklin, is buying horses in that middle-price range. I see him buying them in the $100,000 to $250,000 range and we bought a few, what I call value for here, and you just have to get lucky. But if the horse is nice, forget about it, they are throwing the reins at it.”

The 100th Saratoga sale also made history when the first-ever cryptocurrency purchase of a Thoroughbred at public auction. After Spendthrift Farm's Eric Gustavson made the historic purchase, he told Fasig-Tipton's Acacia Courtney, “It was really exciting. Hopefully, this will continue to happen. It will be like a snowball effect and other sales companies may be open to it.”

Another Sale Topper for Coolmore

The Coolmore team was relatively quiet during Monday's first session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, but the Irish operation jumped in with both feet Tuesday, securing a colt by Into Mischief (hip 168) for a sale-topping $2.6 million. The yearling was consigned by Antony Beck's Gainesway on behalf of his breeder, Don Alberto Corporation.

“He was a very nice horse. He is one that we've been talking about for the last couple of days,” Coolmore's M.V. Magnier said. “He was a very nice horse and he's by a very good sire out of a very good race mare. The way Practical Joke is going at the moment, it looks like Into Mischief is a sire of sires. He's a very nice horse and let's hope he's as good as Practical Joke.”

Magnier, flanked by members of the Coolmore team, did his bidding while standing at the back row of seats in the pavilion. The group stopped several times to discuss the progression of the bidding while battling with a determined bidder out back.

Asked what the conversation in the scrum sounded like, Magnier said with a laugh, “We just wanted to know what was going on.”

Magnier signed the ticket on four yearlings during the two-day Saratoga sale. He purchased a colt by Curlin (hip 166) for $500,000; a Practical Joke colt (hip 152) for $425,000; and an American Pharoah colt (hip 47) for $300,000.

Tuesday's sale-topping purchase was the second time this year Coolmore had purchased a $2.6-million colt from a Fasig-Tipton auction. The operation made that top bid at the Gulfstream sale in March to acquire a 2-year-old colt by Nyquist.

Hip 168 is out of 2016 GI Test S. winner Paola Queen (Flatter).  The Heller-Solari family's Don Alberto purchased the mare for $1.7 million at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for the mare and a tremendous success for Don Alberto,” the operation's executive director Chance Timm said of Tuesday's result. “Carlos Heller and the whole family have been so dedicated to this. It is very exciting. The commitment this family has made to the industry, with the investment in land and investment in mares, this is what we hope to achieve.”

Of the yearling's final price, Timm said, “It is hard to expect anything in that kind of range, but with the kind of interest we had, we knew he would sell well. He is a very rare type of horse. With that sire and that mare, those kind are very rare.”

Paola Queen produced a filly by Into Mischief this year and she was bred back to Tapit. Buyers can expect to see more of the 8-year-old mare's in the sales ring in the coming years.

“For the most part, everything goes to the market,” Timm said. “Mr. Heller is interested in partnerships every once in a while.”

Gainesway's Brian Graves said he was always high on the sale-topping yearling.

“We are just grateful for Don Alberto to send us such a nice horse,” Graves said. “He was a physical standout when we saw him on the farm. He was a horse that you got down on your hands and knees and said please let it be me and we were just lucky that they let us lead him around here.”

Graves continued, “He has a beautiful neck and shoulder, it ties in just beautifully, and a big square ass and just a walk that you see 2% of the horses you sell in a year walk that way and that will continue to walk like that. They walk that way on the last walk, the same as they did on the first walk. He was cool and calm the whole sale. And when horses do that and you are out of a Grade I winner and you're by the world's best stallion, you're supposed to have a chance to top the sale.”

Of the underbidder out back, Graves said, “I believe Fabricio Buffolo was the underbidder.” Buffolo, Don Alberto's former executive director, was reportedly bidding on behalf of Ben Leon's Besilu Stable. —@JessMartiniTDN

Half to Rachel Alexandra 'Bolts' Clear Early

A half-brother to Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) gave his first-crop sire Bolt d'Oro a major boost Tuesday when becoming the first yearling to reach the seven-figure mark during an electric second session. After a fast and furious round of bidding, hip 132 hammered for $1.4 million to Larry Best, who did his bidding quietly near the main entrance to the pavilion. John Sikura, whose Hill 'n' Dale Sales consigned the colt on behalf of breeder Dr. Dede McGehee's Heaven Trees Farm, was first on hand to congratulate the Oxo Equine principal.

“This is a special horse and a special opportunity,” said Best, who sold hip 114, a Quality Road colt, for $800,000 earlier in the evening and struck late for a $725,000 City of Light half-brother to his MGSW 'TDN Rising Star' Travel Column (Frosted) (hip 209). “Obviously there are no guarantees. The horse is just beautiful. Then you look at the page and it has Rachel Alexandra on it, which helps. It is 90% physical. However, I love Medaglia d'Oros and Bolt d'Oro is close. He is clearly the standout of the sale. Some people may pay more for a horse and they already have. He didn't vet totally clean, so I can't send him to Eddie Woods tomorrow. It will take three or four months, but he is worth the bet.”

Hip 132's dam Lotta Kim (Roar) was a stakes winner and GSP for owner/breeder Dolphus Morrison and was retired to McGehee's Heaven Trees Farm for her broodmare career. She sustained a life-threatening injury in a racetrack accident which made the foaling process and the recovery difficult, but was carefully managed by McGehee, who is a veterinarian and longtime friend to the late Morrison. Her first foal was two-time Eclipse winner Rachel Alexandra, who romped in the GI Kentucky Oaks for Morrison before being sold privately to Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick. She of course went on to win four more Grade Is, including the GI Preakness S., and produced a Grade I winner of her own in Rachel's Valentina (Bernardini). Rachel Alexandra's first foal was 'TDN Rising Star' and young sire Jess's Dream and she has since been retired from the breeding shed due to a post-foaling medical scare in 2013.

Morrison dispersed his breeding stock in 2012, except for Lotta Kim, who was transferred to McGehee's ownership. Stonestreet purchased Lotta Kim's daughter Samantha Nicole (Medaglia d'Oro) for $700,000 at that dispersal.

Lotta Kim's first foal for McGehee was the sentimentally named Dolphus (Lookin at Lucky), who was Grade III-placed. Her next foal Fayeq (Malibu Moon) summoned $800,000 from Shadwell Stable at Keeneland September and he was followed by SP Wooderson (Awesome Again), who was a $400,000 KEESEP buy for Let's Go Stable. Her 2017 colt Airstream (Tapit) RNA'd for $375,000 at that auction and McGehee retained her 3-year-old filly Gladys (Medaglia d'Oro), who has won one of four starts for trainer Kelsey Danner. Lotta Kim did not have a foal in 2019, making hip 132 her first foal to be offered at auction in three years and first to sell at Saratoga, where Rachel Alexandra famously beat older males as a sophomore filly in the 2009 GI Woodward S.. The 20-year-old Lotta Kim had a Bernardini filly this spring named Brilliance.

“I was not expecting it,” said an emotional overwhelmed McGehee after thanking Best. “You always hope for great things. He looked good and they did a great job prepping him. He is probably the best thing that I have ever owned. Thank you to Dolphus Morrison.”

This was the first time Hill 'n' Dale prepped and sold a horse for McGehee's operation.

“This is a beautiful classy, long, smooth gorgeous animal,” said SIkura. “This colt was high class and very popular. We had high expectations and you can say he exceeded them, but I thought he would hit $1 million. Anything after that you can't expect. Larry Best puts a lot of money in the game and I hope he bought a champion. Dede is a lovely lady and this is the first horse we sold for her. He presented like a champion and never turned a hair all week.”

Hip 132 is the first seven-figure offspring for first-crop sire Bolt d'Oro, who brought $630,000 at the 2016 renewal of this auction and went on to win a pair of Grade I events as a juvenile. His introductory fee was $25,000 and he was one of many stallions to have his fee reduced due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, going to $15,000. Bolt d'Oro's offspring proved quite popular at Saratoga with 10 yearlings selling for $4.07 million at an average of $267,500. @CDeBernardisTDN

Quality Filly Marks Sentimental Sale for Ryan

It's always a wonderful moment for a breeder when one of their homebreds reaches the $1-million mark, but it was extra special and a bit bittersweet for Mike Ryan Tuesday as his longtime partner and friend, the late Gerry Dilger, was not there to share in their success. Bred under Dilger and Ryan's Santa Rosa Partners banner, hip 160, a daughter of the operation's blue hen Above Perfection (In Excess {Ire}), summoned a cool million from Jeff Drown's Kindred Stables. Drown did his bidding over the phone with Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning and after the sale Ryan announced he would stay in for 50% of the filly.

“I stayed in for my half and Jeff bought out the other half. He is a great friend of mine,” Ryan said. “This is a family I'd find it very hard to replace. These kind are collector's items. You don't find them very often. This was a great price for the Dilger family. Gerry's widow, Erin, is very happy. I had great confidence in the filly and I told Jeff I'd stay in if he wanted to partner.”

The bloodstock agent added, “There is very little downside to this filly. The page speaks for itself. She will always have residual value and if she happens to win a stake her value multiplies.”

Ryan and Dilger acquired GSW Above Perfection for $450,000 in foal to Dixie Union at the 2006 FTKNOV sale. She had already produced three foals, none of which had any black-type. The foal she was carrying at the time of her purchase turned out to be Grade I winner Hot Dixie Chick, herself a $340,000 graduate of this sale. Her 2009 foal Abhaath (Hard Spun) was a $400,000 KEESEP yearling and her 2012 Tapit colt Chubasco brought $725,000 at that auction.

In 2014, Above Perfection produced a colt from the first crop of Bodemeister, who sold to Steve Young for $350,000 at Keeneland September. That colt was Always Dreaming who captured the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Florida Derby under the care of Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.

He was followed by $485,000 KEESEP buy Safwah (Medaglia d'Oro) in 2015 and Above Perfection's 2016 foal was a filly named Positive Spirit (Pioneerof the Nile), who won a Grade II for Dilger and Ryan before selling to Spendthrift for $1.5 million at FTKNOV.

“This is a mare that did so much for the Dilger family and the Ryan family,” Ryan said. “She hadn't produced any stakes winners when we bought her, but she just threw one after another for us. It is a very bittersweet moment because he is not here to celebrate it, enjoy it and see the fruits of his labor. He was the one hands on and I was on the road, so to speak. He did it all. He was a great friend and a terrific guy and partner.”

Above Perfection's recent produce includes an unraced juvenile filly named Beyond Perfection (Curlin) and a 2021 colt by Justify. Sadly, she had to be euthanized shortly after producing that foal.

“We lost the mare this year,” Ryan said. “She had her last foal by Justify and she foundered a few weeks after foaling. She had never been sick a day in her life. She was a 23-year-old mare and she looked like she was 17. But, she foundered after foaling very quickly and we ended up putting her to sleep. We were going to pension her and let her live out her days, but we didn't get to do that.”

Ryan said of all the foals he and Dilger have bred out of Above Perfection, hip 160 reminds him of Hot Dixie Chick the most. Purchased by Barbara Banke's Grace Stables for $435,000 at the FTKFEB juvenile sale, she captured the GI Spinaway S. and GIII Schuylerville S. at the Spa and has produced GSW Pauline's Pearl (Tapit) and MSW Union Jackson (Curlin).

“She actually reminds me of Hot Dixie Chick, a medium-sized, strong, quality filly,” Ryan said. “She has a great mind and Hot Dixie Chick was the same way. When Hot Dixie Chick was training, you'd think she had a temperature, but that was just her demeanor, a very low-tempered filly. This filly is the same way. She takes everything in stride. She reminds me of Hot Dixie Chick and the mare more than Quality Road.”

Hip 160 was consigned by Shack Parrish's Indian Creek. @CDeBernardisTDN

Best Sells, Too

Larry Best, who has frequently made headlines as a buyer over the last several years, is now two-for-two as a seller after a colt by Quality Road (hip 114) bred by Best's OXO Equine went for $800,000 to the online bid of WinStar Farm's Maverick Racing Tuesday evening in Saratoga. The bay colt is out of stakes winner Hung the Moon (Malibu Moon) and is a half-brother to Grade I-placed Brill (Medaglia d'Oro), who was purchased by Best for $1 million at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton July sale and is another mare in his broodmare band.

“It's my second in my homebred I've sold and to be honest with you, I didn't want to sell him,” Best said. “But when you are breeding and you're racing and you have the broodmare population, you have to support it. You can't just keep every horse. This was a beautiful colt. At $750,000, I was taking him home. But when it got to $800,000, I thought whoever owns him, I hope, will have Grade I wins and it will help my mare and Brill, who is also a mare of mine. And it will help fund the whole breeding operation.”

Best's first homebred to go through the sales ring, a colt by Candy Ride (Arg) out of Beyond Grace (Uncle Mo) (hip 111), sold for $350,000 to James Bernhard at last month's Fasig-Tipton July sale.

“I am two-for-two now,” Best said. “This is the only one I am selling today, but I have three or four at Keeneland and two with Fasig. But whoever bought this horse bought an outstanding specimen.”

It didn't take Best long to reinvest his profits, purchasing a colt by Bolt d'Oro half-brother to champion Rachel Alexandra for $1.4 million. —@JessMartiniTDN

Tapit Filly Heads West

A filly by Tapit (hip 139) will head out west to join the California-based stable of trainer John Shirreffs after selling for $800,000 to the bid of bloodstock agent David Ingordo Tuesday in Saratoga. The gray yearling was bred and consigned by Antony Beck's Gainesway, which campaigned her dam Madame Stripes (Arg) (Equal Stripes) to win the 2018 GIII Megahertz S. and a third-place effort in the GI Gamely S. Group 1 placed in her native Argentina, the 9-year-old mare hit the board in six additional graded stakes in California in 2017 and 2018.

“She is a good Tapit and we have been really lucky buying homebreds from Gainesway,” Ingordo said. “She came up here and looked awesome and she had the pedigree. She's going to end up in California and John Shirreffs will train her. The mother ran out there and I liked that. And I noticed Tapit has done well with South American mares. I think [GI Belmont S. winner] Creator was out of a similar pedigree.”

Madame Stripes has a weanling filly by Tapit and was bred back to that Gainesway stalwart.

“She was bred and raised at Gainesway out of a mare that Antony raced in partnership,” Gainesway's Brian Graves said. “We were thrilled with the result. I hear David Ingordo got her and is taking her out to California which is fitting because that was where her mother was successful. We wish them a lot of luck.” —@JessMartiniTDN

Quality Road Colt Gets Session Off to a Fast Start

The first hip through the ring during Tuesday's second session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale was a good indicator of what was to come. Hip 111, a Quality Road colt out of GISW Harmonize (Scat Daddy), got things off and running in a big way, selling for $700,000 to West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing. He was consigned by Brookdale Sales.

“You are always a little nervous bidding on the first horse in the ring,” said West Point racing manager Erin Birkenhauer. “It is kind of a bad post position for the consignor, but you'd think it was a good post position for the buyer. When they have that much quality, it doesn't matter. People noticed he was super athletic. He was pretty much a carbon copy of Quality Road and we loved the Scat Daddy mare. She was a very good racehorse. This colt was a handy-looking horse. You wouldn't be surprised if he was a precocious 2-year-old.”

“We knew he was a top-end colt,” said Birkenhauer. “This was a one-horse consignment, so they aren't going to bring a horse up here that isn't going to create some fireworks. We expected we would have to be pretty strong, which is why we banded together with Bill Farish and his group [Woodford Racing] to get it done.”

Larkin Armstrong purchased Harmonize for $80,000 as a KEESEP yearling and she captured the GI Del Mar Oaks, as well as a pair of Grade IIIs, including Saratoga's Glens Falls S. Armostrong retained her first foal, the now 2-year-old Vocalize (More Than Ready), who is in training with J.J. Pletcher in Ocala.

“I thought this colt would be a good prospect for the sales, so I was very excited,” said Armstrong. “A lot of good agents and trainers were on him, so that was really cool.” @CDeBernardisTDN

Rajput Makes Most of Spa Trip

Indian businessman Kuldeep Singh Rajput made the most of his first trip to Saratoga, with his fledgling Gandharvi Racing operation teaming up with China Horse Club to acquire three yearlings during the two-day boutique auction. The two operations partnered to purchase a filly by Practical Joke (hip 67) for $420,000, a colt by Street Sense (hip 206) for $350,000 and a colt by Good Magic (hip 18) for $325,000.

“While I was growing up back in India, I was really fascinated by horses, their elegance, speed and power,” Rajput said of his early interest in racing. “My great, great grandparents used to breed in India, but after that nobody took it forward. I always had a dream and a goal that one day I would own racehorses and get into the racing and the breeding scene.”

His dreams of a racing stable were put on hold as Rajput built up his digital health company Biofourmis which is focused on developing software-based therapeutics to provide better outcomes for patients, smarter engagement and tracking tools for clinicians, and cost-effective solutions for payers.

“The timing wasn't right, I was building my company, but at some point last year, I had an opportunity to buy a horse in Singapore,” Rajput said. “I bought it and since then I have built relationships and kept expanding, in Australia, in the U.K. and here in the U.S.”

“I have 24 horses, most of them are in pre-training and most of them are yearlings. In the U.S., we have a couple with Todd Pletcher. And in the U.K. we bought one 2-year-old, a Kingman (GB) colt, with China Horse Club. He is going to hopefully race this week.”

That Kingman colt, the €580,000 Arqana May Breeze-Up purchase Kingdom Come (Ire), is expected to be Rajput's first-ever starter when he goes to the post Friday at Newbury.

Rajput's partnership with China Horse Club came about after he purchased a yearling by the group's Group 1 winner Russian Revolution (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}).

“I ended up buying a yearling in Australia by Russian Revolution and I bought the yearling for Singapore,” Rajput said. “That was the first Russian Revolution in Singapore and Teo [Ah Khing] reached out and congratulated me and he was excited. We started talking and we have built a good relationship and I think we have the same goals.”

Rajput expects his racing empire to eventually encompass breeding.

“We will probably start with the racing and hopefully get some fillies,” he said. “And hopefully have broodmares and breed our own. As you know, it all takes time, but I think we have the right partners.”

The 29-year-old Rajput, based in Boston and Singapore, was making not only his first trip to Saratoga, but also his first foray at an in-person auction.

“It's been fun. It's my first sale in person,” he said. “Most of the sales earlier this year were online. So far, in Australia and other places, I primarily deal with trainers. And trainers, of course, work with some agents. But I try to build good relationship with the trainers. We have Ciaron Maher and Chris Waller in Australia, Todd [Pletcher] here. So far we have done it that way.” —@JessMartiniTDN

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