Founded in 1898, Fasig-Tipton is North America’s oldest Thoroughbred auction company. It operates sales in Kentucky, New York, Florida, Maryland and Texas. Fasig-Tipton began selling horses during the Saratoga Race meet in 1917. Through the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales ring have gone some of racing’s most famous stars, including Man O’ War, Raise a Native, Danzig, Conquistador Cielo, Black Tie Affair, Colonial Affair, Union Rags and New York-bred Funny Cide.
In 2008, Synergy Investments LTD., a Dubai-based company, purchased Fasig-Tipton for $5.7 million, according to city records, and within the next few years put that much or more into additions and renovations. Sonny Bonacio spent the big budget wisely. The plant is stunningly beautiful and offers horses and patrons alike added safety and comfort. Humphrey S. Finney (for whom the Saratoga sales pavilion is named) would be proud.
There are 254 horses consigned to the Saratoga Fall Mixed & Horses of Racing Age Sale; 104 are weanlings, with most of them being New York-bred, 44 horses are of racing age and/or broodmare prospects, and 103 are in-foal mares. McMahon Thoroughbreds of Saratoga is the largest consignor, with 40 horses offered by the farm and through various forms of agentry.
You won’t find the big numbers bid in this sale that we are accustomed to seeing in the high-powered yearling sales held in August. But what makes horse sales exciting is that good and sometimes great horses are often purchased at bargain prices. Fasig-Tipton traditionally offers an October sale of yearlings at their Newtown Pike location in Lexington, Ky. This year’s edition will offer a record 1,254 yearlings, Oct. 22-24. Kentucky Derby winners Big Brown (2008) and Mine That Bird (2009) were Fasig-Tipton October graduates. Big Brown won an Eclipse Award as 2008’s champion 3-year-old male. He was purchased for a modest $60,000 during the auction’s 2006 edition, and Mine That Bird, a Canadian champion, sold for only $9,500 in 2007. Willy Beamin, New York-bred winner of this year’s Grade I King’s Bishop, was purchased for $16,000 from the 2010 edition. Hopefully some prime purchases will be made here on Tuesday.
At the end of the day, the value horses are the ones that leave the most lasting impression. Fasig-Tipton’s history offers validity to that statement. Seattle Slew was purchased through its Kentucky yearling sale in 1975 for only $17,500. He remains the only undefeated winner of the Triple Crown and ended his racing career with 14 victories from 17 starts. Seattle Slew was one of the most compelling Thoroughbreds ever to race and was profoundly successful as a sire. The record-priced yearling of his year sold for a staggering $750,000. You’ll wear out the Google function of your computer trying to learn much more about that colt that was later named Elegant Prince. He was the Green Monkey of his generation. Green Monkey sold for a record price of $16 million as a 2-year-old in training and was retired at 4 after a winless three-race career. As Warren Buffett says, “Cost is what you pay, value is what you get.”
The extra sale in Saratoga might give us a chance to see who is feeling optimistic about the future of racing in this state. The sale allows those who need to prune their operations to get that job done and it gives others a chance to buy pedigrees that would not ordinarily fall into their price range.
The popular young sire Bernardini is represented by six entries. Champion sire Distorted Humor is especially popular in New York based on the success of his state-bred sons Funny Cide and Commentator. Another of his sons, Drosselmeyer, was the Belmont Stakes winner of 2010 and closed his career with a smashing victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2011. Still another son, Flower Alley, won the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes in 2005 and is the sire of I’ll Have Another, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Hip numbers 175, 188, 215, 227 and 235 are all by Distorted Humor. Through 2011, sons and daughters of this stallion earned a whopping $77,306,494. It might take some of the chill out of a winter morning to know you have an in-foal Distorted Humor mare in the field.
Freud has been New York’s most dominant sire for the past half-decade and in 2011 was this state’s leading sire of stakes winners. This sale provides nine chances to buy a Freud weanling and 21 of the 103 broodmares offered are in-foal to him.
Posse, New York’s leading sire for three years running, is represented with six weanlings. Posse’s progeny have earned more than $15 million at the races. His son, Caleb’s Posse, won both the Amsterdam and King’s Bishop in 2011 before closing out his 3-year-old campaign with a scintillating victory in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. His three fillies and three colts assure this truly is far from a sheriff’s sale.
Hip number 102 is a daughter of the breed’s leading sire, Giants Causeway, and out of Gal in a Ruckus, which won the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Canadian Oaks and Dogwood Stakes. She bears the apt name, Very Classy Gal. This chestnut mare is believed to be pregnant to the cover of Dublin, commanding winner of the 2009 Hopeful Stakes. Dublin’s sire, Afleet Alex, was also a Hopeful winner and went on to take both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He was also the champion 3-year-old colt of 2005. Another son of Afleet, Afleet Express, won the 2010 Travers Stakes.
This Saratoga sale is full of interesting opportunities and, with the racing climate in a state of flux, will make for some special dynamics. The best way to preserve the quality racing we know and love in Saratoga is to get involved in the sport. Here’s a chance for you to do it without breaking the bank, so come on out and jump in the deep end of the pool. Owning a racehorse or broodmare will give you a real-life lesson in the economic impact horses actually create. But if nothing else, you can come out to observe some spirited action and enjoy seeing a state-of-the-art facility. Even if you don’t buy a Seattle Slew, you’re assured a memorable experience.