How Locals Build a Fantasy Fasig-Tipton Stable
By Marilyn Lane
for Saratoga TODAY
Editor’s Note: The results are in and once again the numbers are staggering.
The annual Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale saw 145 horses sold for a whopping $46.8 million dollars, a 40 percent increase over last year; and the highest sales total since the 2009 sales, which served as proof to many that the horse racing industry has rebounded strongly from the economic downturn. One colt sired by Tapit brought in the highest bid on Monday’s opening night, hitting $1.2 million. This was topped by a Street Cry colt, which fetched $1.4 million on Tuesday.
With these and many, many other six-figure prices being thrown around, it is easy to forget (except, perhaps, for the buyers themselves) that we are talking about real money here. For most of the crowd that swelled the grounds of Fasig-Tipton, those numbers remain the stuff of dreams.
Our Marilyn Lane writes about her approach to enjoying the sales without needing a loan from the World Bank.
You don’t have to spend a million dollars to buy yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton Sales, and, in fact you don’t have to spend anything at all. At least, that’s the case for my longtime friend Marty Farnsworth and myself. We came up with the idea at the 2013 Saratoga Sale to select yearlings for a fantasy stable. We each ended up with two fillies and a colt and their accumulated real cost totaled nearly $4 million. If one of us had hit a “big horse,” that person was going to treat the other to a trip to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup.
If only one of us had chosen American Pharoah, we’d be going. But we’re not. Marty has had two starters from her trio and their combined earnings are something around $150,000. Neither of my fillies has made a start, and my Indian Charlie colt has earned little more than a visit from the veterinarian to assure his genes would not be passed on.
Last year, my schedule didn’t allow time for shopping the sales, but this year I needed a vicarious pleasure, so our little game is on again. Our goal is to identify horses that will earn more in their racing careers than their accumulative purchase prices. That’s not an easy task. And this year, we’re going to follow our mock purchases through their 4-year old seasons so we won’t know the lucky winner until New Year’s Eve 2018.
As soon as the sales catalog is available, we begin to analyze pedigrees and when the horses come to Fasig-Tipton, we start some physical evaluations. One catch, we never ask a consignor to present horses to us. We have far too much respect for their busy schedules and besides the sales are already tiring enough for these young horses. This is our fun and we would not want to make it intrusive —save all the trips in and out of their stalls for the real potential buyers.
We’re already assured there are no weak individuals because the Saratoga Sale is a Selected Sale and representatives of Fasig-Tipton have pre-approved each pedigree and conducted conformation inspections of every horse before they were accepted into the catalog.
Like any venture, this exercise is only as rewarding as the effort you put into it, so we work hard at it. You would think we were spending real money. Well, there is one exception. We don’t call upon the repository. That’s a special office where the required radiographs of each horse are filed along with the results of their throat scopes. These scopes reveal if there might be any blockages that might hamper a horse’s breathing later on. It’s a standard part of the buying process to look carefully at these records or even have your own veterinarian take X-rays and/or do their own scopes. Our game is a little handicapped for a lack of these records, but we wouldn’t dream of interfering with the needs of serious buyers.
As larkish as it may seem, this is really a lot of fun and how can you not appreciate the potential of these finely bred Thoroughbreds?
Marty was first to see one of her selections go in the ring. This Old Fashioned filly (#14) was lovely and her consignors, Woodford Thoroughbreds, valued her more than the bidders. She was RNA’d (Reserve Not Attained) at $145,000.
It was a different story when Denali Stud led Marty’s second selection in. The bidding went fast on this handsome son of leading sire Tapit, and for $1.2 million Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse TB Partners and Robert LaPenta became the proud owners of hip number 34.
My first selection sold a few hips prior. Consigned by Bluewater Sales, LLC was hip number 32, a big and powerful son of Hard Spun. He was a cribber (windsucker) and had I learned that earlier, I would have passed on him. It’s not that cribbers can’t become nice racehorses, many do. In fact, Game On Dude was a cribber… but I find the habit annoying. My dampened spirits were at once lifted when Kenny McPeek signed the ticket for $160,000. Many of you will remember that Kenny purchased Curlin as a yearling for $57,000. If only this chestnut can run like that chestnut!
My hip number 49, also a son of Tapit, was purchased by John Ferguson, bloodstock agent for Sheikh Mohammed for $750,000. His consignor was Hunter Valley Farm and interestingly enough they also bred, prepped and sold The Factor, whose oldest crop are yearlings this year. The Factor is the sire of my number 1 pick in the sale, hip number 202. And Marty also had a filly by The Factor (hip number 183) on her short list. There must have been some kind of selection bias at work here, but it would be exactly that because the dam’s side weighs in so heavily in both Marty and my selections.
The dam, in fact, was key in Marty’s next selection, hip number 50 - a Quality Road filly out of Cayuga’s Waters. This mare was a stakes winner of $194,422 and has already produced two stakes winners and the impressive Bill Mott-trained 2 year-old, Saratoga winner, Sage Hall. This filly was from the consignment of an old friend of mine, and I think you’ll appreciate that the great retirement program Old Friends got its start at Hurstland Farm, thanks to the vision and generosity of my friend, Alfred H. Nukols, Jr.
That summed us up for Monday night’s sale and Marty had to dash back to her home near Cayuga Lake to cut the grass and pet the cat so she’ll miss Tuesday’s live auction, but you can bet she’ll be following her selections on Fasig-Tipton’s live feed.
I’m going for my first filly on Tuesday night. Hip number 142 is by Pioneer of the Nile and out of a Pulpit mare. This lovely filly is consigned by Eaton Sales. Soon after Marty’s Curlin colt, hip number 146, will be presented by Darby Dan. This colt is what Marty terms “a piece of work,” and none of the handlers over at Darby Dan seemed ready to dispute that. He’s impish and immature, but that’s okay, the game goes on until the ball drops in Times Square for 2019.
I’ll have to stay late tonight to see my favorite colt of the sale go in just seven hips from the end of the 2015 sale.
In the end, hip number 142 brought $375,000, and Marty’s Curlin, hip number 146 was sold for $145,000.
And last but not least, that beautiful colt by The Factor (hip number 202) sold for $750,000.
Next we’ll look for everyone to name these babies, and in a few years we hope we’ll have seen some great racing successes. But win or lose, these eight horses are ‘ours’, and with this surrogate ownership comes all the hope and sometimes the disappointment that goes with owning racehorses.