The Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training, with its fancy pedigrees, is the best gauge of the health of the top of juvenile market. For the second year in a row, there was no significant skirmish between John Ferguson and Demi O'Byrne, nor was another buyer, such as the flamboyant Fusao Sekiguchi,who was willing to take them on in a big battle. In addition, former challengers like Satish Sanan and Jess Jackson, seemed to have backed off a little bit and are content to shop at a slightly lower level. As a result, the very top of the market didn't really catch fire.
Note the use of the word significant. Two very good sources indicated to me that Ferguson might have made a bid on the $1.5-million Storm Cat colt that O'Byrne purchased. But if Ferguson did, it was a jab, not an attempt at a knockout punch.
Because of the world record battle for mare Playful Act at Keeneland last November, we know the two powerhouses are still willing of taking each other on if there is a horse they really want. It probably doesn't help in the juvenile marketplace that the last 2-year-old they both really went after, the $16-million The Green Monkey, never won on the racetrack.
Reporters get criticized by sale company officials for overemphasizing the impact of Ferguson and O'Byrne battles, but I don't think anyone can argue that they really energize the marketplace and provide a psychological lift. Part of the appeal of Thoroughbred racing and breeding is the chance to make a lottery-like score and when people see it is possible, it gives them hope.
Going into the sale, I thought it had a chance to at least equal last year's numbers or surpass them by a little whether or not Ferguson and O'Byrne hooked up. There was a large group of buyers, at least by juvenile sale standards, and they kept the consignors busy.
But in all the excitement. I forgot how picky buyers of 2-year-olds can be. You may attract shoppers by the thousands, but they all seem to end up wanting the same 10 horses. Every time I get optimistic, I am going to have to repeat this over and over again before I write the sale preview.