Looking back at 2008, here are the things I'll remember most about the year in Thoroughbred auctions:
- 1. The Big Crash. Just about everybody expected a decline in business. After all, the market was due for a correction and there had been complaints for years that there were just too many sale horses. But few people predicted an end of the year collapse that followed an international financial meltdown. It was so bad that many farms cut the stud fees of their best stallions not once, but twice.
- 2. The International Deal. Fasig-Tipton's purchase by a company headed by an associate of Sheikh Mohammed already has begun shaking up the marketplace. Known for its "we try harder" hustle in the past, the auction firm is becoming even more aggressive with a new infusion of cash. Fasig-Tipton officials are sprucing up their facilities and hiring new people. They keep hinting of big plans that could start to come to fruition in 2009.
- 3. Better Than Honour set a world record for a broodmare sold at public auction when she brought $14 million at the Fasig-Tipton November select mixed sale. However, she was purchased by Mike Moreno's Southern Equine Stables, which already owned a 70% interest in her.
- 4. Vallenzeri, by Horse of the Year A.P. Indy and out of Horse of the Year Azeri, set a world record for a Thoroughbred auction buy-back when Michael Paulson took the colt home for $7.7 million at the Keeneland September yearling sale. Azeri has been consigned to the 2009 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.
- 5. Karen Sanderson, who said she was an oral surgeon from England, bought a $1.1 million Medaglia d'Oro filly at the Keeneland September yearling sale, but Keeneland officials couldn't confirm her ability to pay and rescinded the sale. Trainer Paul D'Arcy, bidding on her behalf, did not have approved credit, according to Keeneland. A $75,000 Afleet Alex colt also was involved in the unfortunate situation.
- 6. Major sale companies took action to monitor the use of anabolic steroids. There has only been one positive test reported publicly so far. More auctions are scheduled to offer testing in 2009.