Saratoga: What We Learned From the Sale

The results of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale taught us a few things and reminded us of others we might have forgotten in the euphoria of the auction’s performance last year, which generated upswings in a generally down market.

(1) The market is still treacherous. If consignors want to get horses sold they have to be very careful with their reserves and making money in a lot of cases isn’t going to be possible with the high production costs that are in these horses.

(2) Buyers are shopping hard – maybe harder than ever – but they still are extremely tight-fisted when it comes to letting go of their money. Even people who are wealthy and weren’t affected seriously by the recession have dropped down lower in the bidding ranks and the alpha shoppers remaining at the top of the heap aren’t being pushed as hard by the competition.

(3) If you’re a seller and planning on the big prices by one of two horses to bail you out on the others that don’t make money, think again. The big horses are bringing less money, so that means they will cover the costs of fewer horses.

(4) Horses are like houses you bought a few years ago, they just aren’t worth as much, no matter how much you paid for their stud fees. Some sellers are throwing out the stud fees when the horses were bred completely when valuing their horses and others are using stallions’ current stud fees in their equations.

(5) If you’re hoping International buyers will want the horses that domestic buyers don’t, you need to look for help elsewhere, mostly. In Europe, they have plenty of talented stallions to choose from, so many aren’t interested in ours. The currencies of many countries are weaker against the dollar than they were in 2009. Some foreign buyers say there isn’t enough grass influence in our pedigrees and others don’t like the fact that our horses race on medication.

(6) Proven sires are the kings and the all blue sky appeal of first-year stallions is getting pretty cloudy.

(7) If you want to attract the attention of Sheikh Mohammed, it sure does help to have a yearling by one of his stallions. But he does buy other sires’ horses, especially if they are proven.

(8) You can do “everything humanly possible,” as one consignor described Fasig-Tipton’s efforts at Saratoga, but that doesn’t mean prices will keep rising.

(9) Unless you want to just give some of your yearlings away, you better plan on having a larger racing stable in 2011.

(10) If you have a new sale pavilion, it’s great, creating a buzz. But if you let everyone inside from off the street, it gets extremely crowded and noisy.

(11) Glamour does not equal more money, so don't expect too much from the Keeneland September yearling sale's new format, which includes evening sessions.

(12) There is nothing pickier than a yearling buyer.

Is everything all bad? No. But the realities are harsh.

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