The goal of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale isn't to be the largest auction of its kind in the world. Instead, its focus is quality over quantity, making it a boutique market designed to appeal to the wealthiest Thoroughbred shoppers.
But the size of this year's catalog is small enough to raise some questions about how the auction will perform. Is the number of horses in the book, 160, large enough to attract a wide range of shoppers? With the number spread over two nights, will there be enough yearlings to allow the sale to build any sort of momentum during a session?
The total is down 20.8% from the 202 horses in last year's book and it's the smallest since 153 were cataloged in 2005.
Six years ago, the Saratoga auction needed a boost. In 2004, business had declined and the buy-back rate had grown while most other sales were thriving. Fasig-Tipton officials responded by cutting the sale from three nights to two and keeping their select standards high, which contributed to a reduction in catalog size.
The Saratoga sale rebounded. Its 2005 average price was up 6.5% from the previous year and its median price grew 5.9%. A $3.1-million Storm Cat -Rings a Chime colt (later named Black Cat Crossing) became the auction's most expensive horse since 2001 when he brought $3.1 million.
This year, Fasig-Tipton officials say a declining foal crop coupled with high selection standards resulted in a smaller catalog. But if most of the horses they have chosen have the beautiful bodies that shoppers crave, the auction could enjoy yet another resurgence after setbacks in gross revenue, average, and median in 2010. With fewer yearlings to choose from, competition among buyers could increase. And the size of the catalog won't be an issue.