Optimism outweighs pessimism heading into the selling season for select 2-year-olds in training, which begins with the Barretts auction in Southern California March 5. Sale company officials and consignors are feeling good for several reasons.
No. 1, the American economy, while still far below where it used to be, is doing better.
No. 2, purses are on the rise in important racing jurisdictions such as California, where it received a boost from a takeout increase, and in New York, where a video-lottery-terminal casino opened at Aqueduct.
No. 3, the supply of horses continues to fall, which means it will be more in line with demand. Three of the four select auctions have released their catalogs. In the books for the Barretts March, Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March, and Fasig-Tipton Florida auctions, there are 678 horses, down from the 835 that were cataloged for the same sales in 2011.
There also is another reason to feel good about the prospects for success for the select juvenile market. Pinhookers, who supply most of the stock for the sales, are taking less of a risk this year for the first three sales and, consequently, will be under less financial pressure.
Of the horses cataloged, 475 were sold previously as yearlings. They brought an average price of $68,198. That figure is down 8.1% from the average of $74,222 for 546 previously sold horses that were cataloged for last year's same three sales.
The Barretts March sale has 105 previously sold juveniles in its book. As yearlings, they brought an average of $44,152. That amount represents an increase of 32.2% from the $33,389 average for the 73 previously sold horses that were cataloged in 2011.
The OBS March auction has 250 previously sold horses, which averaged $59,404 as yearlings. That amount is up 3.8% from last year's average of $57,203 for 298 previously sold horses.
The Fasig-Tipton March sale has 120 previously sold horses, which averaged $107,558 as yearlings. The amount represents a drop of 10.5% from the average of $120,237 for 175 previously sold horses in 2011.
I believe the change in the order of the sales will help. Fasig-Tipton's auction, which is third on the calendar this year, struggled in the leadoff spot last year. The inaugural auction in any series always faces a challenge because buyers are hesitant when they don't yet know what the market is going to be like. That's not a good fit for a sale that is offering the fanciest stock.
However, kicking off the select juvenile selling season this year could be a blessing for Barretts after going third in 2011. Barretts will get the first crack at the money from California's successful trainers and their wealthy clients as well as from the Japanese.The earlier date also is good for consignors from Florida because they can get their horses sold and then head back to the Sunshine State and concentrate on the rest of their stock.
Barretts enjoyed increases in its average and median prices last year and has increased the size of its catalog for 2012. If those horses are the right type, with conformation that is pleasing to buyers, the Golden State auction firm has a good shot of enjoying another year of upswings.