Virtual Sale-ing - By Eric Mitchell

Fasig-Tipton has been long known for allowing consignors to push the envelope by accepting supplemented horses into a sale well after the entry deadline has passed. All sale companies worldwide have accepted supplemental entries to some extent for years, but Fasig-Tipton pushed this concept even further this summer with an inaugural Horses of Racing Age sale in July.

The new sale, which followed Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky July yearling sale, didn’t really have an entry deadline because it had no traditional catalog. Instead, horses were added to a virtual online catalog as they were entered. The virtual format provided regular updates on the families and allowed entries up to a week before the sale. Only then was ink committed to paper and a hardbound catalog made available just days before the auction.

“There were really some naysayers about doing the Horses of Racing Age sale all online,” said Boyd Browning Jr., president and CEO of Fasig-Tipton. “As it turned out, consignors were surprised about who came out to the sale and how well they sold.”

A total of 55 horses changed hands during the sale and grossed more than $5.8 million, while averaging $105,800.

“I think people are starting to realize what technology allows us to do,” Browning said.

Indeed, consignors are learning that technology is giving them the flexibility to pick the right spots for their horses.

As long as a sale company is accommodating, a savvy consignor can wait and size up the quality of a catalog before making a commitment to sell in a specific sale.

Such was the case, in part, with some horses supplemented to the Fasig-Tipton November breeding stock sale.

Thirteen horses were supplemented to this boutique mixed sale, and several had ties to horses in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. A weanling Tapit half sister to Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Mucho Macho Man got entered the day before the Nov. 4 sale. These late entries are typical for Fasig-Tipton’s and Keeneland’s November mixed sales.

Some horses, however, were entered late because sellers waited to see how the catalog would shake out and assess whether the selection was strong enough to attract the right buyers for their horses. The sellers knew they had the goods; it was a matter of putting the right horse in front of the right people in the right setting.

Did it work out for them? Absolutely. Of the 13 supplements entered, nine actually crossed the stage and six were sold. The supplemented horses that sold grossed more than $11 million and averaged nearly $1.85 million. Among the supplements was the sale-topper, Betterbetterbetter, a daughter of Galileo in foal to War Front, who sold to Mandy Pope for $5.2 million.

Overall, the Fasig-Tipton November sale grossed $73,859,000 and averaged $572,550.

Browning pointed out the main catalog included 209 horses, which he said shows that plenty of buyers see a plus in committing their horses early to a sale and being included in the bound catalog, which is as much a marketing tool as a research tool. But he also admitted that “providing flexibility is an advantage. Having the digital catalog pages with current updates is also an advantage, but we still have to recruit, recruit, recruit,” Browning said.

Keeneland also allows supplemental entries but has the reputation for being more reluctant to do so. The sale company did supplement multiple grade I winner Blind Luck into Book One for its 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when the owner decided to pass on the Breeders’ Cup.

“For the right horse, we’ve always been willing to do it,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. Russell also acknowledged, however, that digital catalogs are changing the way consignors conduct business and that Fasig-Tipton had taken it “to a new level.”

“The dynamics of how sales have been put together, which is the way we’ve done for it eons, is changing because the technology is available, and the sale companies have to change with it,” Russell said. “In the market, we’ll adapt, whichever way our customers are going. The technology is certainly there.”

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