Know Go - By Evan Hammonds

BloodHorse’s annual “Summer Sales Guide,” like most everything else in this crazy, mixed-up world in 2020, was kicked down the road to the “Yearling Sales Guide.” Our team has worked hard to present some valuable statistics, intel, and insight as the industry readies to transition to conducting some serious commerce.

How will the market perform amid COVID-19? No one really knows, but everyone has an opinion, right?

There are a few things we know…and lots of things we don’t know. Let’s start with the former.

The traditional yearling sales year begins at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in mid July and moves north to Saratoga. This issue of the print edition usually featured those results. Fasig-Tipton officials wisely moved those auctions and packaged a “Selected Yearling Showcase” Sept. 9-10 in Lexington. The sale features 164 yearlings in a special New York-bred segment to accommodate for the canceled sale of preferred New York-bred yearlings. Fasig-Tipton’s sale quickly transitions to Keeneland for its September yearling sale that gets underway Sept. 13 and runs through Sept. 26.

Fasig-Tipton’s reshuffle compresses a month out of the equation, a necessary evil that puts a strain on sellers and on sale companies’ personnel and pressure on buyers to make quicker decisions on purchasing or passing on a prospect.

We do know this has to be one of the most important sale years since the Great Recession a decade ago that eventually caused a shakeout in the marketplace, a decline in the foal crop, and an overall decline in ownership of Thoroughbreds. While neither category has rebounded to its pre-recession figures, a further decline could be decimating to the industry.

We know that a few small-to-mid-range consignors are more concerned about moving product than making a profit this fall. In casual conversations they note they made a fair amount of money last year and have enough cushion to make it through the 2020 cycle as long as they get their yearlings sold. We assume they are in the minority. We wish them to have a little better year than that.

Another consignor, one with a larger contingent of higher-end yearlings and mares in foal to what are perceived to be the right stallions for November, needs to do more than “move product.” He’s not alone in his concerns regarding travel restrictions—both legal and personal—keeping sizable pockets of the much-needed international buying public from making their way to the U.S. next month. We know that will be an issue throughout the selling season.

He also opined about the pinhooking contingent that has had a rough year based on the delayed 2-year-old sales earlier this year. He expects them to lean even more heavily on the physical aspect of sale yearlings while stepping down a notch in their projected price point.

Aside from commerce, another thing we do know is that the racing product, with additional exposure via cable sports channels hungry for programming, seems better than ever. The last two weekends at Saratoga have heightened the interest in 3-year-old stars Tiz the Law, winner of the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1) and Gamine, winner of the Longines Test Stakes (G1) Aug.8, and Swiss Skydiver, who produced a strong victory in the Aug. 15 Alabama Stakes (G1). The trio has caused a fair bit of excitement and appear destined to make their next starts at Churchill Downs during a COVID-19 classic Labor Day weekend, featuring the Sept. 4 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

Should Tiz the Law win the Derby, owner Sackatoga Stable and trainer Barclay Tagg would have the opportunity to make a run at the brass ring—the Triple Crown—Oct. 3 in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico.

Racing’s “Golden Age” produced three Triple Crown winners in a six-year span (Secretariat, 1973; Seattle Slew, 1977; and Affirmed, 1978). Following a 37-year drought, wouldn’t it be something to have another pod of Triple Crown heros should Tiz the Law be able to join American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018)?

We do know that would be something.

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