The Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale, ideally positioned just ahead of next week’s start of the breeding season, opens for its two-day run Monday morning at Newtown Paddocks. Hips one through 324, a collection of racing and breeding prospects and short yearlings, will be offered Monday and will be followed Tuesday by hips 325 through 673. Bidding begins each day at 10 a.m.
“I’ve always really liked this sale because of its timing,” said consignor Zach Madden, whose Buckland Sales brings a 13-horse consignment into the auction. “There is a little bit of an urgency, a little bit of a, ‘Hey this is my last chance to pick up a mare to breed something this year.’ I definitely think there is an urgency to get stuff done.”
Brendan Gallagher, whose Frankfort Park Farm has a 10-horse offering at the sale, agreed.
“It’s the last opportunity to invest before the stud season for people that want to buy mares to breed to certain stallions and shareholders,” Gallagher said. “It’s always been a decent sale for quality. So that’s going to be the same old story.”
But consignors are still expecting to see the common polarization in the marketplace, with high demand for the perceived quality offerings and lesser demand at lower ends of the market.
“We have a mare in foal to Street Sense who will make money and we have a lovely Nyquist filly who will make money and then some of the rest of them might be just a bit more difficult,” Gallagher said. “But the good ones will sell well, which I suppose we can live with. The day when we have the good horses and we don’t have trade, well then we’re all in trouble. So that’s the way it is and it’s going to be the same.”
The Winter Mixed sale is the third major auction of the year, following the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale and the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale. Both of those previous sales proved there is still demand in the marketplace which has shown its resiliency as buyers and sellers adjust to the new normal in the wake of the global pandemic.
“I would just say from looking at the other sales that the good individuals will still sell well,” said Ron Blake, whose Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services has 19 horses on offer at Fasig-Tipton this week. “I think there is probably less demand for horses that are not at that top level. Of course that’s the way it’s been for a while, but during the pandemic, I think it’s even more stressed. If you make it into that top 10% or 20% of the horses, you can still get very good money, but if you fall below that, it can be a crap shoot depending on how far below that you fall. I think if you still have a good horse, there is plenty of money for it.”
Despite the swirling uncertainties caused by the ongoing pandemic, Madden and Gallagher both see reasons to be optimistic about the state of the market.
“I had friends and clients that sold at OBS, and obviously we were over at Keeneland in January, and the good news, I think, is you really didn’t have that doom and gloom and people with their chins down,” Madden said. “It seemed like when we were first getting the sales back going, people were just wondering what was happening. But people know the reality now. So I feel like that whole doom-and-gloom aspect is out of it. And at the end of the day, most of us are eternal optimists. I do think people still want quality and they are very tough on vetting and all of that other stuff, but I just feel like the worst–knock on wood–is over. We are all battle tested now, so while we still have things to overcome, I think we can still see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
With Gulfstream Park and Sam Houston Race Park among the most recent tracks to announce record handle figures, Gallagher thinks demand for racehorses will only get higher.
“I know the number of foals being bred is reducing and I know that the margins for the breeders–the market for foals is down 27% or something since 2017 and that’s a hard nut to crack–but in saying that, the handle at racecourses is going up–we had another record handle there last week with the [GIII] Holy Bull [S. at Gulfstream]. So racing as a sport stands out even a bit at the moment, so if the handle is going up it will have to turn around. And if you have a smaller market because the numbers are going down, I believe that it will come back. I honestly believe that. Demand will go up.”
He continued, “We sell a lot of foals, we’ll foal 43 here this year, so for us with that 27% drop since 2017, that’s a tough one for a farm like ours. If I was hearing that betting was going down or that people weren’t interested in racing anymore, then it might be time to do something else. But at the moment, you have to be upbeat about it because I think it’s got to come back.”
Comparing the uncertainties of the 2020/2021 market to the crash of 2008 and its aftermath, Gallagher thinks the top of the market will remain strong.
“The difference from 12 years ago, with the market, the wealthy people took a real hammering,” he said. “I don’t think that’s happened with the pandemic this time, in general. Yes there is fear there, but it’s not as if the bottom has fallen out of financial markets in the world. It hasn’t. The top is still there.”
During the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale, 368 horses sold for $9,777,100. The average was $26,568 and the median was $8,500. The buy-back rate was 24.9%.
Twin Creeks Farm purchased the top-priced lot in 2020, going to $570,000 to acquire the broodmare prospect Remedy (Creative Cause), who was one of six to sell for $200,000 or more at the sale.