Great Expectations – Fasig Tipton Sales

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By Katie Bo Williams

An increase in the buy-back rate from 19.8 to 35 percent comprised part of the discouraging figures from Monday night’s opener at Fasig-Tipton; however, there was trade to be done with a well-placed and appropriately valued horse. It wasn’t all bad.

Wayne Sweezey, consigning under his banner at Saratoga for the first time, sold one of the three well-received Rock Hard Ten yearlings. The colt, a half-brother to Grade I winning Vacare, commanded $325,000 from Shadwell early in the evening.

Sweezey, who left his role as managing partner of Darby Dan in 2008, also sold a Corinthian colt for $110,000.

“I’m delighted with how we sold,” Sweezey said. “Those two horses sold really well, I have two very happy clients. I’m delighted that I came here with those two horses because we picked the right spot for them, and we got them sold and it’s been very good for us.”

Sweezey credited Fasig-Tipton for its hard work in recruiting buyers.

“The visitation to the barn, the number of people that were looking, I’m really satisfied with what Fasig-Tipton has done,” Sweezey said. “The boys have really worked hard to get people here, I’ve had plenty of looks, I don’t feel at all short on the people coming to look at my horses.”

As pleased as Sweezey is with the prices his horses fetched, he emphasized that realistic expectations were the key to their success.

“I do feel in this market today, there’s only a handful of people willing to spend from 250 up,” Sweezey said. “If you come in here with a horse that you over-appraised, you’re going to take him home. You have to know your horse, know the market, know the pedigree and know who’s on it before you put a big reserve on it.”

He revealed that though the owners of the colt would have been comfortable with retaining and racing the colt, the reserve placed on the horse was much lower than the price he commanded.

“We knew we had enough serious buyers on the colt that we felt confident that we would get over our reserve,” Sweezey said.

Fasig-Tipton’s Walt Robertson also emphasized the importance of putting a realistic value on horses.

“Last night, there were some near-misses,” Robertson said. “It’s trying times and you better put the right numbers, or there’s a big risk of not getting your horse sold.”

Sweezey recognized that though he is satisfied, many consignors are not. He drew attention to the relative flawlessness necessary in a marketable individual.

“I hate the term ‘check all the boxes.’ If the horse fits all the criteria of the person buying it, then it sells well,” Sweezey said. “If you have a flaw of any sort, you’re going to take a cut in price.”

Marshall Silverman has been selling a handful of horses at Saratoga for the past four years and sold an Elusive Quality colt for $385,000 Monday night, the highest price he has achieved since coming to the Spa. Though pleased with the commercial success of his horse, Silverman voiced similar concern with the high expectations of buyers.

“Everybody is just being way too picky,” Silverman said. “Everybody wants to buy a perfect pretty show horse, and that’s what they end up being, just a perfect pretty show horse, not a racehorse. It’s getting ridiculous.”

Eaton Sales’ Reiley McDonald also used the word “picky” to describe the buyer base.

“We showed horses 30 percent more than we did last year, we had a lot of shows per horse. But everybody’s working harder. They’re looking two to three times,” McDonald said. “The fact that you had a third look doesn’t mean you made the short list. The fact that you got vetted doesn’t mean you made the short list. When demand is low, people are very picky. A lot of people looking, a lot of people doing their homework, that doesn’t translate into higher dollars per horse.”

McDonald suggested that the high RNA rate spoke just as much to the stringent requirements of the existing buyer base as it did to the expectations of the sellers.

“In Monday’s sale, if a horse jumped through all the hoops and made the short list, they sold well,” McDonald said. “If you didn’t make that short list, there was nobody there to bid on the horse, so you could put the reserve at 100, 70, or 40, and nobody’s going to bid on your horse.”

Gainesway’s Brian Graves was alarmed by the “pickiness” of the market. He attributed the high RNA rate to owners that can afford to retain and race their yearling. These sellers, he suggested, are likely to have the well-bred individuals, which is a cause for concern.

“It can be indicative that the market’s thin and there’s not enough buyers to absorb horses of that caliber,” Graves said.

McDonald also cited owners that are not financially beholden to sell.

“In the boutique market, it has been that way for years,” McDonald said. “However, this year, it’s a bit more acute.”