Booking It: Fasig-Tipton Saratoga 1983

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Fast forward another 10 years. If you’re following along, we started this mini-history tour through some milestone catalogues from Fasig-Tipton sales of the past. 

First came 1963, a little musty but classic and clean and weighty. And full of legends from the past. Then came 1973, a sale which featured a future Kentucky Derby winner in Foolish Pleasure and a full-brother to the legendary Northern Dancer. Go one more step and we’re in 1983. I was a recent high-school graduate. Not sure I made it to Saratoga that summer, though I do remember plenty of mornings spent in a barn at Timonium. 

The catalogue looks more like those of today, and advertises graduates Conquistador Cielo (who sold at the 1980 sale and was the 1982 Horse of the Year), Sabin (1981 graduate and a 1983 winner of the Grade 2 Saranac) and Smuggly (also a 1981 graduate and European Group 1 winner). The sales lasted four days – August 2-5 – and again started at 8:30 each night.

Lane’s End brought a big consignment, as did L. Clay Camp and Lee Eaton, Spendthrift and Nyrdrie. The smaller sellers make me smile though: Akindale Farm, Gallagher’s Farm, Kinderhill, Eve and Lewis Ledyard, Marion du Pont Scott, Rolling Plains Stable, Wimborne Farm. 

Somebody highlighted all the Maryland-breds with red pen in the breeders’ index. There were 17. There was also an art show by Frost and Reed in the pavilion. The catalogue is easier to read – there’s more black type and the pages look pretty much like those of today. There was a slight international tinge to the stallions with yearlings by Sir Ivor, Alleged, Caro, Blushing Groom, Monteverdi and Sassafras among others. Foolish Pleasure was represented by three yearlings, 10 years after selling in the ring. Three Northern Dancer fillies made the catalogue.

Hip 1 was a New York-bred by Sir Ivor offered by Akindale. The filly turned out to be Smoke The Queen, who won five times and earned $200,000. Hip 35 sounded familiar. The Maryland-bred was by Lord Gaylord out of Kitchen Window. The mare had already produced Singing Susan, Roman Rockette and Spanish Mystery. This dark bay/brown colt turned out to be I Am The Game, who won the Grade 3 Roseben. He finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby.

There were still plenty of links to the past. Hip 62 was by Sauce Boat out of a Citation mare Right About. The chestnut filly became Grand Creation who hammered out a living with 55 starts, six wins and $226,000 earned. The second night started with a Roberto colt named Majestic Roberto. He piled up more than $300,000 on the track from 1985-90.

Exceller colt High Hook, who sold as Hip 93, made 78 starts and earned just shy of $400,000. Gary Stevens rode him in his final start, a $12,500 claimer at Hollywood Park in 1991. Exceller is gone, Hollywood Park is soon to be gone, but Stevens is still going. Hip 115 was a half-sister to an old favorite, Grey Beret. He raced for legendary trainer Morris “Pop” Dixon and basically dominated Delaware Park. He won 22 of 103 career starts, His sister, they were out of the Tim Tam mare Nancy Jr., was by Raise A Native and never raced (as far as Equibase can tell anyway).

Scott, the matriarch of Montpelier, sold Hip 125. The bay colt was by Lyphard out of Scott’s top race mare and champion Proud Delta. The colt became Proud Debonair and won the 1987 Grey Lag Handicap at Aqueduct. 

Surely Hip 150 had them talking. The bay colt, a Virginia-bred sold by Newstead Farm Trust, was by Exclusive Native out of White Star Line. The dam, by Northern Dancer, won the Alabama, Kentucky Oaks, Delaware Oaks and the Test. This was her second foal. He never really lived up to the pedigree, winning his debut in a maiden claimer at Belmont and one other race. You want durability in a yearling? Hip 159 was for you. The gray colt, by In Reality out of Belle Poule, was named Playing Politics and started 203 times from 1984-98. He actually won a race in 1998, at age 16 – for a $4,000 tag at Suffolk Downs.

Brookover, a full-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes, sold late on the last night. A Northern Dancer-Fall Aspen filly became Northern Aspen and won a Group 2 in France before coming to California. She raced for Allen Paulson and John Gosden and won the 1987 Gamely. Stevens rode her, too.

Some real noise came late on the last night. Hip 265 walked into the ring, and stopped most guests with his looks, pedigree and anything else you want to mention. He was by Alydar out of Priceless Fame and fetched $2.2 million from trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The colt became Saratoga Six, undefeated 2-year-old champion of 1984. He was one of three million-dollar yearlings at the sale that year.

Like the other two books, this one screamed history. The sellers, the sires, the mares, the buyers – even if I don’t have that list. They’re all there, in a book that was otherwise sitting in a plastic tub unread for 30 years. I’m glad I opened it.