American Pharoah yearlings fuel robust Saratoga sale opening session
Colt and filly by Triple Crown hero make seven-figure sums
Larry Best's OXO Equine has been one of the leading buyers in North America over the last two years, and it did not take long for him to make his presence known at the Saratoga Sale, where he went to $1.2 million to secure a beautiful daughter of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and $950,000 for a filly by Into Mischief during Monday's opening session.
Bolstered by competition that at times seemed as hot as the humid evening in upstate New York, the first session of the two-day sale produced solid gains in most key metrics. The gross of $28,965,000 for 83 sold represented an 18.5 per cent gain over the $24,425,000 first session total a year ago. The average rose 7.1 per cent to $348,976 from $325,667, and the median was unchanged at $300,000.
The RNA rate was a moderate 22.4 per cent as 24 of the 107 head through the ring went unsold.
There were 16 yearlings sold for $500,000 or more, and 51 changed hands for $250,000 and above.
Along with the sale-topper, another American Pharoah yearling brought seven figures when M.V. Magnier bought a New York-bred half-brother to multiple Grade 1-placed Upstart .
"It was a very, very encouraging start to the sale tonight," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr. "We thought we had good horses, and I think the buyers responded very favorably across the board. It's what we've seen in recent years, with very, very intense competition and lots of activity on most of the horses.
"There was great activity between $250,000 and $750,000."
Browning said one of the more noteworthy aspects of the session was that seven of the top eight highest-priced transactions were fillies.
"We had some spectacular fillies on offer tonight, and I think it shows you the buyers are willing to pay for quality whether they are colts or fillies," Browning said.
Best, who bought a dozen horses in 2017 for $11.63 million and three for $2.625 million going into the Fasig-Tipton sale, was accompanied by advisor John Dowd during the auction's first night.
The session-topper was consigned by Gainesway as Hip 26. In addition to her high-profile sire, the filly bred in Ontario by Adena Springs has a deep female family, as a daughter of multiple Grade 1-winning mare Life At Ten, also the dam of Grade 2-placed Singing Bullet.
"There are not very many horses whose father won the Triple Crown, and when it's a filly, you can count on some having residual value," Best said. "And I'm familiar with the mare, who is a multiple Grade 1 winner. It's a beautiful-looking filly. I wasn't going to go any higher. Somebody could have got her for $25,000 more. I think the quality here is deeper than other years when I've been here, which is two years. It's a strong catalogue and a strong group of buyers."
The filly was a $500,000 purchase by Blue Sky Stables from Adena Springs' consignment to the 2017 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Blue Sky consists of Brian Graves, the director of public sales at Gainesway, Jamie Hill and Mike McMahon.
"From the time we bought her, we thought she was a standout," Graves said. "She got a lot better. She was vetted 14 times here by some of the best judges in the business. She was bought by a smart guy who is having a lot of luck."
Graves is the son of the late Bill Graves, the longtime director of the selection team for Fasig-Tipton who was an excellent judge of horseflesh until his death May 30 at age 70 after a brief illness.
Graves, who displayed his father's favorite handkerchief and mentioned it brought him good luck, said he had shown Bill Graves the filly when she was a weanling, and father gave son the thumbs up.
"He liked her and I liked her, and we talked about a lot lower number to buy her," Graves said. "But we (Hill and McMahon) formed a partnership, and we pushed a little bit to get her."
Graves said he was attracted to the filly, whose Fasig-Tipton sale price doubled her reserve, for her "balance, athleticism, and sire power."
The Into Mischief filly bought by Best and consigned by Denali is the second foal out of Reve D'Amour, a half sister to Graded stakes winner and sire Can The Man and black-type winner Martha's Moon. The filly's third dam is Blush With Pride, who produced Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour.
"I've grown to love Into Mischief, and this particular one looked the part," Best said. "She was very athletic-looking. It was a little higher than I thought it would go for, but I'm happy."
The sale concludes on Tuesday.
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