Future stars could be at Fasig-Tipton this summer

There’s a good chance that some of next year’s thoroughbred stars at Saratoga Race Course will be pu

There’s a good chance that some of next year’s thoroughbred stars at Saratoga Race Course will be purchased at this summer’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearling Sales.

The 88th annual Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale will be held Aug. 4-5 at the Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion on East Avenue in Saratoga Springs. It will be one of three Fasig-Tipton sales in the month of August. The Saratoga Preferred Yearlings Sale will be held Aug. 9-10, and the Saratoga Open Yearlings Sale will be held Aug. 12.

Despite the stagnant economy, the market for thoroughbred horses has remained strong over the past few seasons. Last summer, Barry Irwin of Team Valor Stable purchased a colt by Mr. Greeley for $2.2 million on the second day of the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Sale. Irwin won a bidding war with agent Buzz Chace, who was representing West Point Thoroughbreds, another prominent racing syndicate.

Also topping the $1 million mark was a colt bought for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum of the Dubai ruling family. John Ferguson, a bloodstock advisor for one of the sport’s most powerful owners, purchased a colt by Unbridled’s Song for $1.05 million.

In all, Ferguson bought five horses for $3.675 million on the first day of the sales. That averaged out to $735,000 per horse.

Starlight Racing, a partnership that includes Schenectady native Don Lucarelli, purchased four horses during the 2007 Saratoga sales, two on each day, for a total of $800,000. A Two Punch-Promiseville colt was bought for $130,000. A Dixie Union-Saw Her Shadow colt was bought for $230,000, and a colt by Speightstown-Vasquez was purchased for $130,000.

The Starlight Racing group also bought a filly by Unbridled’s Song-Dither for $310,000.

Lucarelli said his syndicate continues to purchase young horses at all the Fasig-Tipton sales at Saratoga, as well as a sale in late July in Lexington, Ky.

“We believe in all three sales at Saratoga, and in the one in Kentucky,” said Lucarelli. “It’s worked out as a purchase model for us to hit all three sales. The one in July is more of a sale where you have a combination of first-time sires and also some horses that are more athletic. They might be a little light on pedigree, but they are definitely more athletic. Keyed Entry, our syndicate’s first big horse, was purchased at that sale.

“Monba came out of Saratoga’s August sale, and a colt that we sold to Sheikh Mohammed also came out of that Saratoga Fasig-Tipton sale,” he said.

“We just believe that it’s important to be at all the sales and to participate in all three so that we can get the right combination of what we’re looking for.”

Lucarelli said that he doesn’t expect this year’s sales to be any less successful than the last few.

“I think there might be a little softening this year in combination with what’s going on with the stock market. It’s not the overall economy that affects the sales but rather what’s going in the stock market,” he said. “A lot of the people who buy horses also invest in the market. I would say that would affect the sales to some degree, but I still expect a very strong showing at the sales.”

Lucarelli said that with so many syndicates in the horse game now, it’s a little easier to come up with the money necessary to buy quality horses, no matter what shape the economy is in.

“With all these partnerships, there is more money to buy the horses. The syndicates will definitely participate in all the sales, and it should offset some of the softer tone caused by the economy.”

There have been numerous success stories about horses purchased at the Saratoga Fasig-Tipton sales. One recent example is Da’ Tara, who won the Belmont Stakes. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito picked Da’ Tara out for owner Robert LaPenta at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sales. LaPenta bought the Tiznow colt for $175,000.

Purchases at the Saratoga sales have been steady since 1997, when 151 horses were sold for $27.7 million, an average of $183,384 per horse. The best year during that span was 2001, when 162 horses were sold for $62.4 million, an average of $385,259 per horse.

Last year, 142 horses were sold for $41.1 million, an average of $289,310 per horse.

Until 1997, no horse had sold for more than $1 million or more since 1990. A horse sold for $3.1 million in 2005. The sales record is $4.6 million for a Northern Dancer colt in 1984.

Fasig-Tipton, incorporated in 1898, is the oldest auction company of its type in North America. It held the first yearling auction sale in Keeneland, Ky., in 1947.

Reach Gazette sportswriter Bob Weiner at 395-3147 or [email protected]

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