People attending the opening night of the selected yearling horse sales on Monday at the Fasig-Tipton complex on East Avenue praised the improvements made since the famous auction company changed hands.
“I think it’s beautiful,” said Dana Schaefer of Niskayuna. “It’s better for the horses.”
She said the padded flooring in the new covered walkway through which the expensive year-old horses are led to the sales ring protect the horses’ hooves.
Schaefer was also impressed with the wall-to-wall crowd watching the sales from the rear portion of the complex. “It’s so wonderful, with the economy we have,” Schaefer said about the well-dressed throng.
Fasig-Tipton, the country’s oldest thoroughbred horse auction company, was purchased last year by Synergy Investments Ltd. of Dubai in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The company is headed by Abdulla Al Habbai, a close associate of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and an avid horseman.
Fasig-Tipton officials said the sheikh himself was on the grounds Monday afternoon. Local Saratoga “royalty,” in the form of socialite and horse owner Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, also attended Monday’s sales.
Bonacio Construction of Saratoga Springs spent the spring and summer months building a new, safer horse walking ring. The construction company also renovated the outdoor restaurant, snack bar and made other improvements behind the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion at East Avenue and George Street.
Terence Collier, Fasig-Tipton’s long-time marketing director, said Monday afternoon he didn’t want to discuss the sales decline at other horse auctions this year.
“We are optimistic,” Collier said. He said the company has put together a very strong catalog of selected yearling horses for the two nights of sales. He said the company thinks this sale may well “buck the trend in the industry” and produce better numbers than last year’s Saratoga Selected Yearlings sale.
By 8 p.m. Monday two horses had already been sold for more than $1 million in the circular Finney pavilion.
A bay filly by the great racehorse Bernardini was sold for $1.6 million and another bay colt by Bernardini sold for $1.2 million.
Joe Hoffman of Dayton, Ohio, has been coming to Saratoga for the races for a decade. Standing outside the glass walls of the sales pavilion, Hoffman said he enjoys the excitement of the sales.
He said the high prices paid by wealthy horse owners for the untested, young thoroughbred horses is a good thing for the economy.
He said the yearling sales, especially the important Saratoga Selected Yearlings sale, provides “fuel for the whole industry.”
Frank Boyle of Philadelphia said his group is in Saratoga Springs for the week. He said he goes to the track each day and likes to watch the horse sales from outside the glass walls of the horse sales pavilion.
“We will go to the Hall of Fame induction on Friday,” Boyle said. The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame on Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs will induct another group of jockeys, owners, trainers and horses into the Hall of Fame.
Joe Grady, who spends four months in Saratoga Springs each year and eight months in Florida, said he also likes to watch the sales from outside the pavilion.
“We love to come over and watch,” Grady said.
However, he added that he thinks the state Legislature has dropped the ball by not having video lottery terminals up and running at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens. He said money from the VLTs would help support the thoroughbred horse racing industry.
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Categories: Schenectady County