SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Spurred by intense interest in yearlings sired by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, the 99th Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale averaged over $400,000 per purchase over the course of two sessions on Monday and Tuesday.
A total of 135 yearlings were sold, a significant dropoff from 2018 (170), but the average price was $411,459, a big leap from $369,376 in 2018. Tuesday's session sold 74 yearlings for an average of $442,865.
There were four million-dollar babies sold, and Curlin sired three of them, including the co-sales toppers for $1.5 million, a colt out of America that was purchased by a large group of partners headed by West Point Thoroughbreds, and a colt out of Wapi who was bought by a group led by Aquis Farm, an Australian racing and breeding operation.
Curlin was a spectacularly successful racehorse, winning the Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic in 2007, and the Dubai World Cup, Stephen Foster, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2008. He has carried that success into the breeding shed, where he commands a $175,000 stud fee and has produced the likes of Preakness winner Exaggerator, Travers winner Keen Ice, Belmont Stakes and Met Mile winner Palace Malice and Grade I-winning fillies Stellar Wind and Curalina.
The average sale price of the 10 Curlin yearlings sold at Saratoga this week was $835,000.
"Obviously, Curlin had a special night tonight," Fasig-Tipton president and CEO Boyd Browning said Tuesday. "But he had special horses.
"I mean, it didn't take a genius to figure out coming into the session tonight, when you talk to the major buyers and talk to the consignors of where they were really excited ... 'I've got a really good Curlin.' 'I've got a really good Curlin.' Visiting some farms this spring, we were pinching ourselves, and fortunately they developed throughout the spring, and fortunately they showed themselves with the class of a classic sire."
Curlin nearly had four yearlings at the seven-digit mark.
Hip No. 15, a colt out of Yes Liz, went for $1 million, and hip No. 134, a colt out of Taris, just missed at $950,000.
The first horse of the sale to go for $1 million was hip No. 80, one of the few in the catalog that has already been named.
Flightline, a colt by Tapit out of Feathered, was sold to another group headed by West Point.
"We felt very confident in this catalog coming into the sale," Browning said. "It continues to not be simple. I think we live in a very realistic market, where buyers are certainly willing to pay what they consider to be a fair price, and then probably a little bit [more].
"There's a tremendous amount of competition at the upper end of the marketplace. People are craving to have horses to run at Saratoga next summer or to run in the classics two years from now. And they're willing to pay for it. They have limits, they stop bidding, sometimes they partner up to spread the risk, which has kind of become a way of life amongst the buying group. That tends to minimize the quote-unquote craziness at the top of the market. It's remarkable to think that we averaged $442,000 tonight."
Browning said Fasig-Tipton won't be resting on its laurels.
The company has been auctioning yearlings here for nearly a century, and wants 2020 to make just as big a splash as 2019.
"We're not going to be content with status quo," he said. "We're going to try to recruit a better group of horses. We think this is the greatest place in the world to sell a nice yearling. It's a special place. It's a great atmosphere to sell a horse, a great atmosphere to race a horse, and next year it's pretty cool that next year we'll be really busting our tails, because it's the 100th anniversary of Saratoga [sales]."