Participants in the Thoroughbred marketplace by and large consider themselves an optimistic bunch, a necessity to play in a volatile industry.
With several offerings sailing well past their reserves and buyers from all segments spreading the wealth around, the season's first major yearling auction and a new companion sale provided little reason for industry players to consider tossing their rose-colored glasses
In addition to its annual July select yearling sale, officials at Fasig-Tipton threw what they hoped would be a complementary wrinkle into the mix Monday by holding a Horses of Racing Age sale immediately afterward.
Both sales met with better-than-expected vigor.
At the yearling auction, a Desert Party filly, sold to Nat Rea's Regis Farms for a sale-topping $460,000, was one of a number of pleasant surprises that sparked double-digit gains in average and median, while Grade I winner Starship Truffles brought the fireworks at the Horses of Racing Age sale when she went to Castleton Lyons for $1 million.
"Those two sales complemented each other probably better than we could have hoped for going in," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr. "There was a few doubting Thomases who said, 'You'll pull money out of the yearling market if you have the racing age sale,' but we had people here from the first horse to the very last horse.
"It's nice to have a new initiative that works successfully. ... The yearling sale and Horses of Racing Age sale were complementary, not competitive."
Coming off a 2-year-old sales season that saw nearly every major auction produce gains, there was reason to think the strong returns would continue in the yearling marketplace despite ongoing buyer polarization.
With eight yearlings selling for $250,000 or more Monday, many buyers had to stretch beyond their budgets if they had any hopes of landing prospects that hit all the major criteria.
The results were numbers that probably will spark more good feelings heading into the meat of the yearling season at Saratoga and Keeneland. While the overall gross of $14,635,000 from 163 sold was down 4.7 percent from 2012, when 189 were sold, the average ($89,785) and median ($72,000) were up 10.44 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
A total of 59 horses failed to meet their reserve prices, compared to 94 a year ago.
"I think it's a good market, and it portends well for what's going to happen the rest of the year," said Glencrest Farm's John Greathouse after buying stakes-winning filly Holiday Soiree for $370,000 during the Horses of Racing Age sale. "The 2-year-old sales told us that."
The $460,000 paid for the Desert Party filly marks the highest price at the Fasig-Tipton July sale since a son of Forestry went for $1.2 million in 2006. Out of the Kris S. mare Lil Cozette and a half-sister to stakes winner Cosmic Kris, the Desert Party filly was a physical standout, but her final price caught consignors Allied Bloodstock happily off guard.
"We knew the filly would do the work, but would we have thought that number? No," said Clark Shepherd of Allied Bloodstock. "One of the questions we had was, how does she stack up to the other Desert Party's, and she was the best we've seen. She may be the best filly or horse period we've seen on the grounds."
Fifty-five horses sold for $5,819,000 at the Horses of Racing Age sale, with the expected star delivering the goods. Starship Truffles provided a huge boost to the sale's catalog when she was entered after winning the Grade I Princess Rooney Handicap on July 6. She now will race for Shane Ryan's Castleton Lyons after agent Gabriel Duignan signed the ticket for the 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper.
"That was close to what we thought she might make. She is first class," said Mike Recio of Hidden Brook, which consigned Starship Truffles. "I think (the Horses of Racing Age sale) was a super idea, and hopefully there was some crossover. I think we'll look back over the results of today and see some yearling buyers buying a racehorse and vice versa."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Twitter: @horseracinghl. Blog: Horseracing.bloginky.com.