Shortly after signing the ticket for Grade I winner Careless Jewel at the Fasig-Tipton November mixed sale, trainer Eric Guillot talked about the challenge facing him and the rest of the would-be buyers.
"They're not selling a lot of these kind," the general manager of Southern Equine Stable said. "Everyone is trying to hold onto these kind."
On Sunday night, "these kind" translated into accomplished fillies and mares with pedigrees to match.
Nine horses reached the seven-figure mark during Fasig-Tipton's November auction on a night that showcased both the strength of the top end and the on-going polarization within the industry.
While the money continues to be there for young, pretty mares like Careless Jewel — she brought the night's second highest price when she went to Southern Equine for $1.95 million — selling horses in the lower and middle ranges remains a challenge.
In addition to suffering across-the-board declines from last season, the rate of horses not sold came in at 33 percent, up from 28 percent in 2009.
While nine more horses sold compared to the 2009 sale, the gross of $27,996,500 came in 3 percent below last season. The median of $130,000 and average of $314,567 were down 24 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively.
"I think the sale is really spotty, I'm really fearful," said Wayne Sweezey of Sweezey and Partners, which consigned the Group I-winning mare Serious Attitude who sold for $1.85 million to Shadai Farm in Japan.
"The top end appears to be strong still," he said. "There are people here willing to pay money obviously. I think for the quality it's there, but the middle market is a scary place to be right now."
Although the market remains unforgiving at certain levels, momentum generated by this weekend's Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs was responsible for many of the sale's highlights.
Awesome Feather, winner of the Juvenile Fillies on Friday and likely divisional champion for this season, proved equally as impressive in the ring when she sold to Adena Springs' Frank Stronach for a sale-topping $2.3 million. Playa Maya, dam of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo, went to representatives of Coolmore Stud for $1.65 million.
Consigned by Hidden Brook on behalf of owner/breeder Fred Brei, the undefeated Awesome Feather opened at a bid of $200,000 and reached the seven-figure level not long after that. .
"I just hope she carries on," said Stronach, who added he plans to continue to race the filly. "Her looks are nice, good disposition, she was very calm. Her win was very impressive."
Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Dubai Majesty and Grade I winner Gabby's Golden Gal, who finished tenth in the race, also topped the seven-figure mark selling for $1.1 million and $1.25 million respectively.
"We had a lot of very nice horses and there was plenty of play once you got to a certain level," said Fasig-Tipton chairman and senior auctioneer Walt Robertson, who was working his final sale before retiring at the end of the month after more than 30 years with the company.
"Prior to getting to that level — to cross $100,000 — was pretty sticky," Robertson said. "This is still a struggling economy we're in and it applies to everybody. I don't think you can compare three or five years ago to today without taking a look at any other industry that is trying to sell anything. It's not easy."