The quality bloodstock going through the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion Monday was enough to spark tears from one seller.
The females offered during the Fasig-Tipton November sale continued to propel the Thoroughbred marketplace forward heading into the heart of the breeding stock auction season.
Paced by the Galileo mare Betterbetterbetter selling to Mandy Pope for a sale-topping $5.2 million, the boutique sale was a continuation of top-end strength, producing substantial gains in overall gross and median, with the average declining 17 percent.
The 2012 Fasig-Tipton sale's highlight was Pope's purchase of 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace for $10 million. This year's sales were less flashy but impressive in their own right, as 24 horses reached the seven-figure barrier, nine more than hit that level a year ago.
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Such healthy figures were expected in the wake of a Keeneland September yearling sale that produced its best numbers since the economic crash of 2008. With a November catalog filled with Grade I runners, producers and rare bloodlines, the overall gross of $73,859,000 from 129 head sold was up 22.6 percent from 2012, with the median jumping 32 percent, from $190,000 to $250,000.
"The statistics are frankly mind=-boggling," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr. "Just tremendous energy from the start of the sale to the finish, tremendous diversity from every corner of the world.
"It starts and ends with having quality horses, and we were fortunate enough to have a catalog full of tremendous horses. If you asked me 12 months ago what would you have wanted your November sale to look like, I'd have said get me close to 2012 levels. I'm just blown away by the results tonight."
Grade I winner Love and Pride, carrying a colt by Distorted Humor, looked as if she would carry the mantle of being the sale topper when she went to Goncalo Torrealba — whose family bred her — for $4.9 million.
The third-to-last horse through the ring ended up with the thunder as Pope outlasted the likes of the Wertheimer brothers to add Betterbetterbetter to her boutique broodmare band.
"A Galileo is obviously something everyone would love to have," said Pope, who also bought Rhumb Line, dam of Grade I winner Zazu, for $2 million. "And she was gorgeous. ... I'm speechless. She'll stay here (to be bred) this year. We had her priced a tad under that but very close. I'm very excited."
The rate of horses not sold also represented the quality of the catalog. Only 34 horses failed to meet their reserves compared to 47 in 2012.
"People trusted their valuable horses with us, and for the most part they were richly rewarded with the results," Browning said.
Much like the yearling market, the buying power was coming almost equally from key domestic players like Pope, Summer Wind Farm, and Aaron and Marie Jones, and international shoppers from Japan and Qatar.
The sale even featured a bit of marketplace history as it offered the first two mares in foal to unbeaten champion Frankel, Grade I winners In Lingerie and Mi Sueno, who brought $2.4 million and $1.9 million, respectively.
Meg Levy's Bluewater Sales consigned both mares, and she found herself fighting back tears when In Lingerie, which she sold on behalf of Eclipse Thoroughbreds, departed to representatives of Shadai Farm in Japan.
"I swear I'm not crying about the price," Levy said. "... I'm just sad I won't see her again."