The parade of horseflesh in the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion Monday night equated to a jaw-dropping equine All-Star game with top mare after brilliant distaffer following one another into the ring, often with seven-figure dust in their wake.
As expected, it was one of the Kentucky Oaks winners being offered that ended up on top once more in her career. For more than a few high profile offerings, however, the market wasn't strong enough to override the emotional ties their connections had in them.
Owner Ed Stanco couldn't bear to watch as his multiple Grade I winner Princess of Sylmar sold Monday night, but the 4-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior did him proud, bringing a final bid of $3.1 million from representatives of Japan's Shadai Farm to top a Fasig-Tipton November auction filled with quality but peppered with polarization.
Even though the sale's expected star, champion Beholder, was not offered for sale due to a lingering illness that knocked her out of this year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, the catalog still ranked as one of Fasig-Tipton's best. A total of 23 fillies and mares hit the seven-figure mark — almost even with the 24 that reached that level in 2013 — with 12 selling for $2 million or more.
The horses that didn't sell, though, were almost as notable.
Four failed to meet their reserves despite bids of $2 million or more, including 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can, in foal to leading sire Tapit. She will end up going home to Airdrie Stud after falling short of her reserve with a bid of $4.9 million. Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Grade I winner Stephanie's Kitten will go back into training after getting hammered down for $3.95 million, short of the $3.99 million reserve.
A diverse group of international and domestic buyers stretched themselves at the top end, with Kentucky-based Summer Wind Farm landing Grade I winner Sweet Lulu, in foal to War Front, for $3 million, while champion She's a Tiger, who went to Northern Farm in Japan for $2.5 million, was among the mares headed overseas.
The average of $589,611 was up 2.98 percent from 2013, but the gross of $63,678,000 was down 13.78 percent, and the median dipped $50,000, to $200,000.
A total of 44 horses failed to meet their reserves, up from 34 in 2013.
"I think it was a very similar marketplace to what we saw last year," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. "I think every horse at that level is unique, and a couple of those horses, there were some emotional connections to those horses. Those sellers were not in need to sell situations.
"At the top of the market, people continue to bid with restraint. It was more fun when it was irrational at the top, but it's probably healthier with some level of rationality."
Browning also pointed out that the variations that come with a boutique breeding stock sale make year-to-year comparisons more challenging than in the yearling marketplace.
There was no challenging the quality that Princess of Sylmar brought to the table. The chestnut filly captured the 2013 Kentucky Oaks to begin a string of four straight Grade I triumphs and was retired this summer with nine wins from 15 starts and more than $2 million in career earnings.
Patrick Barbe, a representative of Shadai Farm, said they jumped in only on the final bid, which proved to be the winning one.