In an unstable market, it is only natural that investors gravitate toward the most proven of commodities.
That scenario played out Tuesday during the opening session of the first major yearling auction of the season.
The Thoroughbred marketplace may still be trying to recover from its ongoing correction, but the appeal of classic-producing stallion Medaglia d'Oro remains strong.
Representatives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum's Darley Stud threw down a final bid of $450,000 to secure a Medaglia d'Oro colt during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale.
Darley, which stands Medaglia d'Oro at its Lexington-based farm, has never been shy about supporting its own, and Tuesday's session was no different.
One year after buying a Medaglia d'Oro filly for $425,000 to top the July auction, the global operation had to fight just a bit harder this time around to secure the session-topping gray colt who is a half brother to Grade II winner Principle Secret.
"We thought he was one of the best-looking yearlings in the sale," said Joe Osborne, a director of Darley's European operations. "Sheikh Mohammed will decide where he's going to go. He's correct, has a good attitude, we saw him a couple times and we loved him all along. He's just a really good-looking colt."
While most of Tuesday's catalog featured offspring by stallions whose first crop are yearlings, it came as little surprise the proven sires produced some of the day's top prices.
Shortly after the Medaglia d'Oro colt set the standard, a dark bay colt by champion Tiznow elicited the day's second-highest price when he sold to Jay Em Ess Stable for $300,000.
"I think in a market like this, everyone goes toward a proven commodity just to be safe," said Meg Levy of Bluewater Sales, which consigned the session-topping Medaglia d'Oro colt. "People want to feel safer with their investments and that's the way to go.
"This horse ticked all the boxes. He's by the right sire, he's a gorgeous mover, he's a half to a grade-stakes winner. The demand for quality is as strong as it ever was."
The momentum generated by the stronger-than-expected juvenile market this year did show signs of carrying over during the auction's opening day.
While the overall gross of $8,155,500 generated from 107 horses sold was down 13 percent compared with $9,328,500 brought in by the 136 horses sold during the corresponding session in 2009, the median ($50,000) and average ($76,220) both rose by 11 percent.
The increasingly discriminating nature of the market showed in the rate of horses not sold, however. A total of 63 horses — 37 percent — failed to find new homes.
"I think the market is similar to last year (and) might be a little bit better in some instances," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr. "Once you meet the criteria that most of (the buyers) want, there is very competitive bidding. But on the horses that aren't deemed as desirable, right now in the marketplace there is very little competition, if any, for those horses.
"Today might give (sellers) some confidence but I don't see euphoria in the barn area going 'We've weathered the storm, the crisis is over.' "
The July sale continues Wednesday with its second and final session beginning at 11 a.m.