No matter which side of the fence one was on within the Fasig-Tipton grounds Thursday, life was likely equal parts exasperating and satisfying.
For buyers in the Thoroughbred marketplace, the competition for quality stock was stout. For consignors, the pressure to bring product that fit strict requirements to the table was unforgiving.
Demands on both fronts brought about results that left all key parties encouraged as the Fasig-Tipton July selected yearling sale delivered on its expectations, posting across-the-board gains in a continuation of market strength.
The single-day exercise stands as the first major yearling auction of the season. While hard and fast judgements can't be made of such a small sampling of the yearlings that will come through the ring in coming months, the factors that drove the juvenile sale season to its success remained steadfast.
Led by a chestnut filly by leading sire Tapit that sold to agent Steve Young for a sale-topping $500,000, the overall gross of $20,005,000 from 205 head sold improved by 31 percent over last season.
The average increased by 4 percent to $97,585, while the median jumped up by 10 percent to $77,000. The rate of horses not sold came in at 29 percent, an improvement over the 2014 figure of 31.8 percent.
"It was a very similar marketplace to last year, maybe slightly better than in 2014," said Boyd Browning Jr., president of Fasig-Tipton. "All in all a good marketplace, a fair marketplace.
"I think the buyers would say if you were trying to buy quality horses, it was really difficult to buy the quality they wanted. I think the sellers would say it's not easy selling horses right now, that you have to make sure you jump through most of the hoops. But there is a legitimate marketplace right now. There is a demand for horses."
The overall quality of the yearling catalog was earnestly supported by both end users and yearling-to-juvenile resellers as 18 yearlings sold for $200,000 or more compared to the 10 that reached that level in 2014.
Those horses that hit marks of being both top physical offerings and passing veterinary criteria struck the balance of being hard to buy without spilling over into unrealistic levels.
"I think each of the horses we've brought have been strong in terms of the price they commanded, but at the same time I feel like we got value with all three of them," said Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners. "Look, the market just continues to thrive. I think we're seeing a higher volume of better horses, and that could be as a result of people creating better matings.
"What I'm seeing in particular is maybe not such an upward trend as far as the prices are concerned, just more of those horses that people see quality in."
The name Tapit has become synonymous with the best quality in the Thoroughbred industry, which is why Young viewed it as good value to get an offering by the Gainesway stallion at the half-million level.
Consigned by Gainesway, the Tapit filly is out of the stakes-winning mare French Dip, who is a daughter of Grade I winner Mayo On the Side.
"She's very well-balanced and has a beautiful hip on her," said Young, who purchased the filly on behalf of an undisclosed client. "Being by a $300,000 stud, that's what she's supposed to cost."
For the third consecutive year, the July yearling sale was immediately followed by a Horses of Racing Age auction. Though the crossover appeal helped bring in more end users, the latter suffered from a lack of top end quality and saw declines in gross and average.
Where the past two years featured seven-figure sale toppers, multiple stakes winner Temper Mint Patty paced the action this year when she sold to Mike Repole for $350,000. Last year's sale benefited by featuring horses from the high-profile dispersal of stock from Eugene Melnyk, and the lack of fireworks in this season's catalogue contributed to the overall gross coming in at $3,996,000 from 65 head sold, down from the $8,426,000 generated by 109 sold in 2014.
The average fell from $77,303 last year to $61,477, but the median rose to $48,000 up from $35,000 a year ago.
"Last year, basically half the sale was the Melnyk dispersal, which accounted for several of the top prices," Browning said. "We knew coming in this year we had some nice horses, but we didn't have the absolute star power at the very top end. But it's hard to make any comparison year to year on a Horses of Racing Age sale."