In 2009, Fasig-Tipton’s New York-bred yearling sale in Saratoga grossed $4.3 million on 107 horses sold. Four years later, thanks mainly to slots-infused purses in the state, the gross reached $14.2 million with 196 horses.
Think about it. . . let it settle for a minute. . . Now, close your eyes and consider Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic fall yearling sale at Timonium in late September. Couldn’t that sale consist of yearlings bred solely in the Mid-Atlantic states, where revenue from slot machines boosts purses in Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware? This year, those first three states produced 176 yearlings at the sale. Fourteen more came from Virginia and four hailed from New Jersey, giving the region 194 of the 289 sold. And that’s not counting the Delaware-certified horses, who are also eligible for enhanced purse bonuses.
That’s impact. Real impact.
The rest is up to the breeders, just like the success of the New York-bred sale landed in the laps of New York breeders. They had to produce quality foals, improve the sire power, add to the mare pool and create a meaningful place to buy young Thoroughbreds. Timonium already fits that latter description, but how much better can it be for the region?
The state incentive programs in the region are competitive with any other Thor-oughbred state, rewarding breeders who sell and owners who buy. Maryland’s new program should stabilize, then boost, that state’s foal crop?–?finally. Pennsylvania surged with the advent of slots money and owner/breeder bonuses a few years ago. West Virginia is becoming a power, and sent several well-bred horses to the sale in September. Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia all realized six-figure sales at Timonium and optimism was a fixture along with The Corner Stable crab cakes and auctioneer’s prattle.
So why not compete harder with the Kentucky-breds at Timonium? Turn the fall yearling sale into a regional showcase. Make buyers take note. Host an event. Offer some sort of travel incentive or local hotel deal.
Better yet, take a page from European sales and create a restricted race or bonus program for graduates the next year at Laurel, Parx, Penn National, Charles Town, Delaware Park or Colonial Downs.
Get aggressive. Now’s the time.
Talk to Fasig-Tipton about a special session or something. The company ran 335 horses through the ring in one, marathon, 10-hour day this year. A return to two sessions isn’t that far away anyhow, so be creative. Much of the work is up to the region’s breeders and consignors to supply the horses. Save your best yearlings for this sale, instead of trying to make them compete at others.
National buyers will show, just like they did this year. Regional buyers will step up, just like they did this year. The numbers will improve, just like they did this year. Make Timonium’s yearling market Saratoga light. Fasig-Tipton sounds like it’s with you.
“One of the things that should be evident is the commitment we’ve made to this region and continue to make to this region,” said company executive Boyd Browning. “We haven’t wavered in tough times. We’ve put a lot of money into this facility, which we don’t own. We’ve got deep roots in Maryland, it’s important to us. The auction team you see here is the auction team that works in Saratoga. The people on the grounds here are the same you see other places. It’s not like we have an A team and a B team. We feel committed.”
Like the breeders in Maryland and other states, Fasig-Tipton weathered smaller foal crops the last several years and made it work. Now, there’s sun coming through the windows, a little light peeking through the clouds, a change in the climate. Yes, the company offers sales in other locations (including an October yearling sale in Kentucky with 1,100 in the catalogue) but it’s up to this region to support this region’s sales options.
Browning sounded like he was all for new ideas after this year’s sale.
“It’s unrealistic to expect gains of (New York’s) magnitude right away, but this year’s sale should provide a stimulus for higher prices and more horses,” he said. “This is not a Maryland-bred sale, or a Pennsylvania-bred sale or any specific state sale, but they add a lot to it.”
Let’s see how much.