From Mary Lou to Tom; Jim Dandy to Fourstardave; Siro’s to backyard tailgating; and morning workouts to give aways; Saratoga has a cast of heroes, customs, and institutions which make it, in our opinion, the most unique sporting venue on Earth. Over the next 40 Days, we will profile 40 of these legends and traditions, adding our own memories and experiences from 30 plus years of summering at the Spa. It’s our Salute to Saratoga. We hope you enjoy following along.
It is often said that every night is a party in Saratoga. There is always something exciting going on, whether it’s Saturday Night at 11pm or Tuesday at 7:30. A perfect example of that is one of the biggest and most high-profile events during the Saratoga season was this past Monday and Tuesday evening: The Fasig-Tipton Select Yearlings Sales.
If you are unfamiliar with the sales and breeding part of the sport, this is one of the premier sales around in the country and the world. It is the first offering of yearlings around the country, and sets the stage for the larger, in size, yearling sales that take place in September in Kentucky. The lots available in Saratoga are low in number, only 209 were listed in the book this year. But what they lack in volume, they make up for in quality.
Only the strongest, well-bred and most correct yearlings are offered at this sale. This sale often provides new stallions their first opportunity to determine how buyers will receive their off-spring. The best bloodlines in the business are represented, with marquee stallions like Tapit, Medaglia d’Oro and Pioneer of the Nile, and female lines that link to the foundational Phipps and Claiborne bloodlines.
The entire sale is a who’s who of the sport. The pedigrees are premier, as are the buyers. Sheik Mohammad makes his yearly trip to Saratoga for the two day sale, and often bids from a private room. International buyers, such as Gai Waterhouse and Al Shaquab Racing, make the trip to see what if they can find the next star of the sport. Bob Baffert made an appearance to bid on behalf of his owners, including the Zayats and Kahleem Shah.
But aside from the regal bloodlines and stars of the sport, the sale is an event. Fasig Tipton remodeled the sales pavillion a few years ago, and created a beautiful space. They even hold weddings there in the off season. The outdoor walking ring provides a great opportunity to view the horses before they make their way into the auction ring and the hammer falls. There is large bar, where you can watch the action on many televisions.
But the best seat in the house is inside the pavilion itself. The auctioneer’s ramble is intoxicating, and the action is impressive. After a Tapit colt sold for $2 million this year, you could hear cheers from the victors. There is a great sense of pride from the buyers, who are excited of the prospect of racing their newest purchase. Not to mention the fact that they now get to head to the luxurious Buyer’s Balcony, and enjoy some champagne and fine eats.
This sale is an event, and one not to be missed. Even if you aren’t in the market for horses, it is something you should experience. A side of the sport not often discussed in mainstream culture, but just as exciting as the races themselves.