Last Friday morning at the thoroughbred barns and stable areas lining a quiet residential street in Saratoga, “getting ready” was the watch word.
The next night and then again on Sunday, “preferred New York bred yearlings” would be auctioned at the grand Fasig-Tipton facility next door to the dozen or so barns.
The morning saw the barns with vinyl signs reading “Vinery”, “Paramount”, “Darby Dan”, and “Lane’s End” ripe with a subdued tension that could be both seen and felt.
Workers scanned the leaden skies as the forecasted showers threatened their preparations. Those preparations were for thoroughbred owners, agents, trainers, and representatives of old-line farms that would be bidding for one-year-olds Saturday night and then Sunday at austere Fasig-Tipton.
Stable hands led the young horses in straight lines as the prospective buyers evaluated the fluid walks and the knees and ankles of what just might be the next Funny Cide (a new York bred that won a Kentucky Derby).
At a two-barn complex off to itself on one side of the street was Denali Stud. A walking area in front of the green barns was carefully raked time and again as the young thoroughbreds were shown to the buyers or their agents.
The buyers asked to see particular horses by a hip number (a small adhesive patch placed on each animal’s flank to identify them in a sale book that had all the particulars about each yearling’s lineage and background).
Little clumps of potential buyers would write notes about the yearlings they liked . . . and then move on to see and evaluate several more.
Workers, all in the same light blue polo shirts, literally scurried from stable door to stable door to retrieve a particular hip number to be seen again.
The man in charge of the Denali operation seem to stride in every direction at once as he maintained a fast pace and tried to make everything appear to be relaxed and orderly.
On Saturday night, Denali Stud would see some of its consigned New York breds auctioned for $80,000 and $70,000 . . . but also see several more not reach the reserve bid and have to be bought back.
Just across the maple-lined street was a small coterie of three yearlings to be sold by Darby Dan Farm, acting as an agent for other farms.
One of the Darby Dan yearlings was a dark brown filly sired by Grand Slam out of the dam January Angel. The filly’s sprinkle-dampened morning was spent walking short distances and posing for more than dozen men and women, who all knew one another and made as much small talk as they did take short notes.
The next night, the “Grand Slam” filly would sell for $50,000, bought by William Schettine.
The most eye-appealing filly housed in the little area being kept by Darby Dan was “hip number 281”, a tall and well proportioned chestnut whose liquid smooth gait had nearly every watcher scribbling down notes next to her factual description in their sales books.
The rust-colored filly exuded class, what with her every-hair-in-place coat and her leisurely gait that showed no bobble or hint of physical problem. Her sire is Bluegrass Cat, now standing in New York state.
Foaled on February 15, 2011, the filly will be a two-year-old come January 1 of next year. Her sire won nearly $2 million on the track, including the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Included in Bluegrass Cat’s sons and daughters are Sabercat, Kathmanblu, Teeth of the Dog, and Laurie’s Rocket.
Bluegrass Cat is a son of the more-famous Storm Cat, a sire that once commanded a stud fee of $250,000 per live foal.
She was met by knowing smiles. Interest in her came from all angles.
A mid-forties woman with her college-age daughter made notes. Men dressed in shorts and wide-brimmed hats that could shelter them against the predicted showers paused to see her walk away from them. A white-haired lady, who greeted acquantainces seemingly not seen for some time with “everything I have is for sale”, meticulously wrote in detail about 20 or more of the yearlings.
Of all the yearlings seen on Friday morning, “Hip number 281” was the one that most interested me . . . and if I had the means to keep a thoroughbred in training, she would have made me make some kind of bid.
Her sale price was $60,000, bought by Clark Brewster.
The last of the three yearlings Darby Dan had at the Fasig-Tipton sale was “hip number 355”, a daughter of sire City Zip and mother Street Sharp.
Dark brown and of slight build, “355” was not as buyer-tempting as was the chestnut daughter of Bluegrass Cat. In the sales ring the little bay filly would not command the reserve price of $55,000 and was not sold.
In the same general area as Darby Dan were also Marshall W. Silverman (agent), Paramount, Vinery, and Lane’s End.
As the morning progresed, as many as 10 thoroughbreds filled a small area, all being shown to the would-be buyers. Several of youngsters didn’t want to be sent back inside their stalls and made their intentions known by throwing their heads and even kicking at the humans squirting mists of water on their hindquarters to get them to behave better.
Beautiful chestnuts with multi-colored tails. Gray colts with mottled coats. Slender bay fillies.
The walkways were too crowded at times. Mishaps seemed to be barely avoided.
But the sellers and their charges worked their way through the routine. And then the agents and buyers seemed satisfied with their preparations. As they gradually moved off the grounds, those in the various camps hoping for big prices could relax for a time . . . and later make ready for the nights of sales in the sawdust covered ring at luxuious Fasig-Tipton.