Cracking the Code of the Saratoga Sales
August in Saratoga Springs, New York, is a whirl of Thoroughbred racing, parties and galas, retired race horse fundraisers and elite Thoroughbred yearling sales. The six-week race meet and never-ending activities are not for the fainthearted.
It takes a strong heart, a keen eye and a substantial line of credit to purchase a well-bred yearling at Saratoga. The good news is the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion and grounds are open to all. In fact, curious onlookers and racing fans strolling the grounds to take in the sights can end up ringside, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, legendary football coach Bill Parcells or chef Bobby Flay. If you can’t make it to Saratoga to hang with Sheikh Mo, Bill or Bobby, the sales are livestreamed each evening.
The Saratoga yearling sales are auctions of highly curated bloodstock representing the best bloodlines (pedigrees) and physicals (conformation and athleticism). In late winter and early spring, the Fasig-Tipton auction house sent out teams of advisers to thoroughbred farms across the country to evaluate potential sales’ candidates. Like the Marines, many apply and (relatively) few are chosen.
There are two separate yearling sales in August. The first is the Saratoga Sale where the best-of-the best bloodstock come from all quarters – Kentucky, Florida, Ireland, Ontario, etc. The second sale is for New York-breds, horses born in New York. Drawing from a smaller sampling, the pedigree aspect of these New York-bred horses may not equal those in the Select Sale, but they are close in physical qualities, and, they are eligible for the lucrative New York incentive program.
Yearlings accepted and entered in the sales are listed online and in print catalogs. Each horse’s entry is called its “page” and offers a complete snapshot of its blood lines, success of close members of its female family (the dam’s portion of the pedigree) and eligibilities and nominations to races and jurisdictions.
Deciphering a Sales Page
Image of online sales page from 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Sale
Barn 10 – location on Fasig-Tipton sales grounds
Hip no. 250 – ID number
Consigned by – either the owner or sales agent for the owner
Chestnut colt – color and gender
Pedigree – The colt’s color and date of birth is on the left, and three generations are highlighted in blue and pink. Hard Spun is the sire (father) and Indy Punch is the dam (mother). Danzig is his grandsire, Indy Flash is her grand-dam, also known as the second-dam. Hard Spun – Danzig – Northern Dancer is the sire line. Indy Punch – Indy Flash – Mirror Bright is the dam line, also called the bottom line; their offspring are called the female family.
Sire Paragraph – Who the sire is – Hard Spun, his race record and graded black type or divisional honors; the number of crops of foal born (8), black type winners from his foals, gross earnings of his offspring, names and earning records of leading offspring.
Female Family – Race and produce records of the descending females in the family; includes individual details of money won, abbreviated race and produce records of direct offspring.
Nominations and eligibility – Race and race series nominations (Breeders’ Cup) and state-bred registration and eligibilities (Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund).
Because the members of the colt’s immediate female family are actively racing and winning, his pedigree is updated in real time online and updates will be announced as he enters the sales ring. On this page, the green arrows and red type signal updates to the pedigree.