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What am I bid? a yearling on the auction block at the Finney Pavilion.
Equine Dreams

Buyers eyeing race-course glory flock to the Fasig-Tipton yearling sales in Saratoga Springs

By Kirsten Ferguson

Inside the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Tuesday night, horse number 142, listed as “chestnut colt” in the catalog (one of many), paced the ring and tugged his handler around. Hyper-vigilant men in tuxedoes studied the crowd for signs of movement, looking for new bids. As the number on the electronic scoreboard overhead flipped past half a million, the thoroughbred let out a defiant bray heard up in the balcony. His price soon gained six zeros, a price reached for only the second time of this year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings sales, which began on Monday. The crowd murmured, and the excitement increased. Bids flew across the auction-house floor as the number ratcheted up. When it finally stalled out, the bidding had eclipsed the $2 million mark. The crowd was completely silent for a moment, stunned or maybe deferential. The chestnut colt, sired by Mr. Greeley, was led from the floor, and a round of applause rang out from the seats.

Drawing the highest price of the two-day sales by more than a million dollars, the chestnut colt deserved his cheers from the crowd. But with its applause the crowd also signaled an appreciation for the audacity of the winning bidders: Team Valor, a horseracing partnership from Kentucky. Along with the purchasers of more than 200 other colts and fillies on the auction block early this week, the partnership took a major gamble that a year-old horse, untested on the racetrack and yet to be trained by saddle and rider, can win big at some point in the future, or at least claim enough prize money to make the investment worthwhile. Pedigree and physique were among their only guides.

Warmed up: a yearling beingled to the pavilion.

Buyers from all over the world attend the sales to have their chance at the progeny of illustrious racehorses like A.P. Indy, Storm Cat and crowd favorite Smarty Jones. Earlier in the evening, as the sales got underway, a flank of police officers stood outside the pavilion as luxury cars rolled up, Jags and Porsches waiting to be valet-parked. Loudspeakers broadcast the commotion indoors to the outside, and it could be heard for blocks. Cries of “110, 110” reached beyond the East Avenue pavilion, descending into a stream of auctioneer’s babble, comical in its cadence, each word coming faster and making less sense than the one before. Casual observers cruised up on bicycles, stopping to peer through the bank of windows surrounding the rotund building named for Humphrey Finney, the late horse auctioneer and chairman of the Fasig-Tipton Co., which conducts thoroughbred auction sales in several locations in the United States.

Outside, in the complex of green sales paddock barns behind the pavilion, freshly brushed horses with numbered stickers on their flanks were paraded in circles in front of their potential buyers, who had pens and catalogs in hand. Another auctioneer voice, expressive and British, projected from the pavilion and beyond, setting the tone for the auction proceedings. A Robin Leach for the horse set, his silver-tongued boasts trumpeted horse DNA, rather than the “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” of the rich and famous. “From the family of none other than Rags to Riches, take a look at this wonderful pedigree,” he enthused about one budding equine celebrity. “You could wait a lifetime to find a horse that looks like this,” he trilled about another.

Hundreds of spectators and bidders filled the back, with all of its mini-scenes, from the bustling bar and restaurant tables to the barns, where workers prepared horses for their time on the stage. Tight-faced women in print dresses and men in blue blazers, representing the box-seat-at-the-track crowd, rubbed shoulders with curious onlookers in shorts and T-shirts. A famous former teen singer smoked a thin cigar; a prominent jockey chatted with friends. TV screens displayed the action going on inside, as serious horse buyers carried binders, spoke strategy into cell phones and leaned on the brown fence posts to study the muscle-ripped horses, who showed occasional flashes of their high-strung natures. Rearing and wheeling, wild-eyed, they required quick tugs on their reins by handlers to come back under control. People nearby milled about blissfully unaware of how dangerous it could be if a horse got loose and charged in their direction.

“He’s got the looks, he’s got the pedigree,” trilled the auctioneer again, a statement that he also undoubtedly made, in some creative fashion, about the evening’s star horse, number 142.

The New York-bred preferred yearlings sale will take place this Friday and Saturday (Aug. 10-11) at 7 PM at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion (East Avenue, Saratoga Springs). Admission to the sale is free and open to the public.


This Week

Dee Sarno Theater, Saratoga Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 8/17, 7:30 PM. Parallel Lives; the Kathy and Mo Show. $16. 222-5129.



First Baptist Church, 45 Washington St., Saratoga Springs. 8/19, 7 PM: The Saratoga Choral Festival concert, featuring Rutter’s Gloria and works by Howells, Vaughn Williams and Purcell. Reservations recommended. $20, $15 students, seniors. 791-0185.

Round Lake Auditorium, 2 Wesley Ave., Round Lake. 8/19, 8 PM; 8/20, 2 PM: An organ recital with Andrew Henderson. $8-$5. 899-2130.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/16, 8 PM: Charles Dutoit conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra in a Tchaikovsky spectacular, with guests Kirill Gerstein (piano) and Steven Isserlis (cello). 8/17, 8 PM: Krzysztof Penderecki will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra in his Symphony No. 2; Charles Dutoit will conduct Grieg’s Piano Concerto, featuring André Watts, and more. 8/18, 8 PM: The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique, and works by Stravinsky and Chopin. $70-$18. 587-3330.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 8/19, 2:15 PM: Pianists Kirill Gerstein and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, violinist Chantal Juillet and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra will perform works by Rachmaninov and Penderecki. $40-$35. 587-3330.


Museums & Galleries

Gallery 100, 462 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-0818.Horse of a Different Color, works by Audrey Romano.

Gallery on the Hudson, 92 Broad St., Schuylerville, 695-6131. Early and recent paintings by New York City artist Tom Vincent. Also, works by Susan Reynolds and Joyce Vincent.

National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. On Browaday, through October 2008. Also, The Dawn of Modern Dance: Music, Myth and Movement, chronicling the lives of Ruth St. Denis and Isadora Duncan; also, works by Frank Ohman. Also, Two Dancers, photography by Charles Bremer and poetry by Robert Bensen. Also, The Moving Figure. Also, Just Black and White, dance photography by Clifford Oliver.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-0400. The Voss Family, Artists of American Sporting Life. The Voss Family, Artists of American Sporting Life; also, California Images: The Racing Photography of William Mochon; also, the Racing Art Collection of Charles H. Thieriot Collection.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Worth a Thousand Muskets: Civil War Field Artillery; also, Battleground for Freedom: New York during the Revolutionary War; also, World War II: United for Victory; also, Fiery Trial and Sacrifice: New York and the First World War.

Riverfront Studios, 96 Broad St., Schuylerville. 369-3280. Uncorrupted Horses, a multi-artist show.

Saratoga Automobile Museum, 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. East of Detroit, and New York Racing exhibit. Also, Barn Finds.

Saratoga Springs History Museum, Canfield Casino, Congress Park, Broadway, Saratoga Springs. Along the Winding River: A Natural and Human History of the Kayderosseras Creek.

Saratoga Visitors Center, 297 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 587-3241. The Backstretch, Mostly, paintings by R.C. Ewell.

Skidmore College, Schick Art Gallery, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-5049. Regis Brodie: A Retrospective.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. West African Masquerade, photographs by Phyllis Galembo.


Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs. 8/12, 3 PM: Saratoga Poetry Zone open mic. 548-7860.



Saratoga Spa State Park, Route 9, Saratoga Springs. 8/22, 7 PM; Summer Family Program: Naturalist’s Choice! 584-2000 ext. 119.

Farmers MarketsMalta/Saratoga Farmers Market, Dave Meager Community Center, Route 9, Malta. Tuesdays, 11 AM-2 PM.

Saratoga Farmers Market, High Rock Park, High Rock Avenue, Saratoga Springs. Saturdays, 9 AM-1 PM; Wednesdays, 3-6 PM.

Fairs & Festivals

German Motorfest, Saratoga Automobile Museum, Saratoga Springs. 8/18, 9 AM-3 PM: $8 adults; $5 seniors; and $3.50 kids under 16. 587-1935 or

Round Lake Arts and Crafts Show, Village of Round Lake. 8/18-19: Sat 9 AM-5 PM and Sun 10 AM-4:30 PM. Over 200 skilled artists and craftsman will demonstrate their unique wares. Free. 899-2285.

Saratoga Shots

By Martin Benjamin

Loyld's, a groom for Denali Stud, at the Saratoga Yearling Sales, Aug. 10: "My nickname is Shiney-Shiney because me always keep the horses shiney and lookin' good. We like to come to Saratoga. It's cool here, it's nice. We enjoy ourselves here working for Denali Stud."


Keeping Cool—3 year old filly, Dream Rush, getting cooled off outside the winners circle, after winning the 250K Darley Stakes [Grade 1] at Saratoga Race Course, Aug. 4.



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