Keeneland has been holding discussions with buyers, consignors, and others in the Thoroughbred industry about the future of its July select yearling sale. Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales, described the meetings as routine reviews that are conducted annually and declined to reveal their content.
But Tom VanMeter of Eaton Sales said a variety of options were discussed, including abandoning the auction for a year.
"The July horses physically won't be there because the January and February foals are the ones we lost to MRLS (mare reproductive loss syndrome)," VanMeter said. "So there's another problem in addition to trying to get more buyers to come to the auction. But if they have the sale, we'll be there."
Other possibilities mentioned, according to VanMeter, were "moving the sale to a different time, and trying to have a three-day race meet (in conjunction with the auction).
"It was an open discussion and they asked for our input about what we thought needed to be done," he added. "No decisions were made."
Another consignor, who asked not to be identified, said the two options discussed the most were abandoning the sale for a year or holding a one-night auction featuring the 100 best horses Keeneland could recruit. Adding a session or two of horses with lesser pedigrees to the sale also was put forward, but the consignor described the suggestion as "a remote possibility."
Like Van Meter, the unidentified consignor said MRLS would be a problem because there will be a shortage of physically mature yearlings, which usually bring the highest prices in July.
Russell said Keeneland still had more people to talk to before a final decision was made.
"We won't comment until then," he said.
At last year's Keeneland July yearling sale, the number sold (87) fell to its lowest point ever and the gross revenue plunged by 32.9% while sinking to its lowest level since 1978. The average price and median price declined by 31.4% and 30.2%, respectively. Even though the July sale posted a world-record high average of $710,247 in 2001, the auction has had trouble attracting buyers and horses recent years.
Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga select yearling auction and the select portion of the Keeneland September yearling sale also experienced major declines in 2002.