The Keeneland sale of 2-year-olds in training April 11 in Lexington will close out this year’s select juvenile selling season, which has produced mixed results. None of the three previous elite auctions has managed to post increases in all three key business figures of gross, average price, and median price.
The Fasig-Tipton Florida auction’s most encouraging result was a stable median while the OBS March sale enjoyed an advance in gross of more than 40% and an average that was just below the previous year’s figure. The Barretts March auction generated upswings in both its average and median.
“It started out, as it often does, with a degree of uncertainty,” said Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales. “But as we’ve gone through the season, the market has gotten better and we’ve seen more consistency with each sale. We’ve got some special horses in our sale and I think we’ll have the buyers for them.”
Keeneland cataloged 169 head for the auction, but as of April 10, 55 already had been scratched based on information published on the auction firm’s website (www.keeneland.com). Horses remaining in the sale included four that worked an eighth of a mile in under :10, one of only three juveniles in the great sire Storm Cat’s final crop, and two offspring of another prominent sire, A.P. Indy, who recently was pensioned.
“The feedback we got when we went to the racetracks and in our international travels was very positive,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director sales. The the morning after the April 7 under tack show, he reported that many consignors already were busy showing horses to shoppers.
Said consignor Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables April 10 about the traffic through his barn: “It was steady until today and now we’re very busy. There is plenty of time between the under tack show and the sale, so that is what we expected.”
Shoppers who attended the under tack show or were seen roaming the sale barns included Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, who is a key adviser to Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, Patti Miller and Jeff Seder of the Pennsylvania consulting firm EQB, and the buying team from B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm.
“This is very much a what have you done for me lately kind of business,” Russell said, “and having a two-time champion, Lookin At Lucky , as a graduate of this sale shows that Keeneland is where quality horses come from and that attracts buyers.”
According to Dapple Bloodstock’s Mike Akers, who pinhooks horses through Ciaran and Amy Dunne’s Wavertree Stables, juvenile consignors have gotten more comfortable with market conditions.
“We aren’t getting a spike back up like some other industries are; we’ve having to kind of grind our way out,” he said. “We’re just getting back to the point where we’ve started to kind of bounce off the bottom and climb back up the ladder a little bit. Nice horses are selling for fair prices and we’ve adjusted what we pay for them, so we seem to be finding a level of the market where we can conduct trade at.”
Based on her experiences at earlier select juvenile auctions, California bloodstock agent Gayle Van Leer was eager to shop at the Keeneland sale.
“It looks like consignors are more realistic in their expectations,” she said. “They’ve been pretty reasonable and horses have been buyable. They don’t need to get crazy money to turn loose of a horse.”
Last year, the Keeneland juvenile auction turned in a pretty solid performance. The gross rose 1.8% from 2010 while the median grew 14.9%. The gross declined only 5.4% while the buy-back rate dropped from 43.6% the previous year to a more palatable 36.6%.
Prior to the latest edition of the sale, consignor Niall Brennan was predicting that the market wouldn’t differ dramatically from the conditions he had seen at other select juvenile auctions recently.
“So far, it’s kind of been the same old, same old,” he said. “It’s just been a polarized and very select marketplace. The second day of the OBS March sale was encouraging because we really got some momentum going and it was a strong day of selling.
"There is a ceiling now where people are comfortable, but there were a lot of buyers spending $150,000 to $300,000 for horses that second day and that’s very solid money. If you’ve got nice horses, people are going to buy them. But the 2-year-old sales are all about performance, and the reality is, if your horses look average, there are no buyers for them.”
Selling will begin at Keeneland at 4 p.m. (EDT).