Even though the weather could have been better, the mood generally was positive in the barn area at Keeneland as horsemen prepared for the first major Thoroughbred auction of the year, the January horses of all ages sale.
Snow and frigid temperatures made the conditions uncomfortable, but consignors seemed satisfied by the number of prospective buyers inspecting the stock Jan. 9, the day before the Central Kentucky auction’s start.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the traffic,” said Guiness McFadden, sales director for Three Chimneys Farm. “Yesterday was a little cold and there was snow, but things really picked up in the middle of the day. I’ve seen the usual suspects that you would expect to see out here. It has been good; I’m happy.”
Two of the auction’s most attractive offerings – grade I-winning racing or broodmare prospects Ave and Wickedly Perfect -- are in the Three Chimneys Sales’ consignment.
“I think there is the possibility of a few horses out here bringing a million dollars; it’s attainable,” McFadden said. “But that’s a lot of money in this economic climate, and the right situation is going to have to present itself. A horse will have to check every box and then some.”
At Select Sales’ barn, Carrie Brogden reported that the Galileo mare Gallileo Figaro, who is a half sister to grade I winner Gozzip Girl and in foal to Speightstown , and Canadian grade III winner C Karma (by Exchange Rate), who is in foal to Curlin , were both “tremendously popular” with shoppers.
“But I do wish I had a lot of top short yearlings,” Brogden said. “People have loads of money to spend on them if they can find the ones that have it all in terms of sire power, conformation, and vetting.”
In talking to buyers and her fellow consignors, Brogden has noticed a change in their outlook even though the American economy and the Thoroughbred industry still have a lot of problems to overcome.
“I think attitudes in general are much more upbeat about everything, and people feel better about all facets of their lives,” she said.
Tommy Eastham of Legacy Bloodstock agreed with Brogden that nearly everyone’s frame of mind was more upbeat.
“It seems like there is some optimism,” he said. “I do feel like our market has stabilized and that we’re starting to maybe rebound a little bit. Our show volumes have been about what we expected -- maybe a little better – and the interest has been spread out more among horses. The mares are actually getting more love after being tough to sell in the (2010 Keeneland) November (breeding stock) sale.”
Denali Stud’s Craig Bandoroff, bundled up like he was heading out to make a ski run, had a steady stream of buyers to deal with late in the morning.
“It was brutally cold yesterday weather-wise, but we have some nice stuff and we showed a lot,” he said. “This isn’t tourist weather, so if people are looking at the horses, they’re here on a mission. There seems to be some interest. Does that mean there will be a lot of bids? We’ll find out.”
According to Wayne Sweezey of Timber Town Stable, there didn’t appear to be as many people on the sale grounds as usual, but “our number of shows has been about right for January. We’re getting enough action.”
The Keeneland auction will run for five days, through Jan. 14, in Lexington, and there are more than 1,800 horses in its catalog. Each session will start at 10 a.m. EST.