Exchange Rate Fuels Keeneland Buys by Europeans

Exchange Rate Fuels Keeneland Buys by Europeans
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Hugo Lascelles

With the exchange rate in their favor, a plethora of Europeans flocked to the Keeneland September sale to take advantage of bargains impossible to find in their native countries. 

“There’s been a strong international feeling from the beginning (of the sale),” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, noting that on the first page of results sheets, eight of the 12 horses were sold to overseas buyers.

"The weakness of the dollar stood out today,” he added after the third day of the sale, when each euro equaled $1.39 in buying power at Keeneland.

British bloodstock agent Hugo Lascelles was quick to admit there were many more Europeans shopping at the Keeneland September sale than usual, with a spectacular trade value of $2 for one British pound. 

“There are definitely more Europeans here than usual because of the value of the euro,” said Lascelles. Although he had unsuccessfully tried to buy two fillies that day, he said he would definitely stay the rest of the week.

British trainer Mark Johnston, on the other hand, has already thrived in book one, buying eight horses on the first day of the sale and two on the second, including a $200,000 filly by Giant’s Causeway—Nannerl. 

“I’ve never bought this many (on day one),” he said. “It’s been easier to buy (in book one) because of the exchange rate.”

Johnston noted it had also been less difficult for the Europeans because of the abundance of Giant’s Causeway foals at the sale.

Americans were less interested in the foals sired by the son of Storm Cat because of their heavy turf pedigrees, thus making it easier for Europeans to dominate the bidding. 

While Johnston said the second day of the sale had been somewhat tougher market, he was still encouraged by the success he had already found.

“I’m staying for book three this year, which I haven’t done before, and I’m buying more horses here than in Europe (because of the prices),” he said.

Robert Nataf of Horse France had a different outlook on this year’s situation with foreign buyers. While agreeing the strength of the euro has definitely been a factor in the number of Europeans at the sale, he observed that many Europeans have always considered Keeneland the best value market because of the quality of its horses, the way they are prepared, the strong pedigrees, and the richness of the choices offered.

“For us, (Keeneland) has always been a privileged market, and it has been proven through the years as a very good producer of good horses,” said Nataf. “I haven’t necessarily seen more (Europeans this year), but there are plenty. I also consider Keeneland a cheap market compared to the European market. You can get a very good value and very good quality.”

Nataf pointed out the Storm Cat--Welcome Surprise filly that was purchased for $1.6 million on day two of the sale by Marc-Antoine Berghgracht’s M.A.B. Agency, which is based in France.

“($1.6 million) is (equal to) about 1.3 million euros, so this filly was an excellent value compared to the European prices,” said Nataf. “I’m not surprised she was bought by a European buyer, and she will be trained in France.”
 
Nataf’s agency is planning to buy 25 to 30 horses for various clients. He said he expects to remain in Lexington through the beginning of next week.


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