Keeneland's July yearling sale will have its smallest catalogue ever this year. Only 164 horses will be offered during the elite Kentucky auction, which has decreased in size for four consecutive years. The total represents a drop of 21.1% from 2000, when 208 horses were catalogued. In comparison, the decline in numbers between 1999 and 2000 was only 3.7%.
The 2001 edition of the sale is scheduled for July 16 and 17. There will be only two night sessions, down from one afternoon and two evening sessions in 2000.
"We are very positive about our July sale," said Rogers Beasley, Keeneland's director of sales. "We have horses that have very strong physicals and pedigrees. We're spending more money than ever before on print and television ads to market this sale."
Beasley also noted that while the July auction has received negative publicity about its shrinking size, many of its key economic indicators have continued to grow. Last year, the average price increased for sixth year in a row and was the highest ever recorded at any yearling auction in the world. The median equaled the sale record, which was established in 1999. And gross revenue surged to its highest level since 1990. Last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, was a $4-million graduate of the 1998 July sale.
While the auction's decline in size is a concern, Beasley said it would remain a viable business venture "as long as we continue to sell top horses." He described the latest drop as "a combination of a lot of factors," including the big prices that breeders are able to get for their well-bred weanlings at Keeneland's November breeding stock sale.
"Many of those horses, when they are sold to buyers like Godolphin and the Wertheimer brothers, don't come back on the market again," he said.
Another factor, according to Beasley is the increasing reluctance on the part of consignors to sell their yearlings in the summer unless they have physically reached their peak. Many sellers have abandoned the auction for the Keeneland September yearling sale, which gives their horses more time to mature. The September auction, the largest of its kind in the world, also attracts a bigger and more diverse group of buyers than the July sale.