Consignors: Business Down, But Not Out
by Tom LaMarra
Date Posted: 9/18/2008 2:31:28 PM
Last Updated: 9/19/2008 8:33:15 AM

Hip 3238; filly; Tiznow - Katz Me If You Can by Storm Cat, topped day 9 of the Keeneland September yearling sale with a final bid of $400,000.
Photo: Joe DiOrio

After its ninth day, which produced a session-topper of $400,000, the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale business-wise remained down. But given recent developments on Wall Street, overall economic stagnation, and the aftermath of hurricanes, things could be much worse, consignors said.

The dip was hardly unexpected, even early in the sale, but after the final horse went through the ring Sept. 17, the decline—for one day, at least—was more pronounced.

For Sept. 17, 266 horses sold for $10,244,800, down 30.1% from $14,653,000 for 286 horses for the corresponding date in 2007. Average declined 24.8%, from $51,236 to $38,514, while median dropped 28.6% from $42,000 last year to $30,000 this year. The 87 horses that did not sell represented an RNA rate of 24.6%, up from last year's session rate of 20.6%.

Overall, however, the gross is down 13.8%, from $354,714,200 last year to $305,698,100 this year. The average is down 12.4% ($136,900 this year versus $156,331 in 2007), and median is off 11.1% ($80,000 versus $90,000). The RNA rate of 25.1% for the entire sale is only slightly higher than the 24.5% figure through the comparable period one year ago.

For complete results from this sale, including Hip-by-Hips and cumulative sale results, click here.

Opinions vary as to the seriousness of the numbers, and consignors noted good horses still bring good prices.

“Considering the global turmoil in financial markets, it’s very solid,” said Suzi Shoemaker of Lantern Hill Farm, who noted Hurricane Ike impact a few of her clients. “It is true prices are about 10% lower than the comparable horses from last year, but we are getting them sold. We put five through the ring Sept. 16 and sold four, and the four that sold exceeded expectations.

“I would add that clients are more realistic with their reserves, and buyers are not as free with their money. But for us, it’s actually easier to get (the horses) sold in a realistic market. I’m very happy with it, because by rights, it could have been off by 25%."

Pope McLean Jr. of Crestwood Farm said factors such as the economy and the record number of horses cataloged—more than 5,500—set the stage, and consignors were prepared. Still, it’s not all bad news, he said.

“Going into the sale, all the Europeans I spoke to weren’t nearly as confident because they were sensing our economy was weakening,” McLean said. “But I think the sale is holding up. We’ve had several (in the ring) go past our appraisals.”

A Russian contingent of buyers again was at the sale pavilion Sept. 17. They are in Lexington to find stock for the Russian Thoroughbred racing and breeding program, but also to be educated in American horse sales.

Vasily Melnikov, racing secretary for the Russian Jockey Club, said about 100 horses will be purchased from sales in the United States this year. There are no Thoroughbred auctions in his country, he said, though some stakes at the racetrack in Moscow go for $100,000-$200,000 purses.

“They want to see how horses are kept over here, and also how sales are organized,” said Melnikov, who purchased an Indian Charliecolt for $27,000 from the Bluewater Sales consignment Sept. 17. “They are very satisfied. Some have come to see, because they have never seen a horse sale. And maybe after that, they will become buyers.”

The Sept. 17 saletopper, a Kentucky-bred filly by Tiznow   out of the grade II-winning Storm Catmare Katz Me If You Can, was purchased by Legends Racing from Eaton Sales, agent for Overbrook Farm. Legends Racing was the top buyer for the session, and currently ranks third on the cumulative list with 29 purchases for a total of $12,010,000.

Another filly, by Songandaprayer   out of the El Gran Senor mare Forty Gran, was the second highest-priced horse in the session. The Ontario-bred filly was purchased for $250,000 by Blandford Bloodstock from Anderson Farms, agent for Kinghaven Farms.

“As the old adage goes, there’s always money for a quality individual,” Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell said after the session. “We find that fillies are highly sought in today’s market because they retain their value longer.”

For detailed analysis of the results of Day 9 and a preview of Day 10, Download the Data Digest.



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