Keeneland Day 14: More of the Same
Photo: Joseph DiOrio

As the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale entered the stretch, the penultimate session Sept. 22 mirrored the rest of the sale: double-digit declines in gross, average, and median prices.

Keeneland reported 211 horses were sold $1,585,700, down 39.7% from 2007 when 243 horses brought $2,630,500. The session average of $7,515 represented a decline of 30.6% from last year’s figure of $10,825, while the median decreased 35.7% from $7,000 to $4,500.

So far, 3,456 horses have been sold for a gross of $326,863,500, down 14.8% from last year when 3,627 horses sold for $383,467,100. The average of $94,579 represents a 10.5% dip from $105,726 in 2007.  The median was down 14.9% from $47,000 a year ago to $40,000 this year.

The results for the 14th day were not unexpected, considering the roller-coaster ride the U.S. economy has taken since the sale began Sept. 8 and the shakiness in world financial markets, combined with the ongoing market correction with the Thoroughbred industry.

“The amount of money at every stride of this market is affected by the stock market,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “And we are continuing the market correction that began last year.”

If anything, Keeneland officials and others are probably relieved that the downturn is not more severe.

“We are going to conclude the sale with the fourth-largest (grossing) September sale ever, and to do it in this economic climate is phenomenal,” Russell said. “There is a great crowd, great buzz (today, Sept. 22). There is still a large cross-section of international and domestic buyers. There are some consignors who are having the best sales they ever had.”

Russell noted that Russian buyers who were active during the first week of the sale when the quality was better were still there near the end.

The fall yearling sale record gross of $399,791,800 was set in 2006 when 3,556 horses were sold. That total is followed by the 2007 gross of $385,018,600 (3,799 sold), and the third-highest gross came in 2005 3,545 yearlings were sold for a total $384,349,900.

While the Sept. 22 RNA rate of 21.6% was well above last year’s session rate of 13.5%, it was apparent that breeders and consignors were resigned to selling their horses, even if it meant taking some losses.

“We are seeing horses without any problems, who have clean X-rays and no other flaws, bringing bids of $1,000,” said Dan Kenny, of consignor Four Star Sales.

“The consignors need to be commended for their ability to adapt to this market,” Russell said. “These horses are moving on to other people and breeders and consignors are taking losses. The hardest part of this correction is that the production costs were at their highest so the losses are higher. These consignors understand they need to move these horses along.”

If the number of buyers in attendance Sept. 22 is any indication, there are still those who believe that good value can be had, even in the last two days of the auction when the catalog is permeated by horses that have little or not black-type (indicating stakes success) in their pedigrees.

“A good horse can come from anywhere in this catalog,” Russell said.

Kentucky owner Burr Travis said he has had good success in the past with horses purchased on the last or next-to-last day of the Keeneland sale. And he appreciates being able to get those horses for less than he normally would have to pay.

“We are staying until the very last one goes through the ring,” said Travis, whose horses are selected by trainer Garry Simms. “I think you have to look at all of them. There is always an opportunity.”

Kenny said the large number of horses being offered and downturn in prices is a continuation of the problem of overproduction and the attendant problem of too many unwanted horses. “I don’t think we are facing the problem of unwanted horses,” said Kenny.

Kenny said he would like to see an industry-wide consensus on solutions for the problem of unwanted horses as a way to cope with overproduction. “It is necessary. You can’t find a home for every one of them.

The session’s top price of $52,000 was paid by  Albatroz Bloodstock, agent for Haras Cifra, for a filly by Candy Ride. Consigned by Stony Point, agent, the filly is out of the unraced Dixieland Band mare Wise Love and from the family of stakes winners Mystical Mood, Stevie Wonderboy, and Short Stay.

The sale concludes Tuesday, Sept. 23, in what should be a short session beginning at 10 a.m. Of the 317 head cataloged for the final day, 139 had been withdrawn as of the end of the day Sept. 22.

Download the Data Digest Keeneland September Sale Results PDF.

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