Three seven-figure horses pumped up the excitement on the second day of the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington, but they didn’t provide a big enough financial boost to end the discouraging slump in the auction’s key business figures. At the end of the two select sessions that kick off the world’s biggest yearling sale, the gross was $58,756,000, down a whopping 48.2% from 2008. It was the smallest total since 1994, when 599 yearlings grossed $49,860,500.
And the other statistics for 2009’s select sessions, which were conducted Sept. 14 and 15, suffered similar fates.
The number sold, 222, was down 26% from last year and was an all-time low for the select sessions, which were inaugurated in 1989. The average price, $264,667, was down 30%, plunging to its lowest point since 1998’s comparable figure of $172,115. And the median price, $215,000, was down 28.3%, falling to its lowest point since 2002’s result of $170,000.
The buy-back rate was 38.2%, up from 30.6% in 2008 and at its highest point ever for the select sessions. The three horses sold for $1 million or more apiece represented the lowest total since two seven figure yearlings were sold during the select sessions of 1997.
“Reality has struck, and it’s going to be rough,” said Headley Bell of Mill Ridge Sales and Nicoma Bloodstock. “This is what we’ve been waiting to find out, and everybody is going to have to do what they’ve got to do to survive.”
Storm ’n Indian, a big, sturdy son of Storm Cat, topped the second session with his $2,050,000 price after no yearlings brought seven-figure prices on the September auction’s opening day. Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, purchased the first foal out of 2006’s champion older female, Fleet Indian, holding off Coolmore Stud’s John Magnier.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, Storm ’n Indian was bred by Frank and Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm near Georgetown, Ky. Summer Wind also bred the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction’s $2.8-million sale topper, On A Storm, another Storm Cat colt that also was bought by Ferguson.
“To breed a horse that looks like this is quite an achievement. Hats off to Summer Wind Farm,” said Ferguson of Fleet Indian’s offspring. “He has a lot of Storm Cat about him, but he’s a very correct, athletic horse. He vetted really well, and he has a great pedigree; now, we just have to hope.”
The Lyonses purchased the 8-year-old Fleet Indian (by Indian Charlie) after she was a $3.9-million buy-back, while carrying Storm ’n Indian, at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“We could not be more thrilled,” said Jane Lyons, who admitted to being “terrified” by the September sale’s overall weak performance so far. “To have a colt be rewarded like that here, today, in this market, is unbelievable. He is a perfect blend (of his sire and dam). He is probably a little more muscled in the hip than she is, but he’s big like she is and probably larger than Storm Cat. He’s very long and covers a lot of ground, and I think he’s beautiful. The one thing he does have is Fleet Indian’s sense. She’s an extremely intelligent mare, and he appears to be very intelligent as well. This one has been very, very well-mannered and easy to handle since birth.”
An Unbridled's Song half-sister to 2002’s champion juvenile male, Vindication (by Seattle Slew), sold for $1 million as did an A.P. Indy colt that is a half-brother to 2009 Darley Debutante (gr. I) and Sorrento (gr. III) Stakes winner Mi Sueno (by Pulpit).
Ferguson bought the dark bay or brown Unbridled’s Song filly from Arthur B. Hancock III’s Stone Farm, agent. Virginia Kraft Payson bred the statuesque yearling in the name of Payson Stud.
“She’s an outstanding individual, and she was raised at Stone Farm, which, as everyone knows, is one of the greatest nurseries in America,” said Ferguson after making the $1-million purchase with Sheikh Mohammed standing nearby. “Our team has seen her many times (before the September sale), and she is a filly that has consistently been exceptional throughout the year. We’re delighted to have her. She’s a real straightforward, quality, no fuss athlete.”
The filly is out of the 17-year-old Strawberry Road mare Strawberry Reason, who scored in the 1995 Martha Washington Stakes (gr. III). Strawberry Reason’s other offspring include 2005 Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) winner Scipion (by A.P. Indy).
“She is outstanding, and I wasn’t going to give her away,” Payson said. “Even with the state of the market, I felt $1 million was a fair price. She is the last foal out of that mare, which is very sad. I lost her in an accident about a year and a half ago.”
Coolmore buying team member Demi O’Byrne purchased the $1-million A.P. Indy colt, saying, “He was my favorite.” The flashy chestnut yearling is out of 2004 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Madcap Escapade, an 8-year-old daughter of Hennessy.
Members of the partnership that bred the colt include Bruce Lunsford and Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, which is headed by John Sikura. Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency was the yearling’s consignor.
Ferguson was the biggest spender during the September auction’s select sessions, paying $13,460,000 for 31 yearlings. Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Co. ranked second, spending $3,915,000 for eight head. O’Byrne was third on the leading buyers’ list, paying $2,980,000 for five horses.
The results for the second session included a gross of $33,807,000 for the 115 horses that sold. The average was $293,974, and the median was $250,000. Compared to a year ago, the number sold fell 21.2%. The gross plunged 41%. The average declined 25.1%. And the median fell 16.7%.
The buy-back rate rose from 32.1% in 2008 to 35% this year.
The sale runs through Sept. 28, with a day off from selling Sept. 18. Each session begins at 10 a.m. (EDT).