The Keeneland September yearling auction continued its merciless battering of commercial breeders and consignors, posting results that fell far short of last year’s figures for the third consecutive day even though a filly by the hot sire Medaglia d’Oro brought $1.3 million. During the first of the sale’s 12 open sessions, the gross plummeted 35.6% while the average price dropped 24.1%. The median price plunged 37.5%.
Meanwhile, the buy-back rate soared from 25.4% in 2008 to 34.8% this year.
“For years we’ve been talking about it; we knew today was going to come,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “What was unknown was that the financial crash of last year was going to exaggerate it. It’s the perfect storm, a financial crisis matched with overproduction, so here we are. We wish life was wonderful and always going up, and up, and up, but unfortunately whatever goes up does eventually go down.”
The 229 horses that sold Sept. 16 in Lexington grossed $32,718,000 and averaged $142,873. The median was $100,000. Last year, when 270 yearlings were sold, the gross was $50,807,000. The average was $188,174, and the median was $160,000.
“I think everybody has realized OK, we’re in a different world right now,” said Case Clay of Three Chimneys Sales. “But if you understand what the market is and you’re realistic enough with your reserves, you can get horses moved.”
Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation purchased the session-topping Medaglia d’Oro filly, fending off another American shopper, according to Keeneland’s Russell, who declined to identify the immediate underbidder.
“She’s really nice filly, and I was thrilled that I was able to get her,” Weber said. “But I wish people wouldn’t push so hard and let us all enjoy the reasonableness of this market.”
The exquisite dark bay or brown yearling, which was bred in Florida, was the fourth horse to bring a seven-figure price at this year's September sale. She is a half-sister to 2004 Pimlico Breeders’ Cup Distaff Handicap (gr. III) winner Friel’s for Real, 2008 Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap (gr. III) winner Ryan’s for Real, and another added-money winner, Little Thunder, who scored in the 2006 Artax Handicap at Gulfstream Park. All three stakes winners were sired by Sword Dance. Their dam, the 14-year-old Unreal Zeal mare Beaties for Real, finished second in the Gasparilla Stakes and third in the Sandpiper Stakes in 1998 at Tampa Bay Downs.
“She’s an obvious filly,” said Bruce Hill, who is the general manager of Weber’s farm, Live Oak Plantation, in Central Florida. “The physical, the (sale catalog) page, the vet work, we liked everything. She passed all the tests, ticked all the boxes. She’s a very strong, well-balanced filly, and I would certainly say she is elegant. She’s what we’re looking for as an end user to race and as a long-term investment.”
The price, Hill added, “was probably fair for what the market is, but for us it was maximum; that was as far as we could go. We pushed. We were hoping it would be less than a million dollars, but we’re not surprised by what she brought. We knew we were really going to have to reach down to get her.”
Live Oak Plantation purchased the sale-topping Medaglia d’Oro–Lolabell filly for $275,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. (OBS) August yearling auction. Live Oak also was the immediate under to Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, for the $1.5-million Medaglia d’Oro–Cat Dancer filly at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.
Barbara and Francis Vanlangendonck’s Summerfield sales agency, as agent, sold the $275,000 Medaglia d’Oro filly at OBS in August and also was the consignor of the $1.3-million Medaglia d’Oro filly at Keeneland, acting on behalf of her breeder, Gilbert Campell. He and his wife, Marilyn, own Stonehedge Farm South near Williston, Fla.
“She is special, just absolutely a fabulous individual with a great mind,” said Barbara Vanlangendonck of the $1.3-million yearling. “She has it all — the sire, the dam, the physical — and it seemed like we had everybody on the grounds on her. She got scoped something like 17 times. This is a really cool filly. She has that presence; she has an aura. When she walks out of the stall, people just go, ‘Holy cow!’ You look at her and she just grabs your eye.”
The filly was the first seven-figure auction horse for the Vanlangendoncks.
“This is a very big deal for us’ it’s like winning a grade I race,” Barbara Vanlangendonck said. “It’s a huge home run for the Campbells, too. They have put their hearts, souls, and money into this business, and they are the greatest people.”
While most other yearlings are struggling to bring the amounts their consignors want, the low prices are starting to attract buyers who hadn’t planned to participate, according to Vanlangendonck.
“I have had a number of people call me and say the market is terrible; buy me a racehorse, so I’m in the barns now looking for horses, too,” she said. “I’ve had three or four calls just this morning alone saying, ‘Look at how bad the market is; let’s jump in.’ I love that because we need buyers in this market.”
The September sale started with two select sessions. The cumulative results through three days of selling included a gross of $91,474,000 for the 452 horses that had sold. The average was $202,825, and the median was $150,000. Compared to last year at the same point, when 570 yearlings had been sold, the gross was down 44.3% from $164,164,000. The average was down 29.6% from $288,007. And the median was down 31.8% from $220,000.
The buyback rate was 36.5%, up from 28.2% in 2008.
The Keeneland September sale continues through Sept. 28, with a break from selling Sept. 18. Each session begins at 10 a.m. (EDT).