Keeneland announced a new format for its September yearling sale March 13. Comments 24 hours later from some of the marketplace's top consignors are positive, giving the world's largest yearling sale a collective "thumbs up" to the new schedule for 2013.
To read the details about the new format, click here.
The main change to the September sale is the redesign of the first four days of the auction, which has always been comprised of yearlings considered the top end of the crop. For 2013, Keeneland combines what was Book 1 and Book 2 into one broad "Book 1" of approximately 950 horses that will sell Monday through Thursday, Sept. 9-12. Sessions will begin at noon.
Following the traditional "dark day" Friday, Sept. 13, the sale will resume with a two-day Book 2 (Sept. 14-15) and Books 3-6 Sept. 16-20.
Last year 132 horses were part of a "super select" Book 1 that was offered Monday, Sept. 10, followed by a three-day Book 2 that ran Tuesday-Thursday. In 2011, the select Book 1 horses were sold during a pair of evening sessions on Sunday and Monday.
If anything, the smaller Book 1 suffered from the perception it was only for the highest-end buyers in the marketplace with many buyers waiting to dive into the Book 2 horses that could prove to be more affordable.
"Keeneland has done a good job of canvassing the buyers and the sellers when they put this together," said Duncan Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency. "They've tried a few other things that didn't have the shelf life that we wanted but this is going to be fair for the sellers and anybody who has the type horse that can go into that Book 1."
"We are pleased that Keeneland has been tweaking the format to try and meet the market," said Case Clay of Three Chimneys Sales. "It's nice that they have been open and willing to try new things. This is what the market is asking for. It has worked well at Tattersalls (in England)."
While the new format definitely blurs the traditional "Book 1" and "Book 2" horse, it still figures to bring together the cream of the yearling crop and spread them over the first four days of the sale, which is seen as a benefit for both buyer and consignor.
"This should alleviate the issue of the perception that the buyer couldn't compete at the very top end versus some of the major buyers," said Gainesway's director of sales Michael Hernon. "There will be 950 horses in Book 1, so the horses shouldn't be overlooked by any segment of the market.
"There is enough critical mass for the upper-end buyer to take it very seriously, whereas last year, with 132 cataloged (in Book 1)…we knew that number was going to shrink with scratches and so forth. People felt there wasn't enough critical mass and they commenced their interest and serious buying in Book 2."
"For the last few years I have dodged Book 1 and just gone straight to Book 2," said Kitty Taylor of Warrendale Sales. "It was also just a logistic nightmare before that for consignors to be in two barns and be in two places at one time. This alleviates that problem."
"Book 1 was getting to the stage where it was hard to put together a Book 1," said Pat Costello of Paramount Sales. "This will be a big help. Consignors wound up having horses in there that didn't belong. This way, it's more of a level playing field for all of the horses."
The new format should allow buyers more time to look at more horses.
"Some people may think you ought to be able to pick out the good horses and have them in one session," Duncan Taylor said. "The problem is, when you're picking them out, you don't know how they're going to vet, you don't know how they're going to grow in the next two or three months and a lot of things change. It's not as easy to get all the best horses in one session, but at least now you'll get a great number of quality horses for the buyers to come look at. The buyers, hopefully, will show up for all four days because the horses will be evenly spread through the four days."
"There were times that people would only come in for Book 2," said Clay. "They'd come in on that Wednesday and then say, 'Gee I wish I had been here for the Monday/Tuesday sessions.' They would say that every year and it would drive me crazy. So, now more people will come in for those first four days and hopefully they'll stay longer."
If there is any downside to the new format, it is a concern that already existed.
"The only downside is the same downside there always is, and that is the horses all basically come in on the same day," said Kitty Taylor. "So the horses that sell on Thursday are there a lot longer, and that's harder on them. They're young and it is more stressful for them to be there that much longer. If we start selling Monday, we'll ship in at least on Friday and so the horses that sell on Thursday will have been there for about a week, and that's a long time."
Two things everybody can agree on is that the noon start time is a plus for buyers and consignors, and Keeneland has listened to the marketplace.
"It gives people that extra bit of time in the morning for the buyers to finalize their selections," Hernon said.
"It helps the buyers get organized and helps them look more and they don't have to be here as many days because they'll have more time in the mornings to do some work and look," said Duncan Taylor. "Anytime you can save people some time, they appreciate that because they have a lot of other stuff to do."
"It gives us more time to go through data each day as to who we think is on each horse and more time to gather information," said Kitty Taylor.
"Markets change," said Clay. "In 20 years we might be back at a select sale, but for now, and the market that is here, I think Keeneland has adapted well."