The Keeneland September yearling sale faced a stiff test in its opening days in Lexington. Prior to the break from selling Sept. 14, the auction got no support from one big spender of the the recent past and another major player participated sparingly.
Benjamin Leon Jr., a Florida healthcare magnate, didn’t attend the sale and his name appeared on no sale tickets after his Besilu Stables spent $8,175,000 for 13 horses in 2011. John Ferguson, the bloodstock manager for Dubai’s Ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, bought only two yearlings for $400,000 after paying $8,870,00 for 36 head a year ago.
Those two shoppers ranked one-two on the September sale’s 2011 leading buyers’ list by gross expenditures.
Such a dramatic change in two important buyers’ spending habits could have been a recipe for disaster. But the September auction proved to be resilient after it kicked off Sept. 10. The cumulative average price of $202,829 for books one and two of the auction’s catalog was up 5.2% from a year ago and the median price of $150,000 was the same. Other figures included a gross of $132,853,000 for the 655 yearlings that were sold and a buy-back rate of 28.6%.
Seven yearlings commanded prices of $1 million or more compared to six in 2011’s first two books.
Last year there were two select sessions in book one and three sessions in book two. This year there was one select session in book one and three sessions in book two.
"Despite the diminished participation of last year’s two leading buyers, we’ve had other buyers step up and fill the void," said Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales. "It’s a resilient business, and I’m very happy with the way it’s going."
Active in the sale’s first two books were such high-profile buyers and longtime Keeneland clients as Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Co.; Live Oak Plantation’s Charlotte Weber; Fox Hill Farm’s Rick Porter; Qatar’s Prince Fahad Al Thani and his bloodstock adviser, David Redvers; John and Jerry Amerman; and Ben Glass, representing owners Gary and Mary West. Shadwell was the biggest spender, paying $8,250,000 for 17 yearlings. Those horses included the auction’s most expensive horse so far, a $1.65 million Distorted Humor colt.
Top operations such as B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm, Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm, and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farm were prominent as both consignors and buyers.
Two notable owners absent in recent years from the sales scene. Prince Khaled Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms and Shortleaf Stable’s John Ed Anthony, made purchases early in this year’s September auction.
The nation’s leading trainers, including Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Nick Zito, Dale Romans, Jerry Hollendorfer, and John Sadler, were out in force at Keeneland in search of the next generation’s stars. A number of leading consignors of 2-year-olds in training were also busy restocking for the 2013 juvenile sales.
Seven different groups of Japanese buyers, taking advantage of the strength of the yen to the American dollar, were active, spending $7.525 million for 14 yearlings, according to Keeneland. K.K. Eishindo ranked as the fourth-leading spender, purchasing 10 yearlings for $3,260,000. Shigeyuki Okada, owner of Japan’s Big Red Farm, bought the highest-priced horse Sept. 13, paying $1.1 million for an Empire Maker colt.
"When Rogers Beasley and Vin Cox visited Japan last spring, they came away very confident that there would be a strong representation of buyers here in September," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. "The Japanese are enjoying great racing success with Keeneland sales graduates, and the strength of the yen to the dollar makes U.S. horses a good value."
Selling resumes at Keeneland Sept. 15 and will continue through Sept. 21. Each session will begin at 10 a.m. (EDT).