David Hager, Idle Hour Farm

David Hager, Idle Hour Farm

Anne M. Eberhardt

Market Chatter: Discussing the January Sale

Auction participants give their opinions about business at Keeneland.

The Keeneland January horses of all ages sale turned in an encouraging performance during its opening days in Lexington. During the second session, the cumulative gross passed the total for last year’s entire auction.

The average and median prices also were up and the buy-back rate was down. Following are comments from the auction’s participants about the market and the Thoroughbred auction business in general:

David Hager, Idle Hour Farm: “We had a really busy showing day yesterday (Jan. 10). There are a lot of people here and they seem very excited again about horses. They all want the babies (short yearlings). There is a shortage in the product now and there’s been an upswing in the market. I think a lot of people are ready to play that upswing. I’m seeing all the same buyers, but there are also some new people, some people that I don’t know.

“With the babies, it’s like a revolving door, they’re in and out, in and out (of their stalls), which is nice to see. It’s busy for certain mares, but they have to have something that’s unique, a little different, (to attract a lot of attention).”

Cris Caldwell, Keeneland auctioneer: “The sale has actually been very, very surprising and very good. We were worried about the January sale being smaller and not having the important dispersals that we had in November, but it seems like the desire (of the buyers to acquire horses) is still there. As a person told me yesterday, ‘It seems like people think they’re not going to make any more of these.’ It’s been very, very healthy all the way through the foals and also the mares. When they (the mares) are a package (with a good race record, pedigree, and covering sire) and everything works -- when they haven’t too many barren years -- they (the buyers) will give you everything they’re worth.”

George Krikorian, sold Topliner through Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency for $1.4 million: “I think (in the horse business) just like the rest of the economy there has been an over-valuation. There’s been an over-valuation of real estate, the stock market, and horseflesh as well. There’s been an adjustment and over a period of time prices will probably climb again as the economy improves.”

Michael Hernon, Gainesway Sales: "As normal, quality sells. It’s always in fashion. I think the market is good, it’s solid. I think we saw a turn-around in September and that was carried over into November. My feeling is bloodstock is still a good commodity to be trading in."

Don Graham, Florida pinhooker: “It’s been tough (to buy yearlings). The ones that come through, the really nice babies, are bringing a lot of money, what I think is a premium. The real pretty individuals that come up here, they’re covered up. A lot of people are looking at them. They’re bringing 20% to 25% more than I think they will.

“I think I’ve been bidding mostly against end users because I haven’t actually seen that many pinhookers. They (consignors) also have scratched a lot of babies, and that’s made it a lot more difficult. But I’m glad to see it (the enthusiasm). I think it’s going to have a domino effect (on other sales). I’m glad to see the market pick back up again. It had been going in the wrong direction for about three or four years.”  

Carrie Brogden, Select Sales: “The market is very positive for what’s here. You get a very, very fair appraisal of your horse. When I see a mare I think is capable of bringing $50,000, she may bring $40,000 or she may bring $60,000, but she won’t bring $150,000. There’s good money for the horses that jump through all the hoops, but it’s not crazy and it’s not insane. I like the stability of it. There isn’t the frenzy like there was before the market crashed.”

Wayne Sweezey, Sweezey and Partners: “For attractive, young horses, there are people paying good money for them. Sometimes I think they might be paying a little more than they should be if they’re looking to pinhook. But the average horse is still just an average horse.

“I have sold some young maidens (maiden mares) for what I thought were real fair prices, better than I anticipated. I think people are still looking to breed regionally; that’s where they (the maidens I sold) seemed to be going. To get a good mare, you’re definitely having to pay for it. I bought a little maiden mare for myself this year and paid a little more than I anticipated, but I love what I bought. Overall, I think it’s a really good market.”

Marty Takacs, Belvedere Farm: “I’m mystified. When I looked today (Jan. 11) and I saw the gross was better for the first two days (than for the entire sale in 2011), I didn’t understand it. But it’s great. If you’ve got what they (buyers) want, they’re paying a lot of money for it. If you don’t have what they want, you’re kind of out there by yourself.

“I don’t have the really good horses, so that’s why I’m going to the regional programs. I’ve been breeding in New York for several years, and it’s looking good. I sold a New York-bred weanling by Parading for $65,000 last year.”

Esther Marr contributed to this story.