What a difference a year makes. At this point in 2011, it was snowing and the temperatures were frigid as the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale was getting ready to start. In addition, the Thoroughbred auction industry was coming off its fourth consecutive year of setbacks.
This time around, the sky is sunny in Central Kentucky, temperatures are unseasonably warm, and the Thoroughbred marketplace has rebounded. On Jan. 8, one day before the start of the January auction’s 2012 edition, consignors and buyers generally were busy and in a good mood. Read what some of them had to say:
Guinness McFadden, Three Chimneys Sales: “We’re cautiously optimistic coming off last November, which was good. I think everyone was pleased with that (Keeneland) sale. Having no major dispersals in this sale, it will be interesting to see how the market is. But I think it will be like in past times: If you bring a good horse here, you’ll get fair market value.
“There are fewer horses and it’s the lower end that has been cut out. Our quality seems like it’s up for the January sale and on the farm. Fewer low end mares are getting bred and it just seems like the industry has corrected itself in a proper fashion.
“We’ve been really busy. I can’t say it’s busier than at any other sales in the past, but we were slammed all day yesterday.”
Jody Huckabay, Elm Tree Farm: “We have several clients who have called and are here. If we find horses we like, we’ve got people who are willing to buy them. But everything has got to fit what we want to have. We have been very fortunate and blessed over the last few years and we’re constantly trying to improve our broodmare band. The good mares are going to be tough to buy because everybody is going to be zoned in on the same mares.”
Frank Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency: “It’s like a lot of January sales. I don’t know how much quality is here. But I think there’s action (in the barns); it seems like people are interested. It seems like they’re looking more. But I don’t know if it’s just that it’s easier to look at the horses (because the weather is better) or there actually is more interest. We’ll see how it goes.
“I think it (the Thoroughbred marketplace in general) is going to get better because the numbers (of horses being raised) are down and things are going good in New York. In business it always helps, when you’ve been overproducing, when that overproduction is over. The guys who are survivors are going to stay in here and keep swinging.”
Archie St. George, St. George Sales: “Based on 2011, you have to feel good. It (the market) was very solid for yearlings and other horses. Even if you take the dispersals out, November was a good sale, especially for foals. Maybe for the middle of the road mare it was tough, but nice foals sold through the roof.
“It seems like there are plenty of people here. We’ve probably showed just as much as we did in November. The middle of the road mares probably have attracted a little more interest along with the ones that are on the bubble -- the ones that have had a few foals and need a runner or are a little bit up in age. In November, I think everyone was focused on the dispersals that had wonderful families that they would never be able to get into again.
“I’m sure the market for nice foals will be as strong as it’s ever been. The yearling sales were good and probably people didn’t get what they wanted in November. It was strong in November so you’d have to think that’s going to have a positive effect on the January sale.”
Brandon Perry, Paragon Farms: “We’ve been extremely busy and one reason is that, I think, the weather has been much nicer. People are just in a better mood.
“We had a couple of babies (short yearlings) yesterday that I don’t know if they ever got to go back in their stall for eight hours. We have an Elusive Quality colt that has been shown 90 times, which is more than I’ve ever shown a horse before.
“I think there are still a lot of people looking for babies and finally the supply and demand situation is getting more in check. Pinhookers and end users are both looking, which is a good sign. At the end of the day, quality always sells, and that’s the key, to have quality individuals.”
John Stuart, Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services: “I’m pretty optimistic about the horse business in general and I'm looking for horses to buy. People have been buying a lot of horses privately, racehorses mostly. We bought a horse in Chile a couple of weeks ago to come here to race, and we sold an expensive horse to go to Australia to race from here. The phone is ringing.
“The economy has sort of settled and that’s helped. But that (Keeneland) November sale really gave things a lift. Those horses were such nice horses and they sold for so much money.”
Tom VanMeter, VanMeter Sales: “She (Mons Venus, the dam of grade II winner Caracortado) was shown about 45 times yesterday and has been out another 15 times already this morning. That’s a lot for any mare at any sale. She’s owned by Mike Machowsky. Mike saw the results of the (Keeneland) November sale and that’s what made him think to hustle to get her in here.
“The November sale made people feel better even though, as we all know, if you take the big dispersals out, it maybe wasn’t that good for us common people. But it did make all boats rise somewhat, I thought.”
Martin O’Dowd, Runnymede Farm: “The good weather brings people out and they have a better attitude. They’re looking and they’re enthusiastic. It’s a nice day and everything’s better. The horses even look better.
“Going by the reaction of buyers here, I think the foal market is going to be really strong. All the pinhookers are back out and there is more confidence in the air than there was at this time last year. The yearling market was a bit better last year and things, generally speaking, in the economy seem to be a little bit more positive.
“We just have one foal (short yearling) here and we’ve been very busy. We showed him (a colt by Arch) 57 times yesterday. He’s been out of his stall a little over 20 times already this morning and he’s had four scopes (endoscopic throat examinations), I believe, so far. That seems like an awful lot to me.”