Keeneland September Sale

Keeneland September Sale

Joe DiOrio

Yearling Market Roars Through Book Three

Day seven average up 37.8% over a year ago; 23% for sale to date.

The yearling market continued its incredible run Sept. 18 as Keeneland concluded Book Three during its seventh day of the September yearling sale, highlighted by across-the-board increases in all indices including a top price of $430,000 for a son of Quiet American.

For the session, Keeneland sold 292 horses for $20,575,000, an increase in the gross of a whopping 35.9% over 2010 when 296 horses brought $15,130,700. The average price for the day of $70,462 rose 37.8% over last year’s average of $51,117. The median price of $50,000 was up 26.5% over the $39,500 posted in 2010.

The mood was remarkably upbeat around the sale ring and in the back walking ring that had plenty of hustle and bustle as the second day of Book Three drew to a close. A brief survey of buyers and sellers suggested the market’s upswing lies with more upbeat buyers that are perhaps tired of the recent gyrations on Wall Street and are in more of a mood to spend money after keeping it on the sidelines over the last few years.

Those comments were backed up by Tom Thornbury, Keeneland’s associate director of sales.

 “This year there has been a little pent-up enthusiasm; the buyers are anxious to buy,” Thornbury said. “People have been sitting on money for a while, plus we have unusual tax incentives that expire at the end of this year. That pushes a guy into that mood as well…and there’s a lot of thanks for that. It’s encouraging for the breeders. It’s been three years since they’ve had any smiles on their faces.

“There’s encouragement,” he continued. “There’s the feeling ‘we can still farm; we can still breed. Let’s go racing.’ That’s great; that’s great for the business. And this is the market. All of the other sales are the appetizer and this is the main course for the majority. And the median will tell you the money is being spread into more pockets now. As the majority gets the benefit from this market and this market is good for everyone. That is why you are seeing the smiles on their faces."

Just past the midpoint of the 13-day sale, Keeneland has sold 1,325 yearlings for $186,405,000, up 7.2% from last year’s gross of $173,754,700. Average price of $140,683 is up 23% from $114,237 in 2010. The median price—a better marker for the overall strength of the market--continued to hold strong, increasing 42.8% to $100,000.

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In another example of the day’s strength and depth, seven horses brought final bids of $250,000 or more and 36 yearlings sold for a minimum of $150,000.

“Each sale has a life of its own and as it transitions from day to day and from book to book, it seems to slow a bit. But today has been a strong day—it’s been a stronger day than Saturday,” said George Isaacs, general manager of Central Florida’s Bridlewood Farm.

“I talked to a consigner, Lane’s End, for instance,” Thornbury said. “They had 84 horses to sell Saturday and Sunday (Book Three) and those 84 horses showed 9,100 times. That’s staggering; those are shocking numbers. Other consigners will tell you the same. They’ve shown more and they’ve said, ‘they’re (buyers) just running us off our feet.’

Brad Kelley, in the name of his Bluegrass Hall, paid the day’s top price of $430,000 for a colt by Quiet American from the consignment of Baccari Bloodstock, agent. The colt is out of the A.P. Indy mare No Knocks, a half sister to champion Pleasant Tap and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Go for Gin.

“We waited all day for this colt,” said Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who signed the ticket on behalf of Kelley. “I thought he had that classic look and the pedigree said the same thing with Pleasant Tap and Go for Gin. I’m real pleased to get him. He went a little stronger than I thought he would. But the money is still here; people want racehorses.

“Before I quit the game I’d like to win another classic, and I’d like to win it for Mr. Kelley,” Lukas added. “He’s been a trooper all week buying horses, and I think we’re building a very solid racing stable.”  

Lane’s End, as agent for Fares Farm, consigned the session’s second-highest priced yearling, a colt by Giant's Causeway , purchased for $300,000 by Ben Glass, on behalf of Gary and Mary West. The colt is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Comeon Dixie, a half sister to graded stakes winners Limehouse and Blues and Royals.

“It’s been a domestic-driven market so far, and that’s great,” Thornbury said. “We’ve seen a lot of foreign interest and we have a lot of foreign interest to come. There is always a lot more foreign interest in the second week and those are markets we’ve developed over the years.”

Book Four gets underway Monday at 10 a.m.