Andrew Cary, Select Sales

Andrew Cary, Select Sales

Anne M. Eberhardt

Happy New Auction Year? Maybe, Maybe Not

Consignors and buyers discuss their outlooks for 2011.

What will happen in the Thoroughbred auction ring in 2011? After some tough years, will things get better? Read what buyers and consignors had to say.

Guinness McFadden, sales director, Three Chimneys Farm: “I think we’re headed in the right direction. I see signs of things going up. We might be in a little bit of a valley and bounce along, but I feel like it’s trending upward. Obviously, the stock market is going to play a huge role in what happens between now and the (Fasig-Tipton) July (yearling) sale, but it just feels like people are feeling a little bit better about the economy. From the farm side, bills receivable are down, so I think that’s mainly why I feel good. I kind of feel like we’ve hit the bottom, so to speak. Not to say that it couldn’t have gotten worse, but I think we’re on the valley floor right now.”

Craig Bandoroff, Denali Stud: “The economy is better. I think people have more confidence. I’m actually more optimistic about the business than I was a couple of years ago because we can see a model (for racing) that can work in this business. If you give the public what they want as far as quality and limited duration, there is a market for it. They’re going to come; they’re going to attend; they’re going to enjoy themselves. If you want to give them Aqueduct in January, that’s for the gamblers. But I’m not optimistic that there are actually enough people out there who will adopt it and do what is so clear that the public wants.

“I think this thing (the auction market) has been a very difficult few years for everybody. When a market loses 60% of its value, there’s some real carnage. My hope is that it’s going to stabilize and people are going to start to make money and we’ll have a viable industry.”

Wayne Sweezey, Timber Town Stable: I think the number (of horses) has consolidated down to about where it is going to be. Now we’ve just got to see how people react to the yearling sales, but I think the yearling sales will be OK. With fewer babies being made, with production less, I think we should over the next couple of years start to see some increases in prices, which is encouraging. I’m positive about it.

“If you’re going buy a mare and get in the game, I think now is probably a pretty good time because we’re at the bottom and I think people will be wanting to buy yearlings in the next couple of years. And if you’ve got them and you’ve got good ones, you’re going to make good money.”

Andrew Cary, Select Sales: “I think it will be lot like last year, but hopefully a little better on the top end. I think the middle market is still very strong. Books Two and Three (of the Keeneland September yearling sale catalog) were very competitive. I think people are really honing in on a certain group of sires. It seems that way with bookings this year. There are 10 or 12 sires that are totally full and many of the rest are on the bubble.”

Tommy Eastham, Legacy Bloodstock: “I hope for stabilization and maybe a slight increase. I don’t think we’re going to see a huge increase. I think we’re a few years away from that. But at least we’re starting to get some optimism, some interest, and hopefully it will continue.

“Last year it (the market) wasn’t bad for the right horse. But hopefully we can get to where it’s not just the top 3% or 5% of the (horses being sold that) day that will be able to get all the commercial love. Hopefully it will spread out to be the top 15% or the top 20%.”

Mark Taylor, Taylor Made Sales: “I think 2011 is a little bit of a wild card. We’re finally to the point where the breeders have a notch down on their stud fees. They’ve regrouped and the stud fees for the subsequent crops are going to be even more realistic, so I think that’s going to help. And I think the crop size is going to be reduced just like the stud fees.

“If the foreign participation can stay where it was last year, then I think the market will at least level out and will possibly be a little better.

“But domestically, there are so many things in flux. New York is on the brink of possibly having great stuff happen, but they haven’t gotten all the kinks worked out. When that happens, I think that’s really going to help. California is a mess so that’s bad, and Kentucky is basically a mess, so that’s bad too.

Tony Bowling, Florida pinhooker: “I don’t think it’s going to be a lot different than 2009 or 2010, but it’s going to be a little bit better. The top horses are going to sell well at every market we go to and the lower you get on the totem pole, the more they’re going to struggle. The lower you are, the less that little better is going to be.”

Meg Levy, Bluewater Sales: “When you’re trying move horses that need new homes and it’s a struggle, to say that you’re optimistic is difficult. But I am an eternal optimist. I think our business has a real shot to get together and change things and really make a difference. I think this is our pivotal time. And so I have high hopes, but maybe that’s a little Pollyanna.

“Cyclically, it (the yearling market) has to come up a little bit based on history and graphs. There also will be fewer horses (in foal crops and offered at public auction), so that’s good.”

Davant Latham, Kentucky bloodstock agent: “In 2011 I think we’re going to see more of what we saw last year. The lower end is going to go overseas or disappear altogether and the good horses are still going to be strong or strong enough. I think overall the market is going to be flat. I don’t think you’ll see an increase.”