Andy Havens, Havens Bloodstock Agency

Andy Havens, Havens Bloodstock Agency

David Young/Blood-Horse Publications

Buyers, Consignors Reflect on Keeneland Sale

Participants in the breeding stock auction discuss the market.

Read below what buyers and consignors had to say about the market during the first week of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in Lexington:

Andy Havens, Havens Bloodstock Agency: “The sale is pretty good. It’s been better than expected for mares. I’m just glad to see some people stepping up to buy some of these young mares and having confidence in the business. But I think the older mares are kind of tough (to get sold). At 13 (years of age) is probably when they seem to start tailing off unless they’ve really got something going for them.”

Mike McMahon, McMahon Bloodstock: “We’re short-listing 10 to 15 weanlings a day, vetting them, and giving it a good shot every day to try to buy some. It’s very competitive with the Woods Edge crowd and the Gainesway and Brian Graves crowd. There are still plenty of people buying weanlings.”

Brent Fernung, Journeyman Stud: “It looks to me like the quality of the book is down, probably because people who don’t have to sell these really good mares aren’t in the mood to do it right now. Considering that fact, I think the market has held up remarkably well.

“Broodmares, right now, they’re dragging behind everything else just because people see them as such a long-term project and kind of a (financial) drain on them at a time when they don’t need that. If mares aren’t being protected (by reserves), they can fall a long ways. I think a lot of these mares are selling for one bid above the reserve or something like that.

“I love broodmares; to me they’re the soundest investment you can make in this business, but they do require a lot of work and a lot of time. If you’re in deep water (financially), you might not want to spend all that time trying to get out of it.

“When you see that yearling market bounce back real strong and have a 15% increase and see smiles on some of these people’s faces, they’ll be back in the broodmare market. The credit has dried up so thoroughly that you’ve got to have the cash in hand to be able to buy mares. And if anybody has got cash in hand right now, they’re probably holding on to it pretty tight.”

Carrie Brogden, Select Sales: “They better be very careful setting and pricing first-year stallions. I brought a very nice Curlin  filly that had four vets and she brought $72,000, and his stud fee the first year was like $75,000. It was very nice of Stonestreet to support their stable and she’s a lovely filly, but all the pinhookers seem to want to pull up at a certain level because they know if you get an outstanding yearling by a first-year horse, $100,000 is about the limit now (on what buyers will pay).

“I think the market overall is very strong for quality, but it’s a far drop if you have a mare with some age. We bought a youngish Smart Strike mare in foal--with her fourth or fifth foal--to Dixie Union. We bought her for $20,000 for our mare partnership, and he stood for $35,000 (down from $50,000 in 2008) and I couldn’t get in to him (to breed a mare this year). Buyers are being really tough on mares if they haven’t had a black-type horse within (their first) four foals.”

"The biggest bargains I’m seeing are stakes mares that are maidens and broodmare prospects. There was a graded stakes-placed Tiznow  filly with a very nice family that brought $25,000 as a broodmare prospect. To me, that was bargain central, if you have cash flow. But everybody wants pregnant mares now, and they better have a hot covering sire.”

Ben Walden Jr., Pauls Mill: “I think the broodmare market has got opportunity. I bought a mare earlier that I think is evidence of that. In books one, two, and three (of the sale’s catalog), things can slip through the cracks. There aren’t a lot of people in that market really looking for mares.”

Dell Hancock, Claiborne Farm: “The good ones, everybody is on. It’s kind of business as usual.”

Allan Lavin, Longfield Farm: “I think the market is acting like the sport of racing. I think it’s trailing the sport; it’s not trailing the economy. I’m tired of hanging our hat on the economy. When the Dow was at 14,000, the market was beginning to slacken. I don’t think we give enough attention to the sport’s failings and its loss of traction or market share.

“Until racing is a better attraction and a more exciting attracting, I think we’re going to see a continuation of our problems (in the auction business). The foal crop falling (in size), that’s a good thing. But it’s not a good thing if the number of buyers declines at the same or an accelerated rate. It doesn’t matter how small the foal crop is if we don’t increase participation in racing.”

John Stuart, Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services: “I think it s a little easier to buy mares. We’ve bought three mares and they cost about $800,000 and I was prepared to give about$1 million for the three. The babies (weanlings) look like they’ve been plenty strong. I tried to buy a few of them and I just got sent away fast.

“It’s a good horse sale, but the mares are a little weaker than the foals. I sure hope some Americans buy some mares and they don’t all leave the country, all the quality ones. It worries me.”

Reynolds Bell, Kentucky bloodstock agent and chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association: “If you want to be in this business, in my opinion, you buy as much quality as you can afford because the quality is what produces the returns either on the racetrack or in the sales ring.”