Sheikh Mohammed

Sheikh Mohammed

Anne M. Eberhardt

Foreign Influences Felt at Keeneland

This year has been no exception for foreign buyer activity at Keeneland.

Every year, the Keeneland September yearling sale is saturated with foreign buyers wishing to add some prominent North American bloodlines to their respective racing industries, and this year’s auction has been no exception.

According to Tom Thornbury, Keeneland’s associate director of sales, through the first six days of the 2010 sale the auction company has had buyers from the United Kingdom, Japan, Ireland, Russia, Canada, Australia, Qatar, Dubai, Brazil, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Venezuela, Argentina, and Peru.

“These countries have developed into middle-to-upper market buyers,” said Thornbury, explaining how many of the foreign buyers had purchased horses out of Book Two. “We’ll see a lot more involvement from other countries once it’s all said and done; we’re only halfway through.”

Thornbury said the activity from overseas buyers keeps increasing each year at the Keeneland September sale primarily because the Thoroughbred competition in the above-mentioned countries continues to improve.

“Keeneland presents more stock and more buying opportunity for those guys (than sales in their own countries), and the quality of the stock is such that no matter where they race—anywhere in the world—they’re very competitive in most cases.”

Thornbury used the example of how Keeneland September sales graduates North Stream, Hersones, and Mamlyuk Bek ran 1-2-3 in this year’s Russian Derby (Rus-I) Aug. 15.

“(Foreign buyers) come to Keeneland because of the crop that we present, and it’s the speed they want to buy,” Thornbury said.

As far as trends go, Thornbury and sales marketing associate Chauncey Morris have seen some strength at the sale this year from buyers in less-prominent Persian Gulf states rather than just Dubai, where Sheikh Mohammed rules. Southern Hemisphere countries tend to be more active at the November breeding stock sale, as they are looking to introduce speed to their gene pools, Thornbury said.

“Every single year, these (foreign) markets seem to grow,” added Morris, who initiated an emerging markets program at Keeneland in the late 1990s and travels the world each year along with the rest of the Keeneland sales staff to promote the auction company and Thoroughbred racing.

“There are places where racing is quite healthy like South America and Asia…these areas are on the rise, and their cultures have been entwined with horses and racing for centuries,” said Thornbury. “Now more people have the opportunity to invest in racing stock, and more people are interested in doing so. Once you spread a little bit of capital around as these countries evolve, racing improves.”