The cumulative average and median prices were up from a year ago during the first week of the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington. But it wasn’t easy to get horses sold for a profit because of the high stud fees paid to produce them and some people had difficulty coping with a new format. Read what what buyers and consignors had to say:
Bob Baffert, Hall of Fame trainer: “You know what, I didn’t like it (the change in format) at first. For a trainer, it takes so much time; we can’t afford to be away from the barn for long. But now I think it really gives the breeders a chance to showcase some of their really good horses. I think it really helped them. It created a little excitement. It was nice to look at all the Mercedeses first before the Chevys came in.
“The market is tough; it’s really strong. Everyone wants the good ones, so you have to overpay a little bit for a really good horse. I think people are being very careful; if you have to give a little more money for them you have to make sure they vet out fine and all that. I haven’t been able to steal one horse yet, not one horse. But you know what? We’ve got to keep these guys (the breeders) in the business. The horse that topped the sale, I hadn’t seen one like that in years; he was that good a horse.”
John Ferguson, bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed: “I thought that what was particularly pleasing was the fact that good horses continued to sell well. I thought there were plenty of buyers in town. There are still plenty of people who are looking to invest in yearlings and I think that is great for the business going forward.
“I would have to study it (the new format) more closely before commenting, but I think the general reaction that I perceived was that people were more receptive to it after (the first week was completed) than before (the sale).”
David Hager, Idle Hour Farm: “Everything has to be right. If it’s not completely, perfectly right, then they (the buyers) are moving on to other horses. They’re paying you some money for them (the less than perfect yearlings), but they (the horses) aren’t ringing a bell unless they’re perfect.
“I think it (the four-session format for book two of the sale catalog) will be a great format in a good year because people will come and be here all week because they want to buy horses. When there aren’t as many people in town who want to buy horses, there will be a lot that will slip through the cracks. Right now, there are a lot of people who won’t come until late in the week to get started buying and they’re missing the horses on Tuesday and Wednesday that should have been book three horses (under the old format).
“People are more careful with what they want to spend. They want horses that they think that will stay sound. They’re not reaching for those horses with a few little issues. They are more forgiving on the (flaws on the) X-rays, because people are learning that they’re not stopping the horses. But with some of the conformation flaws, they are a little more picky. They’re more concerned if the knee isn’t set right, that kind of thing.
“Things are improving. I think there is a little more bottom (to the market) than we’ve seen in the last couple of years. There are more people here looking and working the sale. There are more people with some money that will buy a horse at a certain price. The last couple of years, there were some horses that would go all the way to the bottom because nobody was there to pick them up. Now I think there is more support in that bottom area. A few more horses at the bottom are getting sold.”
Randy Hartley, Florida pinhooker: “It’s been tough to buy the ones that you really want to buy. We haven’t bought as many as we thought we would have normally because we’ve gotten outrun. We went to $300,000 on a filly this morning and to $275,000 on one last night. We just feel like when we get up that high, that’s about as far as we want to stretch this next year.”
Hugo Merry, European bloodstock agent: “I thought trade would be down a bit, but for the real nice fillies, you have to pay (a lot) for very good individuals and it’s as strong as ever. It’s a very good sale considering the state of the world and the state of racing in a lot of America and England. The market is holding up very well.
“Twenty years ago or 30 years ago we used to turn up and it (the sale) was a social event. Now it’s a very professional business. It’s a bugger on the breeders. The buyers have their very good physicals guys and they’ve also got their pedigree guys (to help scrutinize the yearlings). The breeder has a tough go, so that’s why he must be well-rewarded for the exceptional horse when they bring one up here.”
Hoby Kight, pinhooker: “It’s hard. I’m not a breeder, so I don’t have all my money tied up in stud fees. But as a guy trying to buy horses, the ones that I want are bringing plenty of money, just like always.”
Brian Graves, Gainesway: “The market is spotty. You’re lucky to have one or two (really top horses that attract a lot of buyer interest) in each session. With all the other horses that are just a touch off of the most select or the most desired, you’re just finding them a new home and it’s not necessarily a profitable scenario based on the stud fee.
“Let me say that for me, it (the new format) has been a learning curve and I don’t know if I’m used to it yet. Based on the numbers of the sale, it seems that it’s not a bad thing. But it’s hard to manage your horses. I’m not necessarily used to selling every day, and there is so much overlap. If I’m at the (sale) ring, I can’t be in the barn that I’m selling from and I certainly can’t be in the other barn that’s showing at the same time. It’s a little hard from that standpoint.
“The buyers always find the very select horses, but I wouldn’t mind being around the barn more for the others. I think the horse business has always been a relationship business and if you’re at the barn, you see opportunities to show people horses that maybe weren’t on their lists or show a horse to someone that you know he would like because you have a relationship with him. If you’re busy in the ring or you’re at another barn, you miss that opportunity.
“We were selling book one horses while we were in two different barns for book two. It spreads the consignor very thin and it probably raises most consignors’ expenses because they have to hire more people (to handle their consignments).”
Doug Cauthen, WinStar Farm: “If you set conservative reserves, which we’ve done, you’re selling horses and getting some trade done. It’s kind of a ‘getting through’ kind of the year for all of us, We had a really good colt early on that just didn’t get the attention he needed, Well Armed’s brother, but other than that, it’s been a fair market.”