The mood was upbeat at Keeneland the morning after the Sept. 12 opening session of the September yearling sale, which produced a $4.2 million colt and figures above or close to last year’s results even though there were format changes. Read what buyers and consignors had to say:
Gary Contessa, trainer: “I like it (the new format). I like it because I think the sale becomes more of a social event and it’s good for the buyers. We have all day to look at horses, we get a little break, and then we come back in the evening. I like the setting and I like the atmosphere. I like that the people dress a little nicer and they seem to be a little more serious. I think it creates a separation of the daytime sessions and the select sessions. It almost felt like Saratoga. It had a good feeling to it as far as I’m concerned. Did it make it harder to buy a horse? No, no more, no less. It’s always hard to buy a horse here the first couple days. I think it had a nice feel to it and I enjoyed it.”
Dan Kenny, Four Star Sales: “Last night, certainly the new format didn’t hurt anything. Lots of people were out there to bid on not so many horses, and I think any time you have that situation, there’s an element of you have to be ready to duel. Having a crowd around and a buzz makes people want to compete. When you compare it to some daytime sessions we’ve had in the last couple years, there were not enough people there to make everybody compete. That part (attracting more people) was good, and I can’t tell you how many people used that phrase, ‘This is just like the old days.’ Keeneland has got to be happy to hear that reaction to a fairly risky new policy. It didn’t have to work.”
Stacy Yagoda, pinhooker: “I actually kind of like it (the new format). It’s a lot easier to look at a hundred horses in a session than 300. It breaks the day up and you can go home or back to your hotel and take a nap.”
Wayne Sweezey, Sweezey and Partners: “I thought that from looking at the results that they (Keeneland officials) did a good job of putting horses together. They damn sure got people’s attention and got folks into the pavilion to buy horses. I thought the boys did a good job. Prior to it all happening, I was questioning whether it was a really great idea. I was starting to worry a little bit that we had kind of exposed ourselves with what I think were the better horses, and then rather have the sale end like Saratoga would end, we had all these other horses shipping in (for later sessions). But we have had a pretty good sale; I’m pretty happy with it. Considering the market and considering the individuals and the pedigrees, my horses sold OK. My guys (clients) are sellers, so they’re not going to be able to push the envelope. Overall, the boys’ (Keeneland officials’) format appears to have worked. They are selling the right horses and they had the right energy. I was actually a little surprised.”
Jonathan Mills, Rabbah Bloodstock: “It’s a new format, and at this stage, we’ll just have to see how it is, how the sale works out by the end of the week. But at the end of the day, it’s a horse sale, so we’ll come to look at the horses. How they’re put through the sale ring doesn’t really make a huge amount of difference to me. If the horses are good and they (our clients) like them, we always look at them. I thought there were some solid horses in there, and the prices reflected that and held up relatively well.”
Cot Campbell, Dogwood Stable: “I haven’t studied the numbers, but it seemed very strong and vigorous and enthusiastic to me. I thought the night sessions lent a glimmer of glamour to the proceedings. I thought it was a horse sale that pleasantly surprised some of the consignors. I was about to give up and come back on Thursday (because of increased competition), but I finally bought one (No. 71) and got done what I needed to do. It certainly did not make me mad. I’m willing to play within the confines of the ballpark.”
Tony Lacy, Four Star Sales: “There was a real atmosphere around here last night. People were coming in and they were even bringing their kids. That created a little bit of a difference (in the atmosphere). It was like the old July sale. People dressed up a little bit and there was a little bit of fanfare. I don’t know whether it will happen every year, but it was nice to give the sale a little kick again. I think that kick actually will help the whole sale because people now have confidence. In the early part of the sale, when people lack confidence, they are hesitant to spend, even if they want to buy, because they don’t want to look foolish. I think last night, with the $4.2 million horse, it really gave it a ‘we’re back’ feel.”
Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer: “I thought the horses sold well. I thought the sale was strong. As successful as it looked like it was, it probably was a good idea (to sell at night). You have to have an open mind. It went well, and I think we’re going to have to be ready to do it again. I don’t particularly like it because I’m an early morning person. I go to bed early, so it was past my bedtime when it was over, but it was OK. We need to try different things to help out the industry. The horses were nice.”
Tommy Eastham, Legacy Bloodstock: “I think it (the new format) is great because we bring entertainment back to a business that needs to have more entertainment involved. Even though we had a lot of people here that might not have been in the horse business, they came out and created energy. It was an electric atmosphere. For us guys, it’s a day-to-day job, but for the people we need in the business to make it healthy, it’s a form of entertainment.”
Reiley McDonald, Eaton Sales: “I’ve listened to a lot of people who have ideas about why it (the format change) was good or bad, and I probably heard more complaints. But from my perspective, it allowed us all to ease into the sale. It allowed people to get a lot of work done. It spread people through the grounds so they weren’t climbing all over each other after the initial onslaught, and I thought the night session had a little buzz to it. In a soft market, I thought it was a better than expected sale and possibly some of it was due to the new format. On reflection, I thought we had a pretty darn good sale considering the state of the market. We took two home out of 13 and that’s a pretty good clearance rate. In fairness, I was quite worried about the market, but at the end of the night, I thought it was a pretty good sale.”
John Sikura, Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency: “As far as I’m concerned, we’re flexible about the format. It’s whatever the buyers like. I like the idea of the night sessions and trying to create some glamour and excitement and trying to frontload the sale a little bit (with quality horses). I think it frames it up well and gives, especially today, a lot of good feeling about the marketplace and stability. I think it will probably carry forward. I think it was a pretty strong market.
“We had two horses and both sold to expectations. One made a fortune of money, an A.P. Indy colt. It proved that if you lead the right horse in here with the right amount of charisma in front of a group of wealthy, serious people, it (a yearling) can still make as much money now as it did several years ago. There aren’t as many of them (expensive horses), but it’s still a pretty seductive scenario. When a colt is big, strong, and made right and is well-connected (genetically), it’s hard for buyers to resist him. The allure of the game is still here. We’ve only had one evening and there are still a lot of horses to sell, but when you have the right horse that people like, they’re going to sell well.”
Marette Farrell, bloodstock agent: “I think a lot of people were skeptical initially. They weren’t sure how it would work out. But I think people were pleasantly surprised at how much electricity there was there last night. There were obviously some out of the park prices. But I’m sure there were people who were disappointed because three months ago, they were all thinking they had high-six-figure horses because they were the elite of their foal crop, the top 200, and there were some $300,000s and $150,000s and maybe some vet issues. There were a couple fillies with beautiful pedigrees last night and there weren’t fireworks.
“It was a mixed bag (of horses in the select sessions). There were some awesome physicals, but there are some very nice horses (in book two of the sale catalog) that could easily have surpassed them. For the nice horses, people were certainly there to buy them. Sheikh Mohammed was quiet, but other people filled in the gaps. I think that was great for the horse business. There are a lot of things you can take out of last night, and that was one of them for sure. It was very positive.
“I think that they (Keeneland officials) have got it right. But maybe they have to tighten it up and have just one night of the stars. Not 200 horses, but 100 horses, pure absolute knockouts that everyone wants every single one of them. There will be lots of suggestions, I’m sure, but I think everybody is excited again.”
Ciaran Dunne, Florida pinhooker: “I thought the horses were very good and the selection process actually worked. As a group, you walked around and the horses were very impressive. It was kind of nice last night with the crowd and there was an atmosphere. It was more like an occasion than work. If that was what they (Keeneland officials) were trying to achieve, they accomplished their goal.”
Matt Lyons, Woodford Thoroughbreds: “There were a lot of people up there (at the sale pavilion) last night. There was a big crowd and a fair bit of excitement. We were selling right after that big colt went through, which maybe wasn’t a big help to us, but I think there was lot of buzz.
“I liked the lounge set up there in the Equestrian Room (in the Keeneland grandstand) for the owners and buyers. There were cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres. I think that was a good thing. I saw a lot of people up there before the sale started getting their game plans together. It gave them a chance to sit down in a good setting and have a snack and a few drinks. I heard a few grumbles from trainers who had to drive back to Louisville at midnight last night after waiting around to buy horses, but overall I think it went down pretty well.
“The market looked strong to me. The colt that we sold, sold for above his reserve. He had enough people on him. The result sheet looked positive. There were a lot of different buyers. Considering some of the old reliables weren’t up there on top of the list, it looked like a good sale.”
Holly Bandoroff, Denali Stud: “I saw a lot of people here that I haven’t seen in a while. I know certainly some of them were spectators, but I think it was exciting. It was fun to see people excited about being there. I felt like there was a good buzz.”
Bill Farish, Lane’s End: “I liked it (the new format) a lot. I think it creates a great select sale atmosphere, and the buzz before the sale was great. It was a little crowded, but you take the good with the bad.
“I thought the market started out pretty strong; it was a little spotty in the middle; and it finished up pretty strong. Maybe that’s because that’s how our horses fell. But I thought it was pretty good. Obviously, we don’t have a great, great market right now, but for the market that we’re in, I thought it was a very good sale. The horses we sold, sold well. I don’t think we sold any that were only one (bid) above the reserve or anything like that.”
Mandy Pope, Whisper Hill Farm: “I was kind of waiting to see it play out, but I think things went very well last night. I think they (Keeneland officials) have done a fairly good job with what horses they have put in the select sessions and I’m finding lots of ones that I’m interested in. I started shopping a couple of days ago. I haven’t bought anything yet. The ones that I was interested in brought way more than what I wanted to pay for them, which is a good sign of the times.”
Brereton Jones, Airdrie Stud: “I loved the new format because people had time to look and they had a format where they could really have more fun. There was a higher sense of ‘this is a great industry and even though we’ve got a thousand problems we still love this industry.' Last night people were kind of remembering why they loved this industry. There was a lot of camaraderie here. It was almost like a pep rally before the homecoming football game, and I loved it. It was good to feel that again. Now we have to follow it up and make certain that people really get the enjoyment from our product.
“I thought that the market was very realistic. Every now and then you can hit a major home run. I thought it was fabulous the colt brought $4.2 million because the Amermans (breeders John and Jerry) are wonderful people – honest people, good people, sportsmen.”
Case Clay, Three Chimneys Sales: “If somebody is going to spend $4.2 million on a yearling, I don’t care what time the sale is. It was crowded last night with real people – people who were in the business whether it was buying or selling or writing about it. There weren’t tourists around; it was all horse-based, so that was good.
“We had a good night. Our horses were pretty much right there where our expectations were. Our expectations weren’t through the roof just because of what the market is. We held our expectations at bay and they (the horses) met them. We were pleased.”
Kitty Taylor, Warrendale Sales: “I like it (the new format) because it gives me time during the day to really get myself in order, go through my vetting, go through my (number of) looks, and have the luxury of a little more time. I think that’s nice. The atmosphere was great; it was exciting; and people liked it.”
“I thought the market was good. I did very well with two horses. I had quite a bit of vetting on my Pulpit filly and on my Tiznow. My disappointment was a (yearling by a) first-year sire, a Hard Spun colt. He had some vetting, but I think if you come to book one (of the sale catalog) with a (yearling by a) first year sire, it better be with a filly with a lot of pedigree, not a colt, unless he’s just a rock star, or you’re going to get a spanking. I wouldn’t bring a freshman-sired colt to the select sessions unless he’s the best physical on the grounds so that people have to want him. With a first year (sired) filly with pedigree, you’re OK because there is residual value and the buyers can see that. But colts right now by first year sires, they’re just hands off to a lot of people.”