Mike Ryan, Kentucky bloodstock agent

Mike Ryan, Kentucky bloodstock agent

Anne M. Eberhardt

Juvenile Sale Outlook: Modest Expectations

Several consignors make predictions about the market's performance.

It’s almost time for the juvenile selling season to begin. The first major select sale of 2-year-olds in training, conducted by the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. (OBS), is scheduled for Feb. 16 in Central Florida. It will be followed by the Fasig-Tipton Florida, OBS March, Barretts March, and Keeneland April sales.                           

In 2009, the five major select juvenile auctions combined suffered downturns of 33.1% in gross revenue, 28.6% in average price, and 36.5% in median price. Following are comments from several juvenile consignors who discussed their outlook for 2010 and how they prepared for it:

Joe Applebaum, Off the Hook: “We’re going to see some reduced books (smaller catalogs), which should help everyone with basic supply and demand issues. If the demand stabilizes from where it was last year, I think we’ll be OK. My best guess is that it (the market) will be fairly stable, 5% to 10% on either side (up or down) from last year.

“I’m always optimistic. I think if you’re not an optimist, this is a very tough business to be in. We’re excited about the horses that we have, but we need a couple of them to really pull the weight, and we hope that our lesser performers aren’t too much of a drag. We bought a couple less horses (as yearlings) just because there’s not as much money swimming around, but we tried to go for quality in our normal $50,000 to $100,000 price range. We kind of stuck to our philosophy, but we just have a few less horses than we used to.”

Carl Bowling: “The better horses, 10% to 12% (of the ones offered), are going to be selling to the people with the money. That’s basically all that’s going to be solid; the rest are going to be stolen (sold for low prices). You’ll see horses that were bought for $35,000 to $40,000 get resold for $17,000 or $18,000

“(To do well) you need a nice horse with a lot of pedigree whose dam has already produced some stakes horses–a proven deal that’s the wealthy man’s horse. And it’s got to have a decent work. It doesn’t have to be :10 flat; it can be :10 2/5.”

Mike Ryan, a Kentucky bloodstock agent who operates a pinhooking partnership with Niall Brennan: “We’ve got some very good stock, but I’m a little apprehensive. Calder (Fasig-Tipton Florida) is the flagship sale, and if we don’t have a good sale there, it’s going to be a tough time for us. I know they (Fasig-Tipton officials) are working very hard to recruit buyers internationally from Europe, Japan, and Hong Kong.

“We bought fewer yearlings, but we tried to stick with the quality that we’re accustomed to because if you bring a nice horse in there that jumps through all the hoops, it’s still big stuff. But it’s difficult because they (the buyers) want them to be perfect on radiographs, and they want them to be fast on the racetrack. They want them to come back to the barn and have no holes in them. In the 2-year-old market, between scratches and RNAs usually only about 50% of the horses change hands. I’m just hoping that the market holds steady.”

Tony Bowling, All In Sales: “I don’t have a crystal ball, I think it’s going to be just like what we’ve been seeing at every sale that we’ve been to for the last six or eight months or a year. The very top end, the top 10%, is going to be reasonably strong. The next 10% is going to be OK, and then it’s going to start dropping off from there.

“I hate to say it, but I think the averages will be down from last year. The middle to lower markets are going to take a bigger hit this year than they did last year, and that will bring the average for a whole sale down. There’s also going to be less quality at the 2-year-old sales.

“I bought fewer yearlings last year, but I bought better ones. I spent more money per horse trying to get into the top 10% of the market. In these hard times, the very top end of the market is going to be the least affected.”