Anne M. Eberhardt

Market Views: Discussing Keeneland's 1st Week

Market solid for well-conformed weanlings and quality young mares.

Following are comments from buyers and sellers during the first week of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in Lexington. For the most part, in a business where expectations have been lowered by a struggling economy and plunging Thoroughbred prices, most people found the market to be pretty solid for quality stock.

Mark Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency: “It’s going about as expected, Good horses--mares that have depth in their pedigrees, especially mares that are young and are bred to commercial stallions--are selling about like they were last year. They’re selling for fair prices in this market, and nobody is getting hurt; it’s OK. But there’s a long way to fall when there’s a drop-off from those criteria. You start getting into mares that have had four or five foals and haven’t had anything positive happen. Regardless of what segment of the market they’re in, it’s really hard to sell them. We’ve only sold a few mares that you would really say are in that bottom third of the market, but it’s really tough.

“Weanlings are still good. When you lead a weanling up there, if it’s got quality and it vets, the market is just as strong as it was last year. And that gives hope for people buying these mares. If a mare pops out a good weanling, it’s going to be worth more than the mare.”

Eric Hamelback, general manager, Adena Springs Kentucky: “Thus far, we’ve been happy. The ones that we have not sold were very nice mares that Frank (Stronach) was certainly OK about us taking home. Frank has put extremely fair reserves on them, especially considering some of the prices that he paid to buy them. Our program is to get our stallions into the market, and this is the way that he (Stronach) has been doing it for several years. All in all, we feel pretty good about how we’ve done. In all honesty, we have gone well past the reserves Frank set on probably 90% of the mares that we sold.”

Andrew Carey, Select Sales: “Tuesday (Nov. 10) was a really good day for us. We were very happy with how we did. We had that big mare Tears I Cry and she kind of hit everybody’s list, and our foals sold well. But it was still a very difficult market; if you don’t have exactly what they (the buyers) are looking for, it’s like pulling teeth to get them (your horses) sold.

“There is still a strong market for foals and for young mares. Mares that are older, 10 years old and older, are really struggling along with the ones that haven’t proven themselves. But I think there is a lot of optimism for the future, especially with people buying young mares and buying weanlings. It’s still very hard to buy a good one. We looked at a few weanlings that we were hoping to get in the $100,000 to 150,000 range, and they all brought over $200,000. The ones that we’ve liked ourselves that we’re selling have all done well so far. I think there’s optimism that the yearling market will be stronger next year. There aren’t a whole lot of weanlings in the sale, and the ones that are nice are in heavy demand.”

Brian Graves, Gainesway Farm: “It’s been strong for weanlings; everything we chase up there (to the sale pavilion) we don’t get our hands on. It’s also been my experience that every weanling I’ve chased up there has been bought by (pinhooker) Gerry Dilger (of Dromoland Farm).

“I hope the yearling market (in 2010) will be better than it was this year, but I’m guarded about that. I think it will be about the same. But quality will still sell (well).”

Craig Bandoroff, Denali Stud: “I think it’s gone all right. It’s held up well–better than I expected. I don’t know if we’re valuing horses differently, but we’re getting them sold. For the most part, we’re getting them done right about at the reserves.

“This is a very resilient business. There are people who like this business, and they are going to be involved regardless of whether the percentages (for success) are good or not. In my case, I had two very good clients who were prepared to take advantage of an opportunity and buy mares.  We’ll know if we got value eventually, but we were pleased with the quality we were able to buy.”

Randy Hartley, Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds: “The good babies (weanlings) are selling well, and there are just a handful of good babies in here. I think the people who left them in (didn’t scratch) are really getting rewarded for it. I think everybody thought the market was going to be weak, and it’s not. It gives you hope for the industry. I would have hated to have come here and been able to buy everything I really wanted because then I would have known that the market wasn’t strong. It kind of pumps you up and makes you feel like you can pay a little more for a weanling with the market as strong as it is.”

Reynolds Bell, bloodstock agent: “The market has been real solid. I think that good horses are bringing retail prices. When you compare it to past years, it’s not really fair. But I think in this day and time, it’s a strong market.”