The Keeneland September yearling auction entered its one-day break in serious condition, and the prognosis for improvement didn't look promising. As of Sept. 17, following the sale's fourth session, the alarming symptoms of financial distress included a gross revenue that had nosedived 42.5% from 2008 and an average price that had plunged 31.6%. The median price was down 38.9% while the buy-back rate stood at 34.5%, up from 28% last year.
“It’s a buyers’ market, and it especially will be from here on out,” said Tom McGreevy, a key adviser to Fox Hill Farm's Rick Porter, of the outlook for the Central Kentucky auction following its Sept. 18 day of rest . “While there is always good demand for a good horse, you can find value if you do your homework. A lot of people are a lot more willing to sell than they were in the past. We’ve bought a few yearlings today that I thought were really top horses that probably, in this market, brought significantly less than they would have last year.”
Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, called the September auction’s negative trends “amazingly consistent at all levels of the market.”
The 703 yearlings that sold during the first four days of the auction, which started with two select sessions, grossed $117,659,500 and averaged $167,368. The median was $110,000. Last year, at the same point, 837 horses had been sold for a gross of $204,698,700. The average was $244,562, and the median was $180,000.
“We’ll see a change around of some buyers,” Russell said. “Chauncey Morris (Keeneland’s sales marketing associate) is confident that we’ll see different names on the summary sheets when we come back again (to sell) Saturday. There will be several different groups from parts of Europe, Mexico, and South America. The Russians have been buying all the through, and they’ll stay on.”
But Russell stopped short of discussing whether business would get better or worse.
The results for Sept. 17’s fourth session, the second of the auction’s 12 open sessions, included a gross of $26,185,500 for the 252 horses that sold. The average was $103,911, and the median was $75,000. Compared to last year, when 267 yearlings were sold, the gross fell 35.4% from $40,534,700. The average dropped 31.6% from $151,815. And the median declined 40% from $125,000.
The buy-back rate increased from 27.6% in 2008 to 30.6% this year.
There were no seven-figure horses during the fourth session, but three yearlings sold for $600,000 or more apiece. Scott Ford of Westrock Stables, accompanied by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, paid the session-topping price of $675,000 for a Storm Cat filly and spent $600,000 for a Medaglia d'Oro colt. Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan’s Let’s Go Stable acquired a Candy Ride colt for $630,000, fighting off McGreevy.
Consigned by Eaton Sales, agent for the Overbrook Farm dispersal, the dark bay or brown Storm Cat filly is the second foal out of the 8-year-old Dynaformer mare Winendyneme, who captured the 2004 Manhattan Beach Stakes at Hollywood Park and finished second or third in three graded added-money events in California.
“She was actually our favorite filly of the sale, with her balance and breeding; we loved her mother’s family,” said Ford, who is the former president and chief executive officer of Alltel. He operates Westrock in partnership with his father, Joe, who also is a former Alltel executive, and John McKay.
The Medaglia d’Oro colt is out of the 9-year-old Capote mare Bashful Charmer, who scored in the 1992 Palatine Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Arlington Park. He is a half-brother to Saturday’s Child (by Storm Cat), winner of the 2001 Hildene Stakes at Delaware Park, and Silver Jack (by Grand Slam), who was a group II winner in Mexico in 2007.
“We thought he was perfectly balanced,” said Ford of the bay yearling. “We’ve got a horse that we really like that this one reminds us of, and we think this one is actually what we were looking for the first time. We think he’s going to grow into about a 16-hand horse and be terrific. He’s a beautiful horse.”
Peter Van Andel and Stonewall Farm bred the colt, which was consigned by Indian Creek, agent.
The Candy Ride colt is a half-brother to This Ones for Phil (by Untuttable, who has scored in three added-money events, including this year’s Swale Stakes (gr. II) and the 2008 Seacliff Stakes at Calder Race Course, and Tap Dancer (by Sword Dance), winner of the 2003 Seacliff. Their dam, Heaven’s Gate, is a 17-year-old unraced daughter of Septieme Ciel. She is a half-sister to grade II winners Finality (by Dehere) and Stolen Beauty (by Deputy Minister). Stolen Beauty is the dam of stakes winner Moonlightandbeauty (by Capote), who produced grade III winner Giant Moon (by Giant’s Causeway).
“He looks the part and everything fits,” said Scatuorchio of the chestnut yearling. “You can’t find anything wrong with him. He has great size, and his walk is pretty much as good as they come; he is a great mover. He has the look of a very classy colt, and we feel like he’s going to be quick and possibly early. But he has all the elements to be a good 3-year-old as well, so we’re real excited.”
Padraig Campion’s Blandford Stud consigned the colt, which was bred by E & D Enterprises and the Candy Ride Syndicate.
After selling resumes Sept. 19, the Keeneland auction runs through Sept. 28. Each session will begin at 10 a.m. (EDT).