Anne M. Eberhardt

Burning Keeneland Questions and Some Answers

What's going on at the September yearling sale and why.

One day prior to the Sept. 14 start of the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington, there was a lot of uncertainty about how the market would perform at a time when the economy was continuing to struggle. There also were some questions about what was going on around the sale grounds. Here they are, and here are their answers:

Where are the leading buyers?
Sheikh Mohammed’s big jet was seen taking off from Blue Grass Field the morning of Sept. 13, but indications were that he would be at Keeneland for the auction’s opening session, and John Ferguson and the rest of the Dubai ruler’s buying team were busy looking at yearlings. Demi O’Byrne and the Coolmore team also were inspecting horses, and O’Byrne was walking well on his recently replaced knee. Legends Racing, which wasn’t active at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale, also won’t be shopping at the September sale, according to Olin Gentry. Last year, Legends Racing was the September auction’s third leading buyer overall and the leading domestic buyer based on gross expenditures, paying $12,010,000 for 29 horses.


Are the Overbrook Farm dispersal horses selling without reserves?
Eaton Sales is handling what is described in the September sale as a “complete dispersal” for Overbrook. Traditionally, in the Thoroughbred auction business, “complete dispersal” has meant there are no reserves on the horses and that is the case with the Overbrook yearlings

“I’ve been asked by some of the world’s greatest horsemen what does complete dispersal really mean?” said Eaton’s Reiley McDonald. “This is not a partnership; this is a family who has declared that nobody is buying any of them. The reserve on any horse is zero.”


What happened to all the free food and beverages?

Jeffrey Seder of the EQB consulting firm joked that one sign of the Thoroughbred market’s health was the difficulty he was having finding a free cup of coffee at the September sales. Some consignors, when the auction business was doing better, had large spreads of food and provided drinks. But this year, they were cutting back on the freebies. To economize, Denali Stud’s Craig Bandoroff stopped offering pistachios. But you could still find rum cake at Mill Ridge Sales, and Lane’s End still was giving away hats with their stallions’ names on them.

At Stone Farm’s barn, Arthur B. Hancock III was joking that he was trying to save money so one of the yearlings was handing out the cards with the horses’ pedigrees and hip numbers listed on them to buyers. That wasn’t exactly the case, but Hip No. 274, a War Front – La Pascua colt, does like to hold one of the cards in his mouth and will do it on command. The staff learned about the special skill when the colt chomped down on one of the cards and wouldn’t let go. Hancock noted that some of the greatest horses have had strange habits, so he’s hoping that this trick is a sign that the colt will be a talented racehorse.

For real-time updates from the Keeneland September Sale, follow @BloodHorse on Twitter.