Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Final Gross Down 53.4%

Six-session sale produces low numbers and plenty of outs.

The final results of the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale in Lexington were sobering, with setbacks of 53.4% in gross revenue, 48% in average price, and 44.1% in median price from a year ago. But they weren’t anything new to the people who market Thoroughbreds.

Sellers experienced similar steep downturns in business during the latter part of 2008, when a financial crisis in America spread throughout the world.

“Horses that were inflated or overpriced are back where they should be, and now we’re shaking out a lot of the chaff,” said Mill Ridge Sales’ Bayne Welker, who will join the staff of Fasig-Tipton Jan. 21. “Is it painful? Yes, and it will be for a while. But it will make everybody a lot stronger in the end.”

The 1,338 horses that sold during the January auction’s six-day run, which ended Jan. 17, grossed $32,824,000 and averaged $24,532. The median price was $9,500. Last year, the 1,493 horses that sold grossed $70,446,000. The average was $47,185, and the median reached an all-time sale high of $17,000.

Based on The Blood-Horse’s records, this year’s number sold was the lowest since 2004, when the total was 1,258. The gross was the lowest since the comparable figure of $31,186,000 in 2003. The average was the lowest since 1997, when the result was $23,994. And the median was the lowest since 1996’s middle market statistic of $8,000.

The bright spot among 2009’s overwhelmingly negative trends was the no bid/buy-back rate that dropped from 24.0% last year to 21.8% this year.

“It’s a very important factor that consignors were able to adjust their expectations given the reduced quality of the catalog and the financial environment of the present time,” said Keeneland’s director of sales Geoffrey Russell. “I think, in general, it was a good exercise. There was spirited bidding from start to finish, and all the buyers kept telling me that they found it difficult to buy horses that had quality to them. It was a cold, hard, cash sale because there is no liquidity in the world. People were buying with the money they had in their pockets."

Four horses sold for seven-figure prices in 2008 compared to none this year. Grade I winner Island Fashion, in foal to Ghostzapper, and stakes winner Almonsoon, offered as a racing or broodmare prospect, were 2009’s most expensive horses, each bringing $950,000.

During the Jan. 17 final session, 213 horses were sold for a gross of $1,795,800. The average was $8,431, and the median was $4,000. The buy-back/no bid rate was 24.5%.

Race Artist, a 16-year-old daughter of Mr. Prospector, brought the top price of $85,000 from Peter E. Blum. Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned her as part of the dispersal of horses owned by J. Mack Robinson.

Produced from the winning Staff Writer mare So Divine, Race Artist won the Virginia Handicap (gr. III) and Hibiscus Stakes in 1996. In addition. that same year, she finished third in the Azalea Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) and the Charon Handicap.

Race Artist is a half-sister to stakes winners So Dashing (by Royal and Regal) and So Charming (by Stiff Sentence). She also is a half-sister to So Ritzy (by Darn That Alarm), the dam of grade I winner Silver Wagon.

The offspring of Race Artist include Cherokee Girl (by Cherokee Run), who captured the 2002 John A. D’Amico Stakes at Gulfstream Park, where she also finished second in the 2002 Forward Gal Stakes (gr. III). In addition, Race Artist is the dam of the winner Cherokee Artist (also by Cherokee Run), who finished second in the Ohio Derby (gr. II), Barbaro Stakes (gr. III), and El Cajon Stakes in 2008.

For complete results from this sale, including Hip-by-Hips and cumulative sale results, click here.