Anne M. Eberhardt

Market Chatter: Good Value Can Be Found

What is being said at the Keeneland sale.

As prices continued to drop halfway through the Keeneland January sale, what some buyers and consignors had to say Jan. 14:

Allan Lavin, Longfield Farm: “I think the market is fine. I don’t think there are a lot of people going around here signing tickets and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I got her for that.’ There is not much in here; it’s not a very good catalog. Mares that have had four or five or six foals and haven’t had anything happen, they’re not worth anything. I’m looking for horses (to buy), and I’m not seeing things fall in my lap like Christmas presents. I haven’t had one person come up to me today, open up their catalog to a page, and say, ‘Look at what I just stole.’ And I think that’s a very important perspective. There aren’t people going around and ‘high fiving’ about what they bought.”

Case Clay, Three Chimneys Sales: “We’re just getting through it, and that’s pretty much it. Last week, we had a lot of outs. Our clients just called and said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get what I wanted.’ And then there are some folks who are doing their typical January culling and are just letting their horses bring what they bring. Then there are some other clients of ours who are saying, ‘Here’s what we want. If we don’t get it, we’ll take them back and sell them as a yearlings or put them back in  foal and try again.’

“There is some good value here; we just have to make ourselves raise our hands and buy it. In this economy, I think it’s tough for people to make themselves do it. It’s just a matter of being gutsy enough to give it a go.”

Meg Levy, Bluewater Sales: “It’s the same as it has been. The desirable stuff is going for what you expect, and maybe bringing a little bit more for some of the broodmare prospects. The stuff that is not so commercial is just going to buyers at the lower level willing to take a shot. We’re getting them sold. Our owners are very realistic at this point. Their reserves are either non-existent or extremely low, so at least they are giving us (the consignors) an opportunity to turn them over.”

Jay Adcock, Red River Farms, Louisiana: “It’s still hard to buy the kind of mares that I’m looking to buy – the mares that have either a little race record or a little production or both. I’m trying to hedge my bets a little bit and make them either be a runner and/or a producer. Those types of mares – pregnant obviously, I’m not looking for anything barren – to me, are still pretty solid. The stuff that has little holes in them -- like if they didn’t run or didn’t produce – is very reasonable. You can kind of step in there and get all you want of those.

“Even though we’ve got slot machines, the problem we have at home (in Louisiana) is that our foal crop basically has doubled in the last couple of years, and so now, I need something a little bit outside of the parameters of what the majority of the horses are. Now, everybody has got brothers and sisters to stakes horses. That’s what we used to try to buy, something that at least had black type in the first dam. Now everybody has got those. I’m trying to take the next step up and find the mares that either won the stakes themselves or produced the stakes winners. In the process, you have to up the money you spend. The mares you thought you could buy for $15,000 to $25,000 are bringing $35,000 to $40,000, and that’s a little bit out of my range. They talk about a recession … I’ll tell you where I see the biggest hits. It’s with the all these little just-turned yearlings. The people who paid the face values on those stud fees, those are the guys in trouble.”

Russell B. Jones Jr., Pennsylvania horseman and the co-founder of Walnut Green bloodstock agency: “It’s a depressed market. But I agree with (Keeneland director of sales) Geoffrey Russell that the catalog probably doesn’t measure up, so it’s probably looking worse than it is, but it’s pretty bad. I think there are changes in place now that are going to help. The stud fees are coming down, and coming down more every day. Except for about a half dozen or maybe a dozen stallions, there’s availability. It’s a contraction, but that’s part of the process. I think it will lead to healthier times in three or four years; it’s going to take that long. A lot of mares have got to go out of production.”

Tommy Eastham, Legacy Bloodstock: “It’s picked up today (Jan. 14). There have been a few more faces, and people have started to loosen up a little bit more. You’re starting to see some of these mares that have a few foals bring more than the stud fees. We’ve had times during the sale that we felt like we were getting 70% of what the stud fee was and then weren’t getting anything for the mare. Today, we’ve seen that change. One other thing we’ve seen changing is that people are starting to get some of the older mares that have got foals out in front of them and that have had some luck with them. They’re getting a little bit more commercial respect and selling better. It’s nice to see that. It’s not all just the young maiden mares in foal to a freshman stallion that are doing well. The babies (short yearlings), they (the buyers) are still real tight on. If you bring in the top 5% of the day you can make some money, but you’ve got to bring a real nice baby in.”

Davant Latham, Kentucky bloodstock agent: “From a buyer’s perspective, I think it’s a wonderful market. There’s opportunity. It’s great time to be a buyer, but the sale was not overwhelmed with quality. It’s hard to find quality in the upper level (of the market). I feel very good about the purchases we’ve made. I think we’ve gotten some very good value. We worked very hard to find them, but I think we got good value."