The final hip at the Keeneland Nov. sale is led out of the auction ring.

The final hip at the Keeneland Nov. sale is led out of the auction ring.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Ends With Substantial Declines

Sale was impacted negatively by the world economy

The Keeneland November breeding stock sale that coincided with a world economic crash ended Nov. 17 with substantial declines in every key statistical category.
The Lexington sales company reported that 3,019 horses were sold during the 15-day auction for a total $185,552,300, which was down 45.6% from the 2007 record gross of $340,877,200 when 3,381 horses were sold. The average fell 39% from $100,821 to $61,462, and the median price of $20,000 reflected a decline of 42.9% from the $35,000 figure last year.

When horses were consigned to the November sale earlier this year, there was an expectation that the market corrections seen in other auction this year would continue, said Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell.  However, that trend, coupled with the international economic problems, exacerbated the problem, as seen in the sale results.

“I think going in, everybody expected a correction, but external forces made it a lot worse,” Russell said. “Every nation in the world is in a recession. Pick up any newspaper and there are stories about the lack of consumer confidence. Our industry is not immune to those external forces."

While the numbers do not bear it out, Russell said there has been solid trade at all levels and that many buyers found it difficult to get what they wanted.

“Horses have traded very well, both domestically and internationally to a wide range of buyers, albeit at a lower level," he said.  "The buyers say they are paying good money for everything they have bought. Pinhookers said it was hard to buy good foals. We still have great interest in Thoroughbreds, and we still have great interest in the breeding industry.”

Overall, it could have been much worse, Russell said, noting that the sale received solid support throughout from international buyers representing the so-called emerging markets.

“The biggest drop this year was from the European nations and domestically," he said. "With the possible exception of our traditionally strong trading countries – England, France, Ireland, and Australia – the international markets spent as much this year as they did last year, if not more. We would be in a dire situation if they were not here. They don’t just show up because Keeneland is putting on a horse sale. That is something we have worked very hard to get going. We work 52 weeks a year to get them here.”

The closing session’s top price of $55,000 was paid by F.J.M. Stables for a weanling colt by Bernstein, consigned by Jim and Pam Robinson’s Brandywine Farm, as agent. The April 7 foal was produced from the unraced Stravinsky mare Life Happened, a half-sister to multiple grade III winner Disco Rico.

During Monday’s final session, Keeneland sold 150 horses for $663,900, down 1.4% from a year ago when 114 horses brought $673,500. The day’s average of $4,426 decreased 25.1% from $5,908 in 2007, while the median was down 45.9% to $2,000 from $3,700 last year. The 58 horses that did not sell represented 27.8% of the total through the ring.

Now that one of the longest sales in history conducted in one of the worst economic periods in history is over, Russell was asked to predict how long the slump might last.

“I don’t know because I am not an economist. I would like to see this turn around as quickly as possible. Definitely in time for (the Keeneland) January sale (Jan. 12-17, 2009),” he said half-jokingly, knowing that is unlikely to happen.