Number of horses sold, gross, average, and median fall Wednesday at Keeneland.

Number of horses sold, gross, average, and median fall Wednesday at Keeneland.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Business Declines at Keeneland Sale

Number of horses sold, gross, average, and median fall Wednesday at Keeneland.

Keeneland's January horses of all ages sale suffered significant setbacks during its third session Wednesday in Lexington and the buy-back rate continued to grow. But the auction's cumulative gross revenue and average price remained ahead of last year's pace.

Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, blamed Wednesday's declines on fewer quality horses in the session compared to 2007.

"As the sale goes from book one of the catalog (sessions one and two) to book two (sessions three and four), the quality level of the stock changes (and declines)," he said. "From year to year, you don't always have the same quality in book two as the previous years. Actually, today, for what was here, I thought they (the horses) sold very well. I was a little disappointed with the not sold rate, but I think it is a good indication of what this market is. Last year it was 18.5%, which is low. Today it was 22.8%, so it was around the kind of a figure that has been established in this industry as being 'acceptable.' "

Keeneland reported that 233 horses were sold for a gross of $7,772,400. The average was $33,358, and the median was $20,000. Compared to 2007's third session, the number sold was down 8.6% from 255, and the gross plunged 20.0%, from $9,709,800. The average dropped 12.4% from $38,078 while the median declined 13.0% from $23,000.

"Buyers are looking for the top of their level of the market," Russell said, "and if they don't find it, they’re not buying. They’re just going to wait or not buy at all. We've gone through sales in the past, where yes, demand outstripped supply, so it was fine, but now I think we're getting to the point where it's going to be the reverse."

The cumulative figures for the first three sessions combined were 667 horses sold, a gross of $56,186,500, an average of $84,238, and a median of $40,000. Compared to a year ago, the number sold fell 9.0% from 733, but the gross advanced 8.5% from $51,792,000. The average increased 19.2% from $70,658. The median was the same. Last year, 20.7% of the horses failed to find new homes compared to 25.6% this year.

Royal Alchemist, an added-money winner in England and Dubai, brought Wednesday's highest price for an individual horse of $330,000. Consigned by Meg Levy's Bluewater Sales, as agent, the 6-year-old daughter of the Fairy King stallion Kingsinger was purchased by Newmarket International's Richard Galpin, who knew the mare well from a private sale that he was involved in with her when she was younger.

"She is a very, very beautiful filly," Galpin said. "We bought her today for one of the most beautiful farms in Ireland, but I can't mention the name. She has an exciting pedigree, which has so many useful outcrosses."

Royal Alchemist will be sent to Ireland and will be bred this year, according to Galpin.

"The farm's manager is a very great geneticist and he will choose from their stallions," said Galpin. "They have some very good stallions."

Royal Alchemist is out of the winning Dilum mare Pure Gold and her other family members include Irish champion Don't Forget Me, who scored in both the General Accident Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) and the Airlie Coolmore Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I). In 2007, Royal Alchemist captured a stakes in Dubai for a member of the Maktoum family, and she also competed in this country while carrying the Godolphin Racing colors. She scored in the 2006 Sportsman Fillies Snowdrop Stakes in England while racing for The Ridgeway Partnership.

"This is the first horse that we’ve bought in three days," Galpin said, "and we'd tried on eight or 10. It’s been very tough. There is a little bit of a limitation on the availability of special items, and then the price for those items has been high. I think it's been an exciting market for what's in the sale; it's been difficult to buy."

Jill Robin L, winner of the 2005 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II), was the second-highest-priced horse sold Wednesday, going for $320,000 to California storage mogul B. Wayne Hughes, owner of Spendthrift Farm near Lexington. Bluewater, as agent, was her consignor.

Sired by Precocity and produced from the unraced Vilzak mare Jo Zak, Jill Robin L is a full sister to stakes winner Zak's Precocious. Jill Robin L produced her first foal, a Successful Appeal colt, last year, and that colt (bred by Thor-Bred Stables) was sold Wednesday at Keeneland for $80,000 to Lobo Farm. Jill Robin L is in foal to Bluegrass Cat.

"She is a mare with a lot of ability, and she had a good-looking foal here in the sale," said Ned Toffey, the general manager of Spendthrift. "She has good conformation and not a ton of pedigree, but she had an awful lot of ability. We’re not sure who she'll go to yet (to be bred), but we thought she was a good mare. We are buying mares for our own stallions, but she won't necessarily be for one of our own. It (the price) was a little more than I thought we would need to pay, but she's in foal to Bluegrass Cat, who I think is going to be well-received, so I wasn't entirely surprised."

The January auction continues through Jan. 13, with selling beginning each day at 10 a.m. (EST).