As director of public sales for Gainesway, Brian Graves was in the thick of the action during the first four days of the Keeneland September yearling auction when there were statistical setbacks in book one of the catalog and more upswings in book two. He discussed his experiences with The Blood-Horse's bloodstock sales editor Deirdre B. Biles and talked about what he thinks will happen during the sessions following the Sept. 14 break from selling:
The Blood-Horse: How did the book two selling experience differ from book one?
"It felt different because if we had a nice horse that jumped through all the hoops, we were getting a lot more for it than I thought we would. If I thought a horse was going to bring $200,000 coming in, we were getting $300,000 for it. But, conversely, if you had a nice type of horse that wasn't jumping through all the hoops, there wasn't much of a safety net. How does that compare to last year? I thought there was a little more of a safety net last year. But I also thought there was a little bit more of a premium for the horses that made it through all the hoops this year in the second book. It was kind of the same in the first book, but the safety net was even smaller in book one."
Coolmore Stud and Sheikh Mohammed didn't clash as much this year as last year during the first two sessions of the sale, but were there other reasons why the gross revenue and average price were down in book one?
"There is obviously a huge emphasis on the physicals by the buyers, and there is a lot of pedigree in book one. What we’re seeing is that buyers really have become in touch with the physical horse, and they want to see that first and foremost. If you match the pedigree to the physical, and the horse vets clean and jumps through all the hoops, then it goes very well for you. But some horses that are a little plain with a lot of pedigree just aren't making the cut anymore, and I think that's the way it’s going to be. If it's an A.P. Indy and it’s not a good-looking horse, I don't think there's much consideration for it."
Would it help to move that kind of horse back to book two?
"If you've got an A.P. Indy that's a half-brother to a grade I winner, he is what he is. It’s not going to make him any prettier to move him to book two or book three. If he's got a lot of pedigree, he's a book one horse and the mare either gave you a nice yearling or she didn't. There are certain instances when you try to take advantage of (catalog) position, when you try to put a horse that might be a little overshadowed in book one (because of a lesser pedigree, but he still has good conformation) and stick him in book two to make him stand out more. But you aren't going to get anything extra by taking a plain Jane horse and putting him down further down in the catalog. If he's got a book one pedigree, that’s where he belongs."
How would you rate the overall market at Keeneland, combining books one and two, through the first four days?
"If you had a nice horse and he had a clean vet report, it was still a good market to sell horses in, absolutely."
What do you think will happen during the days after selling resumes Saturday?
"Books three, four, and five, that's where the middle market horse is. I think the market is going to be strong, and we’re going to pick up a little bit of steam. A greater number of shoppers will come in and the middle of the market will be more consistent than the top.
"The horsemen that come in at that level make their living trading horses. These horses are more affordable, and I think you will see a lot of the pinhooking partnerships becoming more active and start filling their orders. You'll also see a lot of the domestic buyers and the foreign buyers who were getting outbid by Sheikh Mohammed and Coolmore -- and especially Shadwell in the second book -- start having their way and getting done what they want to get done."