Keeneland Week One Wraps Up on Strong Note

After getting off to a rocky start during the two select sessions, the Keeneland September Yearling Sale recovered quite nicely to finish the shortened week on an upward tick.

As was widely reported, the upper end of the market experienced double-digit declines in gross and average prices Sept. 10 and 11, the first two days of the 15-day sale. But once the more moderately priced horses that comprise the “open” sessions began entering the ring Sept. 12 and 13, the numbers rose when compared with the same sessions a year ago.

Through the first four days, Keeneland has sold 854 horses for $243,290,500, down 10.9% from the first four days in 2006. The average price is down 10%, to $284,883 from $316,000.

While no sales company is satisfied with declines in total sales and averages, Keeneland takes some solace from the fact the four-session cumulative median of $200,000 represents an 8.1% gain over last year. The median – the price at which half sold for more and half for less – is a more accurate gauge of the health of the market because it is not as skewed by the prices at the very top, as is the average.

Indeed, the major difference between this year’s sale being down is the absence of yearlings bringing a final bid exceeding $4 million, of which there were six last year. That is due to the lack of spirited bidding wars between the two major market movers – Sheikh Mohammed and the Coolmore group. Certainly, both have been active buyers, but it takes those two parties engaging in an extended fight for the top horses to send prices into the stratosphere. It illustrates the extent to which the upper end of the horse business relies upon those two entities.

“In the end, it all comes down to a difference from last year of six horses,” Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said of the difference between the top of the market last year compared with this year.

Analysis of sessions one through four indicates weakness at the top and strength in the price ranges just below the very top. Including the aforementioned six horses that brought more than $4 million last year, there were 14 that sold for $2 million or more. This year, there were only six.

In the $1,000,000-$1,999,999 range, 25 yearlings were sold in 2007, compared with 18 in 2006. A breakdown of the results by price also shows the biggest gains this year in the following categories: $700,000-$724,999 (five in 2006; 10 in 2007), $400,000-$424,999 (22 in 2006; 30 in 2007), and $300,000-$324,999 (44 in 2006; 57 in 2007).

Conversely, the biggest downward shifts were in these ranges: $50,000-$74,999 (71 to 55), $225,000-$249,999 (31 to 18), and $275,000-$299,999 (26 to 16).

After a one-day break, the sale resumes Sept. 15 and continues through Sept. 25.

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