Maria's Mon colt brought top price at Keeneland's 2-year-olds in training sale.

Maria's Mon colt brought top price at Keeneland's 2-year-olds in training sale.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Juvenile Sale Posts Declines in Gross, Average

The hopeful expectations of both Keeneland Association officials and consignors did not materialize at the company's annual 2-year-olds in training sale Tuesday as all key numbers declined from one year ago.

Keeneland reported 105 horses were sold for an aggregate of $17,040,500. The average of $162,290 represented a 25.5% decrease from the $217,941 figure of last year when 101 horses sold for a record $22,012,000. Last year's average was a record, as was the $135,000 median price. This year's median was $130,000.

The 71 horses that did not attain their reserve prices represented 40.3% of the total through the ring. Last year's buyback rate was 44.8%. There were also 86 horses withdrawn this year.

Keeneland consignors had expected the sale to continue the record-breaking trend seen at select auctions this spring in Florida and California. But even those sales were spotty in areas, particularly with many pinhookers having a hard time making money.

But once the sale began Tuesday, it quickly became apparent that there was not enough strength at the upper end of the juvenile market to sustain the Keeneland sale. There were a paucity of trainers on hand and those in attendance did not represent principals known for spending large sums for 2-year-olds.

"I am shocked and a little disappointed," Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said. "We had two flawless days for previews and felt we had compiled a very strong catalogue, which was backed up by people here. It reminded me of 1997. That was a year when we had a blip like this and the horses came out and proved they were as good as we thought they were. I think these horses will perform well (on the racetrack)."

The top price Tuesday of $800,000 was paid by John C. Oxley for a Maria's Mon colt consigned by Murray Smith. The Kentucky-bred foal was produced from the young stakes-placed Dynaformer mare Kopenhagen.

Oxley has had success with Maria's Mon offspring, winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with Monarchos, a son of Maria's Mon.

Shadai Farm bought the top-priced filly at the sale, going to $500,000 to acquire a daughter of Mr. Greeley from the consignment of agent Eddie Woods. The first foal produced from the Sky Classic mare Sky Crown, the filly had been purchased by Dennis Foster for $85,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale.

Co-second highest-priced horse at the sale was a Danzig-Nuts in May (by A.P. Indy) colt bought by Shadwell from the Robert N. Scanlon consignment. The colt's dam is a half-sister to Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Pleasantly Perfect.

One colt many observers thought could have been the sale-topper was a seven-figure buyback and another highly touted colt was withdrawn from the auction.

The potential sale topper that went unsold was a son of Unbridled's Song who did not attain his reserve and was bought back for $1,150,000. Consigned by Niall Brennan Stables, the colt had been bought by Mike Ryan, agent, for $275,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale.

"I am surprised he did not sell," Russell said. "I liked that colt a lot."

The colt who was expected to fetch a big price and was withdrawn was a son of Giant's Causeway  consigned by Robert N. Scanlon.

Expressing disappointment with the overall sale, Scanlon said the colt was withdrawn for a number of reasons. He said the colt had some shin problems and that based on the activity by those looking at the colt's X-rays at the sale repository the decision was made to withdraw the colt.

"We are still very confident in the horse, but we just didn't see the activity we would like for him to bring what he was worth," Scanlon said. "The stars didn't align and we didn't see what we wanted."

Pinhooker Jimmy Gladwell said the Keeneland sale reflected the trend seen earlier this year with high buyback rates and opined that it "is a tough market."

Gladwell said buyers could afford to be selective because they still have many opportunities to purchase 2-year-olds, with as many as 2,000 juveniles consigned to sales through the rest of the year. "We still have a lot of 2-year-olds to sell," Gladwell said.

One regular buyer of 2-year-olds who was at the Keeneland sale but was relatively inactive was John Moynihan, who represents owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. Moynihan said his lack of activity as a buyer was not a reflection on the horses being offered but more a result of his clients having already spent a lot this year.

"We have bought a lot of horses and came here with a lot of inventory already," Moynihan said. "There are some nice horses here. It's a matter of people wanting horses at a time when good horses are offered."

Conspicuously absent from the sale was Irish agent Demi O'Byrne. At last year's record-breaking sale, O'Byrne paid a Keeneland 2-year-old record price of $3.3 million for Chekhov, a son of Pulpit. He also bought Radetzky (by Dixie Union) for $1.4 million, the third-highest priced offering at a Keeneland juvenile sale. Another sale regular, John Ferguson, agent for Sheikh Mohammed, was also not at Keeneland.

Noting the absence of buyers like O'Byrne and Ferguson, Russell said, "We had a group of solid,consistent horses and needed one or two superstars to attract their attention. They obviously felt we did not have that horse here."

Russell said Keeneland is confident of the quality of the horses offered at the 2-year-old sale and that the sale company will intensify its recruitment of potential buyers.

"Our job will be to recruit more buyers," Russell said. "We are going to have to try harder to recruit more buyers. I am very confident we have the horses."

Complete results from Keeneland