Market Reflections: Buyers and Consignors Talk About Keeneland September Sale

Here's some quotes about the market for the Keeneland September yearling sale that ended Monday:

Bill Farish, Lane's End: "I think this sale is becoming more and more of a gold standard. It's always been the world's biggest grossing (yearling) sale, but the select part is where the best yearlings are sold. The market is pretty much what we expected, but certainly didn't expect to get that much for the good colt (an $8-million son of Storm Cat -- Welcome Surprise); that was a pleasant surprise."

Headley Bell, Nicoma Bloodstock: "The people are here and the horses are here, and the horses are bringing what they are worth. Everything is in place."

Bayne Welker, Mill Ridge Sales: "You have to be very realistic about who is on your horse and very realistic with your reserve. I think commercial breeders need to sell their horses and see a return. You're sitting here on some of the highest stud fees that have been paid in a long time, so you have to sell (instead of buy back) in order to keep the cycle going. You have to pay the bank."

Dr. Gary Lavin, yearling inspector for Keeneland and operator, with his family, of Longfield Farm: "When we got through (inspecting yearlings) this year, I think the sense was that we didn't have as many five-star headliners, but that the next tier of horses was absolutely solid. We've finally started to develop some sire power and there are some extraordinarily good individuals here."

Niall Brennan, Florida pinhooker: "It (the market) is very strong. There are a lot of very nice horses and the bidding is competitive."

Arthur Hancock, Stone Farm: "The market is really, really strong from what I see. It's almost like they (the buyers) are playing with monopoly money. It's a gamer, and everybody's got the dream that they are going to have a Derby winner. That's what it's all about, hopes and dreams. People step up, and if they get lucky and get that big horse, it will make their lives."

Norman Casse, Florida pinhooker and the chairman of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.: "I've never seen it better, as far as I'm concerned. The amazing thing to me is that people are willing to pay as much for a horse with problems as they are for the good ones. I've seen horses that we didn't think vetted bring $400,000."

Bruno DeBerdt, California pinhooker: "The good horses stand out, and everybody latches on to that one horse and it brings the money. We're very happy with what we got. We spent a little more on the higher end than we anticipated but we are within our budget."

Bill Witman, manager of Calumet Farm: "I think it's much the same as it's been (before). The horse with pedigree, conformation, and that vets, the buyers -- whether they are European or domestic -- will chase them a long way. A lot of people are here, and there is a lot of interest in the horses, but if one has a little defect, it's still hard to get him sold."

Brian Graves, Gainesway Farm: "I think this section of the market (the non-select portion) is very comparable with the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky market in July. The same buyers made that sale so strong are making it strong here. They are nearly as concerned about pedigree as they are the physicals, and the pinhookers are still looking for a lot of inventory. Our pinhooking venture (weanlings to yearlings) has been very profitable. We diversified so we had good horses for every segment of the market, and the average for our entire portfolio is a 70% rate of return."

Kathryn Nikkel, buyer from California: "We've had a fabulous sale. My clients sold some lovely horses really well, but we were unable to buy a lot thanks to Mr. John Ferguson (Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager). We were looking primarily for fillies with some accent on turf pedigrees to go race in the UK (United Kingdom). With John Ferguson buying those kind of horses as well as many of the American sort of horses, it pushed a lot of people back to the later books (of the catalogue) and it had a marvelous ripple effect for the breeders. Pinhookers will have a massive amount of money for foals in November, and breeders will also have money, making the broodmare market extremely attractive and strong."

John Stuart, Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services: "Buyers will buy a yearling by an older, proven sire if it's a really good, fast-looking 2-year-old type, but if it misses physically by just a little bit, there's no market, especially for a filly. By and large, the pinhookers who make this market are not even interested in the yearlings (by an older sire). They won't even look at them. We get them out of the barn maybe half as much as our horses by freshman stallions."

Stuart Morris, Highclere: "There's been people here all the way from the front until the back, and new buyers have shown up every day. Anything that you walk up there that looks right sells for good money. The buyers are still pretty tough, but I think they might be a little more forgiving on front-end conformation if the horse is very athletic looking."

Gayle Van Leer, California buyer: "You can find what you want. You just have to go out and look for it. I've probably done more vetting than I normally do because I got outbid more this year. But I'm still finding what I want, and I'm not having to compromise."

Ted Kuster, seller: "It's a very strong sale, and the good prices are spread out. If you have a nice horse, you're home free."

Terry Oliver, Florida pinhooker: "I thought everybody had a good year (at the 2-year-old sales), and there were some really big home runs. Some people got their lives changed over a couple of horses. Everybody is stronger than they've ever been (buying yearlings). But people still haven't changed their tastes. Everybody is looking for the good individual, and they all land on the same horse. I don't see many people filling their bills with average horses even though it's getting late in the sale."

Suzi Shoemaker, Lantern Hill Farm: "We sold two Old Trieste colts on Monday (Sept. 20),andthey sold very well, about 25% over predictions. The horses that we've sold today (Sept. 22) so far have brought approximately 15% over their reserves, and the owners are happy. There seems to be plenty of money for a reasonably well-conformed horses with a clean set of X-rays."

Neil Pessin, trainer: "It's been tough to buy. We liked probably 40 horses and we've gotten two. Probably half we didn't get to bid on because they went higher than what we were planning to go. The dollar is weak on the foreign market, so most of the foreign money is strong."