Too Many Horses? Russell Discusses September Sale's Size

Is the biggest sale of its kind in the world getting too big?

This year's edition of Keeneland's September yearling auction will have a catalogue with 4,891 horses, the highest number ever. The total represents a 13.9% increase over last year's figure of 4,294 and a 5.1% upswing from the previous record of 4,652, which was established in 2000. This year's sale, scheduled for Sept. 13-27, will have 14 sessions, another new mark. There will be a one-day break from selling on Sept. 17.

So far, there have been no complaints from anyone about the auction's growth, according to Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales.

"Even at 14 days, there is a huge comfort level for both buyers and consignors with the September sale," he said. "Buyers know they will be able to fill their orders here, and consignors know their horses will be seen by a wide variety of buyers."

To Russell, the key challenge for Keeneland will be attracting more buyers. Keeneland is increasing its promotional and catalogue distribution efforts for the auction this year. South Korea is one of several countries that will receive more attention from the company's representatives.

During last year's September auction, the average ($92,293) and median ($34,000) prices soared to sale record heights while the gross revenue ($273,925,300) reached the auction's second-highest level ever.

If the sale continues to produce similar results, it's not likely that too many people will be calling for the return of the Keeneland July select yearling sale, which has been on hiatus for two years.
However, Russell said Keeneland officials would meet with horsemen later this year to reassess the situation and would continue to do so annually in future years.

"It (the July sale) will always be on the table, and it will always be calendared," he said.

When or if the July sale returns, there will be changes, Russell predicted.

"It won't be your grandmother's July sale," he said.
Rather than horses with the very best pedigrees, the sale probably would attract the type of yearlings that are offered in books three and four of the Keeneland September catalogue, Russell said. Last year, such horses had averages ranging from $30,288 to $75,527 per session.

In the 1980s, before the September sale became so successful, consignors offered their best-bred yearlings in July. But more recently, sellers have targeted September because it gives their top horses more time to develop physically. The major buyers who attended the July sale also started showing up in September.