Beckys Shirt, brought top price at Keeneland January sale.

Beckys Shirt, brought top price at Keeneland January sale.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Sale Concludes With Large Increases in Gross, Average, Median

By Ron Mitchell and
Deirdre Biles

The 2004 equine auction season got a quick jump out of the gate this week as the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale continued the bull market seen during September and November.

Exceeding even the most optimistic projections, the five-day sale that ended Friday at the sales company in Lexington, Ky. resulted in a 58% increase in gross, a 49% gain in average price, and a 30% rise in median when compared with the 2003 auction.

Keeneland reported 1,258 horses were sold for $49,344,900, fourth highest gross in the history of the auction that was first held in 1956. Two stallion seasons brought an additional $17,700. The average price of $39,225 was also the fourth highest in sale history and the $13,000 median matched the second highest since records have been kept in this category.

At the 2003 sale, 1,185 horses grossed $31,186,000, for an average of $26,317 and a median of $10,000.

"I think it's been an unbelievable sale," said Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell. "The market has carried on from September to November to January. The whole economy has just gotten people interested in horses. There is buoyancy to this market that I haven't seen in a long time. People are eager to buy."

Russell said Keeneland had accounts set up by 151 new potential buyers, with 100 of them buying horses. At the 2003 January sale, 79 of the 125 new accounts bought horses.

"They came from all over the place--overseas, Puerto Rico, every state in the Union," Russell said. "There was more credit applied for by new buyers this year than last year, and they spent more.

"I think this was typical January catalog," Russell said. "The catalog was similar to last year's. I think it was the increased interest level of the buyers. The phrase 'this has been unbelievable sale' has been constantly spoken by buyers and consignors. I think some buyers were surprised at the strength and the willingness by other people to bid."

Duncan Taylor, whose family's Taylor Made Sales Agency was the sale's leading consignor, attributed the sale's success to renewed strength within the U. S. economy.

"It's probably better than I expected it to be," Taylor said of the overall sale. "The stock market going back up has obviously helped. Now that people have seen it (stock market) going up for a four- or five-month period it's given them confidence--and the economy in general has been pretty good."

Highlighting the sale was the successful bid of $850,000 from BBA (Ireland) for Beckys Shirt, the 13-year-old dam of 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) winner Cajun Beat who was consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales.

During Friday's final session, 255 horses were sold for a gross of $1,982,300, an average of $7,774 and a median of $3,800. During the comparable session last year, 224 horses brought $1,532,600, an average of $6,842 and a median of $3,750.

At Night, the last horse through the sales ring Friday, brought the day's top price of $80,000. A 4-year-old filly by Dayjur out of stakes winner Ra'a, At Night was bought by Future Star, Inc. from the consignment of Hopewell Farm.

Results from Keeneland--Session 5, Friday, Jan. 16