Consignors to Keeneland: Don't Bring Back July Sale in 2004

Consignors told Keeneland officials Wednesday that they don't want the July select yearling sale to return in 2004 after a year's absence. During a meeting organized by Keeneland, sellers discussed the future of the auction with the company's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, and associate director of sales, Tom Thornbury. The main reason why consignors weren't enthusiastic about a July revival was the overwhelming success of this year's Keeneland September yearling sale.

"The strong consensus in the room was that Keeneland has one of the premier sales in the world with the September yearling sale that attracts an international group of buyers," said consignor Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud. "Based on this year's results, everybody would like to see that atmosphere continue. Keeneland shouldn't do anything that is going to detract from the outstanding sale it has. Another general consensus in the room was that our horses do better when we don't push them to (get ready for) an early market."

Several other consignors, who asked not to be identified, confirmed Bandoroff's report about the prevailing mood at the meeting.

The 2003 September auction generated an average price of $92,293 and median price of $34,000, which represented increases of 28.5% and 13.3%, respectively, from 2002. Both the average and median were sale records. The gross revenue rose 29.9% to its second-highest level ever of $273,925,300. The total also was up 8.2% from $253,194,000 combined gross for the 2002 Keeneland July and September sales. Keeneland officials cited the negative effects of mare reproductive loss syndrome when they cancelled the 2003 edition of the July yearling sale.

"A lot of opinions were bantered around, and we did reach a consensus," said Thornbury of Wednesday's meeting. However, he declined to reveal any details, saying he and Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, needed to talk to the company's officers and directors first before discussing anything publicly.

Thornbury said he and Russell spoke with "key" Keeneland consignors during the meeting and that approximately 20 people were in attendance.

The Keeneland July sale was once the world's most glamorous Thoroughbred auction. But Keeneland officials found it increasingly difficult to attract top horses because of the growth and success of the September sale.

While consignors didn't support the return of the July sale in 2004, they didn't rule out reviving the auction in future years, according to two sellers who attended the meeting. They said there was a favorable response to the suggestion that the situation in the Thoroughbred marketplace be monitored on a year-to-year basis.