Standardbred Sale Good, But Call for Slots Issued

The euphoria after the Keeneland September yearling sale posted gains of almost 30% in gross and average apparently hasn't carried over to the Standardbred business. Numbers for the recent Tattersalls select yearling sale at The Red Mile in Lexington actually were fairly strong, but industry leaders indicated the storm clouds haven't blown away.

The Tattersalls sale, held Sept. 24-27, generated gross receipts of $15,978,000 and an average of $36,149 for 442 yearlings sold. The average from 2002 was down about 5% with 45 fewer horses sold this year. Tattersalls has a new sale in New Jersey in October that has taken away some of the yearlings that normally would sell in Kentucky.

"We were very satisfied with the results," Tattersalls general manager Geoffrey Stein said in a prepared statement. "Considering we sold less horses this year, that a significant number of yearlings that would normally would have been sold here are selling in our sale in New Jersey, and combined with the recent problems with (mare reproductive loss syndrome), you have to be pleased."

"It was a good market--an excellent market--for quality stock," said Alan Leavitt, president and general manager of Kentucky's Walnut Hall Ltd., which sold 97 yearlings for $4,450,000. "But one thing this sale proved was that if we don't get slot machines in Kentucky, we're in trouble. We got sliced and diced on our Kentucky-sired horses. (The sire) Cambest was kind of an exception--he's at a high enough level that people would buy a yearling by him in spite of that.

"Wherever we were soft, it was on our Kentucky-sired horses. We've had to move four stallions out of here to survive, and we're following the slots."

Brittany Farms of Kentucky sold 61 yearlings on its own behalf and as agent. George Segal, who owns the farm, also is a partner in The Red Mile and Tattersalls.

"I was pleased with our sale, considering the market conditions," Brittany general manager Art Zubrod said. "We were given false hope by the huge increases at Keeneland, which it turns out were mostly due to increased spending by the Arabs and Japanese. The American economy is still not good, and Americans are still much more cautious than they were before 9/11."

Kentucky racetracks and horsemen's groups have pushed for track-based gaming in the legislature the past few years. They are expected to make another push in 2004, though it may take the form of a constitutional amendment this time around.