"You have to be concerned about the uncertain economic climate, but the war (in Iraq) does seem to be coming to an end, thank goodness," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "We've very pleased with the horses in our catalogue; we think our consignors have brought us a solid bunch. And we've gotten a good response from our previous good clients. The barns have been busy with people looking at horses."Last year sale records were established for the average and median while the buy-back rate rose to an all-time high. Gross revenue surged 19.1% to its third-largest amount ever.Japanese buyers spent more money than ever before at the auction, paying $4.1 million for 20 horses and accounting for 23.1% of the April gross. However, they might not be as active this year. Some Japanese have cancelled trips to the United States because of the Iraq war and fears that terrorist acts will shut down the airlines, stranding them far from home.
"Several Japanese groups have told us that they will be participating, but we don't know at what level," Russell said. "Last year, they provided great support for our middle market."The auction recently got a big boost in publicity from racing at Keeneland when April graduates Elloluv and Lady Tak finished 1-2 in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I). A photo of Elloluv is featured prominently on the sale catalogue's front cover while Lady Tak's picture appears on the back.The sale begins at 1:30 p.m. (EDT). It has its largest catalogue ever, with 262 horses listed.