Cutbacks Made In Equine Spectrum's Operation

Keeneland and its partners have made major cutbacks and changes in the operation of Equine Spectrum, an online auction company. Executive director Dan Kelliher and several other Equine Spectrum staff members have been dismissed, and the company will be managed more directly by Keeneland. In addition, Equine Spectrum's office was moved to Keeneland from an off-site location.

"All the partners in Equine Spectrum remain committed to the concept," said Keeneland spokeswoman Julie Balog. "We're going to take the next few weeks to make decisions on how we will move forward and make it successful. Members of Keeneland's sales staff are assuming a more active day-to-day management role in the company."

However, there are no auctions scheduled in "the near future," she said. Equine Spectrum's Web site was still in operation as of March 24.

Equine Spectrum was founded in 2000 by five prominent consignors: Ashford Stud (Coolmore Stud's Kentucky division), Eaton Sales, Lane's End Farm, Taylor Made Farm, and Three Chimneys Farm. Keeneland purchased a 25% interest in the company in March of 2001.

Mark Taylor, the vice president of public sales for Taylor Made, said the costs of operating Equine Spectrum were not justified by its revenue. The company failed to sell a high percentage of the horses it offered.

"It didn't make much sense to keep plowing on in the same direction," Taylor said. "But we still wanted to keep it as a functioning entity because everybody thinks this will be a viable concept at some point in the future. The technology and the market's mindset have not converged to the point where you can (routinely) sell a yearling for a six-figure price on the Internet."

Taylor said Equine Spectrum would pursue less costly ventures such as research and development.

Keeneland experimented on its own with selling horses that had been bought back at its auctions over the Internet, but ended that project last year. As with Equine Spectrum, a high percentage of the horses offered failed to find buyers.By Deirdre B. Biles