Keeneland Axes 2003 July Yearling Sale

Edited release from Keeneland
Citing the devastating effects of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS) on Kentucky's 2002 foal crop, Keeneland's July Selected Yearling Sale will take a one-year hiatus, Keeneland officials announced today.

Officials plan to resume the July Sale in 2004 with a revised format. This year's Selected Sale will be incorporated into the first two days-the "selected sessions"-of Keeneland's September Yearling Sale.

When MRLS attacked Kentucky's breeding industry in the spring of 2001, approximately 30 percent of the pregnant mares spontaneously aborted. A significant majority of the horses that were aborted were "early" foals (ones whose dam was bred early in the breeding season in hopes of giving their offspring a physical advantage over foals born later in the year). Typically, early foals comprise the majority of Keeneland's July catalog.

"The decision was made only after extensive discussions with our consignors and buyers," said Keeneland President and CEO Nick Nicholson. "Because of MRLS, this year's yearling crop is fewer in number and the majority of this year's crop will not be ready for auction by July. Most of the horses will need until September to physically develop."

Many of the July Sale's top consignors and buyers have expressed their support for Keeneland's decision to place this year's July Sale on hiatus.

"Eaton Sales is committed to revitalizing and growing the Keeneland July Sale," said Reiley McDonald, co-owner of Eaton Sales with Tom VanMeter.

"Unfortunately, the number of early, mature, well-developed yearlings historically suited to this market is down 70-80 percent this year. There just is not the supply for it to work, but we will back in strength in 2004."

Mark Taylor, vice president for public auctions for his family's Taylor Made Farm, said: "MRLS robbed our industry of many of the early foals of 2002 -- the ones that usually are mature enough to sell in July. We are committed to Keeneland's July Sale and its resurgence in 2004, but agree that it should be cancelled this year."

"I think the move from July to September this year is a great idea," said Fred Seitz of Brookdale Farm.

"We completely support Keeneland's decision," said Bill Farish of Lane's End Farm. "Given the much smaller percentage of early foals last year, the pool of July Sale-type yearlings is greatly diminished. We look forward to exploring the future of the July Sale with the Keeneland staff as the number of early foals rebounds."

Keeneland officials plan to spend a great deal of time during the next year meeting with consignors and buyers about what they would like to see in a restructured July Sale.

"Based on our recent conversations with buyers and sellers, the July Sale continues to have a great deal of support," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "Everyone is looking at this as an opportunity to revamp the sale so that we can give our customers and the industry what they want."

This year, the September Yearling Sale will have two closing dates-an early closing date of March 1 and a traditional closing date of May. 1. The early closing date is for yearlings typically nominated for the July Sale. Consignors will be notified by May 1 if their horse is accepted for the selected session. May 1 also is the final closing date of the September Sale.

Keeneland officials also announced today that the October Yearling Sale will not be held this year.