Awe That, purchased by Robert Courtney for $330,000.

Awe That, purchased by Robert Courtney for $330,000.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Abreast of the Mixed Public Auction Market: Back to Reality?

As the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale entered its second day Tuesday, some participants in the auction market reflected upon the state of the industry in light of the first day's figures that were well below the comparable session one year ago.

On Monday, gross receipts of $10,683,200 for the 208 horses reported sold were down 40.4% and the average price of $51,362 was down 30.6% when compared to the same session one year ago. Also, the number of horses that did not sell because the final bid did not exceed the reserve price represented 34.2% of the total through the ring, an abnormally high rate for such a sale.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's sales director, noted that the first-day numbers should be put in perspective, considering that three horses sold for more than seven figures during the first session of the 2002 January sale. The top price at that sale was the $3.6 million paid in the first session for Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer. By comparison, Monday's top price was the $475,000 paid for the 13-year-old mare Belle Nuit.

Considering the effect those three seven-figure horses had on the 2002 January sale, Russell and others say a better gauge of the market would be the same sale two years ago. At the first session of the 2001 January sale, 201 horses grossed $11,662,500 for an average of $58,022.

Although he was disappointed by the high rate of horses not sold, Russell said Monday's session reflected a "solid January sale. The numbers are in line with two years ago."

Some buyers and consignors concurred.

"For what's here it's a good sale," said Fred Seitz, whose Brookdale Farm was selling during Tuesday's second session. "It's solid for something of quality. But it is totally a function of the market in that there is not much quality here. Without any major dispersal, it is typical of this sale. If you are here pinhooking a broodmare for a profit, you may be disappointed. You have to be realistic."

"When the nice ones come in (to the sales ring) they get a lot of money," said buyer Buzz Chace.

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