Keeneland Sale Continued

The statistical summary for this year's Keeneland November auction was as follows:

-- The number of horses passing through the sale ring increased 3.1%, from 4,225 in 1999 to 4,355 in 2000, while the number listed as sold fell by 5.7%, from 3,461 to 3,264.
-- The percentage of horses bought back by their consignors rose from 18.1% (764 of 4,225) last year to 25.1% (1,091 of 4,355) this year.
-- Gross revenue decreased by 5%, from $317,666,000 to $301,904,800, ending seven consecutive years of advances.
-- The average rose by less than 1%, from $91,784 to $92,495, but the small increase extended a growth trend to the eighth straight year.
-- The median plunged by 18.8%, dropping from $32,000 to $26,000.

(The results for 2000 do not include the 10 no-guarantee stallion seasons that were sold on the auction's opening day for gross revenue of $2.5 million and a share in Meadowlake that sold for $55,000 on Nov. 8).

This year, the factories at Keeneland were more popular than the end products. In other words, buyers pursued broodmares with more enthusiasm than they did weanlings.

The number of broodmares sold fell by less than 1% from the comparable figure a year ago, to 1,751, while gross revenue rose 9.2%, to $222,494,200. The average increased 9.9%, to a Keeneland November record of $127,067. But the median dropped 17.9%, to 32,000, indicating that buyers focused their efforts on acquiring the best stock they could afford.

Thirty-five broodmares or broodmare prospects sold for seven figure prices, with five bringing $4 million or more apiece. A 3-year-old broodmare prospect, Myhrr was hammered down for $4.6 million, one of the highest amounts ever brought at public auction for a female Thoroughbred that had not been bred.

However, during the second week of the November sale, some buyers were snapping up broodmares at what they thought were bargain prices, and sellers were experiencing more disappointments than pleasant surprises.

"With the market the way it is, we are buying more than we planned," said Florida horseman Mark Casse, the general manager of New Dawn Stud. "These are not bottom end mares, but they're not bringing as much as they have in the past. I've seen a couple come through that last year were in foal to the same stallions -- nothing really changed -- and they're bringing a third of the price. That's good for us."

Said David Mullins of Doninga Farm in Kentucky: "There is a little bit of a shakeout on what I call 'trading mares.' People have speculated on them, trying to make a little money, and they've put too much stud fee into them. When you factor in the cost of the stud fee, many of them are underpriced."

The number of weanlings sold decreased by 3.7% from a year ago, to 1,379, and the amount they grossed dropped by 16%, to $74,101,800. Their average price fell 12.8%, to $53,736, and their median slipped 16%, to $21,000.

The decisions of numerous breeders to save a higher percentage of their better foals for the yearling market, where the top level has been booming, put a damper on weanling prices. It also didn't help that many weanling-to-yearling pinhookers were investing cautiously after a tough year in terms of profits at the yearling auctions.

"We're trying to find value for the dollar," said Marshall Silverman, a pinhooker who operates out of Pennsylvania. "We try to stick with a number on a horse. We might stretch it a little, but if we can't get one for the price we want, we're not going to play. We'll just sit and wait until we get one we are comfortable with."

Asked about the future, Silverman expressed uncertainty, echoing the sentiments of many of his fellow Keeneland November sale participants.

"I think the economy in this country is going to level out," he said. "By next summer or next fall, a lot of buyers are not going to have as much cash in hand and be able to push with that extra $5,000 or $10,000 you need to make your (pinhooking) deal work."

KEENELAND NOTES: Excel Communications founder Kenny Troutt was November's leading shopper in terms of gross expenditures, paying $14,845,000 for 20 horses while buying in the name of his wife, Lisa. WinStar Farm, in which Troutt is a partner, spent $632,000 for four horses. New Dawn Stud, a new commercial breeding operation that is designed to produce horses for the juvenile sales market, bought the most horses of any shopper, paying $1,682,500 for 61... Bernice L. Givens Sykes was extremely active in the sale's final days, buying 59 for $267,700 ... Taylor Made Sales Agency was the leading consignor in terms of gross receipts, selling 233 horses for $33,236,300 ... Storm Cat was the top covering sire, with 10 mares in foal to him bringing an average price of $2,144,500, and he also was the leading sire of weanlings, with six averaging $808,333 ... Including all results from the sale's second week, Japanese buyers purchased no fewer than 53 horses and spent at least $12,289,000.