Agents See Continuation of 'Adjustment' at Keeneland Sale

The market adjustment that has resulted in declines at most major equine yearling sales is expected to continue at the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale, according to three prominent bloodstock agents. The sale in Lexington begins  Sept. 10 and continues through Sept. 25.

“I think there is an adjustment process that is going to be taking place,” said Florida-based agent Barry Berkelhammer, one of three agents who discussed yearling sales at the Sept. 6 monthly meeting of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club.

Berkelhammer said pinhookers, who buy yearlings to re-sell the following year as 2-year-olds, did not fare as well in the spring juvenile markets as they have in recent years. “For the pinhookers who are making the ‘floor,’ the floor has dropped … that tends to drag everything down a little bit. So there will be an adjustment process,” he said.

Kentucky agent Headley Bell said an increased supply of yearlings on the market and a limited number of buyers have led to more selectivity within the marketplace. “In the last few years, this market has grown much more selective. It has been a rising tide and it no longer is rising,” he said.

Bell said consignors will be impacted by the fact that yearlings being offered during the first two days – the so-called “select sessions” – were sired by stallions standing for large stud fees, “That will affect people and the trickle down will be significant,” he said. “I would like to be positive but I cannot lose sight of how selective we have become in our purchase of a yearling.”

Gayle Van Leer, an agent from California, said some of her regular clients are not going to be as active as buyers at the Keeneland sale. But she expects that downturn in business to be offset by some new clientele. “I will end up about even (in number of clients buying at the sale), but it was a little disappointing to see some of my regular people back out,” she said.

In addition to their analysis of the upcoming sale, the agents discussed other aspects of buying yearlings, with all three in agreement on most of the subjects presented to them by KTFMC president Davant Latham.

Concerning one of the latest developments within racing, all three agreed that the proliferation of synthetic racetrack surfaces will have an effect on the industry, including their buying preferences at sales.

Van Leer, who buys primarily for clients who race in California, where all tracks are mandated to install synthetic surfaces, said it will impact her buying habits.

“I will definitely be buying a different type of horse,” said Van Leer, adding that she will be looking for horses whose female families show more success in grass and distance races. Because horses racing on synthetic tracks are more sound, Van Leer said she will be able to be more forgiving of some conformational faults in the horses she buys.

Berkelhammer and Bell said they prefer the type of horses that appear to have early success on synthetic tracks.

“I think I am already buying horses that would like Polytrack,” Bell said of the brand of synthetic surface most widely installed in the U.S. so far.

Berkelhammer said it could affect how he views yearlings sired by stallions known mostly for speed progeny. “The main thing is that it might lead me to rule out a horse that is just predisposed for speed," he said. "Those just seem to do too well.”

Also during the farm managers’ meeting, the club announced that donations to its colostrum bank had resulted in the organization donating more than $15,000 to Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, which provides a therapeutic riding program for those with disabilities.

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