Keeneland Changes Getting Mixed Reviews

Keeneland Changes Getting Mixed Reviews
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Keeneland's April 2-year-old in training sale is scheduled for April 8 & 9.

Participants in the Keeneland April select sale of 2-year-olds in training have a lot to talk about prior to the auction's two-night run, which is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday in Central Kentucky. There are several format and scheduling changes, which are receiving mixed reviews, and some consignors are concerned that not enough buyers are looking at their horses. Other sellers are happy with just about everything. Read what they have to say:

Randy Hartley, Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds: “Hopefully, it’s going to pan out to where we’re going to get enough buyers here to have a good sale. If we could get some middle-market buyers in here, it would be great.

“This is Keeneland; people love to buy horses here. You’ll get people who come here who won’t go to the other sales. A few buyers who come to this sale are the Kentucky guys who are looking for the filly with a good pedigree, so I think this is a good spot to have a good filly.

“I love the one breeze show (format). I’m not saying that I’ve never been thankful for the second breeze show, but most of the time, I don’t think it makes a difference. First impressions are everything.

“(With the two-night format) I think Keeneland’s ultimate goal is to have a more dress-it-up, more class-it-up sale, where people aren’t trying to rush through it and have a little more time to think about it. If you come the first night and you don’t get what you want, you can come out the next morning and search for something else. I like the concept of it. ”

Kevin McKathan, McKathan Brothers: “This sale is kind of strange for me because we have the best trainers in the world, the best owners in the world, and the best racing, and for some reason they (the trainers and owners) don’t come out to see what we’re doing here. It’s difficult for me to understand. If I were in their situation, I would walk up (the hill where the sale barns are located) and see what’s going on. It’s like being a football coach and knowing a team is practicing next to your house and you just don’t watch. I guess everybody is worried about what’s going to happen next month (in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, gr. I), and not what’s going to happen next year.”

“I think they (Keeneland) have made it hard on us with the (one) work show (so close to the sale). They (buyers) won’t have time to do their video work, and they won’t have time to do a lot of other things. They need to be able to watch the videos and then come look at the horses, and that’s what they’re taking away from them, in my mind. As a buyer, I would want to get the video, go home, watch it forwards, backwards, and in slow motion, and then go look at the horses. That’s going to be tough for people to do.

“This is going to be like Miami (at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale). The top 20% are going to sell really well. It’s not shopped by the people who are going to pick up the middle (market horses), so it’s going to be tough in the middle.”

Randy Miles, consignor: “I’ve always said it, since I came here the first time, ‘This is my favorite sale.’ It’s a good time of year to sell horses. I don’t have to push them. I’m not as good going to the early sales as some of these other guys. When you get days like this (sunny and warm on April 6), it kind of pumps people up and makes them feel good, and you’ve got some Derby fever going on. But I wish we could get more buyers here to this sale. It’s odd that we don’t get more.”

Eddie Woods, consignor: “I have a feeling we’ll  suffer boutique syndrome here. It’s Keeneland; it’s a narrower market. People like to show up where there are more horses to buy. We’re down to about 150 horses here (following scratches). There’s a better chance of ‘pinching’ one out of a sale with a lot of horses. In a boutique sale, it’s hard to ‘pinch’ one out of there. It’s too narrow; everyone finds the (good) horses.”

Mike Akers, Dapple Bloodstock: “I think it will be solid in the middle; $200,000 to $400,000 ought to buy you a nice horse.”

Niall Brennan, Niall Brennan Stables: “At the OBS (Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.) March sale, there were people there all week before the first breeze show looking at horses and all week between the two breeze shows. It was amazing. Here, we’ve got the race meet going on, and we’re coming in to their backyard, and there are only a few people paying attention. Where are the people? Are they going to show up tomorrow (April 7)? How are they going to look at the horses and do all their vet work? It’s going to be difficult.”

Peter Bradley, Bradley Thoroughbred Brokerage, a buyer and seller: “I’ve looked at some horses -- not that many yet -- and it’s a mixed bag. I’m only looking at fillies, and, as usual, fillies are light (in numbers). As a seller, I’d like to see some more potential buyers. I’m concerned about the lack of people.”

David Scanlon, Scanlon Training Center: “The format has changed, and it’s going to be interesting.  I don’t think anybody knows how to gauge it. It seems like it’s going to be two quick sessions (because of the scratches). Hopefully, people will have time to get all their homework done and find the horses they want.

“There’s a lot of good support with (Florida Derby, gr. I, winner) Big Brown coming from here. That’s what you need. It helps a lot.”

Mike Mulligan, Leprechaun Racing: “This is typically a place where there are a lot of Keeneland September (yearling sale) RNAs. To me, those horses are difficult to sell because the buyers who work this sale usually saw those horses in September and you’ve got to prove to them they didn’t give the horses a fair chance or the horses were better than they showed as yearlings. There’s already a lot of scratches, so it will be very much a ‘boutiquey’ sale, but I think there is a need for good horses and the good horses that are here will sell very well. This sale is also a good spot – or has been in the past – for the $50,000 to $100,000 horse that might go to one of the foreign markets that might not be as fashionable (in its breeding) and doesn’t work in :9 4/5 or :10 flat (for an eighth of a mile), but is still a good physical horse.”

“I’m fine with the changes (in format). There is certainly a school of thought that says we should have worked them last Thursday (instead of Monday, April 7), let people look at them through the weekend, and then sell them on Monday. But I think it will be fine. There is a small number of horses. There are a lot of scratches, so roughly you’ll have to look at 70 horses a day. They (the buyers) can look at half of them all day on Tuesday and have plenty of time to vet them and then look at half of them on Wednesday.”

 Kip Elser, Kirkwood Stables: “There’s a recession all over the country and certainly in most of the world. It (the sale) can’t be wonderful, but it will be solid. There are a lot of solid horses here, but there probably won’t be a whole lot of gravy.”

Murray Smith,  consignor: “It sounds like a great idea, bringing the sale to where all the trainers are and all the Derby horses are, but trainers and the owners – and you can’t blame them – are more conscious of their horses in their training barns, what’s going on there, and their plans for upcoming events. This is a distraction, whereas if you go to OBS or Barretts, the only thing that has your attention are the sale horses.”

Lance Robinson, pinhooking and breeding partner with Jerry Bailey: “Keeneland is Keeneland, and it’s supposed to be good. We’ve got all the horsemen in town here; we’ve got the races going on. But one of the concerns I’ve heard is that with this format, will the buyers have time to really look and understand the horses? The sale is at night, but they still only have one day after the breeze show (to evaluate first session’s  horses).”

John Stephens, Stephens Thoroughbreds: “I think if you have the right horse, it will sell well. There’s been traffic (in the barns), but no one is going to make a commitment until after the breeze show. If the horses work well, then they are going to do very well. If they work mediocre or average, that’s probably how they’ll sell.

“The one breeze show doesn’t bother me. The evening sessions, I think, are just an idea to try and motivate a little bit more buyer activity at this sale.

“I like coming here. Horses come here and do well physically. They like it here. The racing is wonderful, and I really enjoy it. Every year we’ve been here, I think we’ve sold pretty well. I have no complaints.”

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