September Talk: Reviewing Sale's First Week

September Talk: Reviewing Sale's First Week
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Mark Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency

From the very beginning of the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington, it was apparent that there would be a major correction in the market for young horses as key business figures suffered significant setbacks. Following are comments from auction participants during the first week of the sale:.

John Sikura, Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency: “It was a tough, select sale (during the first two sessions), but we’ve had a good sale. We sold one of the highest-priced fillies and one of the highest-priced colts. We were fortunate we were able to offer something very unique in the daughter of Azeri and the A.P Indy son of Madcap Escapade. If you had to do too much explaining or if your horse was an inch too small or something wasn’t quite right, it was a very difficult market. It’s thin and there is very little interest in the moderate horses.”

Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manager, WinStar Farm: “I think people are not having much trouble getting their horses bought, so they aren’t getting pushed down to other sessions. We adjusted what we were going to give for the horses we’ve bought, and we had our sights set much lower than what we had done before, but we were happy with what we got. We kind of tried to make sense of it all because we’re not getting as much on the ones we’re selling. We’re excited about it (the down market) on one hand (because of lower prices for buyers), but it’s a very tenuous time on the other, and we just hope other breeders are able to hang in there and get through this. Then, once they do, it will sort itself out. We typically stay pretty disciplined (in our buying). We’re economically-minded. WinStar Farm has to stand on its own. Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt don’t want to send money up from Texas anymore so we have to make it work (financially).”

Lynne Martin-Boutte, Florida-based buyer: “We’re getting outrun, and we’ve shopped really hard and vetted horses. We’re even passing some horses with little issues. A nice racehorse is hard to buy even though we’ve upped the ante (on the money we plan to spend).”

Archie St. George, Eaton Sales: “On a whole, we’re selling horses and everybody is being realistic. It’s been solid the whole way through.Of course, it’s helped with the Overbrook Farm dispersal (because the yearlings were sold without reserves). It’s definitely a buyers’ market, but nice horses are still selling and that’s proved by looking at the results sheets. There’s probably a 30% discount overall from last year.”

Neil Howard, general manager, Gainesway Farm: “There’s plenty of vet action on the horses that look the part. The ones that have even the slightest issues have been severely discounted. Horses that are little offset and want to toe in would have been pretty much accepted in years past, but now, the buyers just move on. You’re seeing that, plus the money is just not here. I had one guy tell me that he had some people who had played with him the last few years but they got hurt in the stock market pretty well, and they told him they were just going to take a year off to just kind of regroup.”

Pat Payne, Taylor Made Sales Agency: “The horses in book one (of the sale catalog) were way down physically. If you have a horse by a big name sire and it’s not a great physical horse, you don’t want to put that horse back there in books four and five. You go ahead and put him in book one.  Another thing that happens is when we do book one horses (decide which ones should go in those select sessions), we don’t know how they vet yet. This time I think the vets are being really picky. It used to be if a horse had a little P1 (long pastern bone) chip, that didn’t bother anybody. But I had a filly with little P1 chip this year, and I had seven repositories (veterinarians looking at medical information in the repository) and no scopes, all because of a little P1. I was like, ‘Man, that’s picky.’ ”

David Hayden, Dark Hollow Farm: ”Obviously, there is a correction in the market, and it’s not unexpected. The global economy took a big hit, and the discretionary dollars just aren’t there. What you don’t see happening right now is the little racing syndicate where guys put up $10,000 or $15,000 apiece. You don’t see them here, and it’s a shame that’s not happening anymore. You’re going to have a situation where the bottom of the market is really, really going to suffer big time. I just think the market is going to continue to go down, down, down until the economy picks up.

“What I fear for down the road is with less production being needed (for sale horses), you’re not going to have horses to fill races. So I think there is going to be a serious contraction of the number of racetracks we have in this country. We definitely need more excitement in the game. We’ve got to get fans to the racetrack. I know it’s great on the Internet, but you can’t really sit in front of a computer screen or a television and feel the excitement you do when you’re at the racetrack. It would be great if there were more fair meets, because that’s how I got started. When you’d go to Timonium, you could feel the hoofbeats; you could feel the heartbeats; and you could smell the horses.”

D. Wayne Lukas, Hall of Fame trainer: “I thought there were some damn nice horses (in book one of the catalog), but it might have been a little bit shallow on the number of them from years past. Overall, I don’t think it was quite as deep as it has been. The horses we went after didn’t look too soft (based on their prices). It didn’t look like there was a discount to me. You had horses bringing $15,000 or $20,000 all afternoon, and then, when a good one came in there, bang, it (the bidding) was all over the place. If these breeders in Kentucky will breed some good, athletic, well-bred horses and lead them in here, the market will be fine.”

Tommy Eastham, Legacy Bloodstock: “Buyers are conservative, and they wanted bargains from the get-go. They’re looking to buy horses they value at $400,000 for $200,000, so if you stretch just a little bit on your reserve, you’re probably going to have to do a little after-the-hammer hustling to get your horses sold.”

Mark Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency:  “When you initially look at the gross being down so far, it’s shocking.  But once you study them (the sale’s results) a little further, it (the market) is really almost exactly what I thought it would be. Within our own consignment, we had some horses that had book one pedigrees that could just as easily have been in book three or book two or wherever you wanted to put them physically. There were some weak spots where the conformation didn’t match the pedigree. There was a correction, and it was tough, but I think we had mentally prepared ourselves for it so it wasn’t a surprise. There was still really good money for a nice horse.”

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