Market Talk: Analyzing Keeneland's Opener

Market Talk: Analyzing Keeneland's Opener
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Brereton Jones

The Keeneland September yearling sale kicked off with increases in gross, average price, and median price from a year ago. But the buy-back rate was up, indicating consignors were less satisfied with prices during the first of the auction’s two select sessions. Read what people had to say about the market following Sept. 11’s opening session in Lexington:

Bob Baffert, Hall of Fame  trainer: “There’s a lot of money here, that’s why (the sale is up). You think things are kind of bad (in the economy). Have you tried to get into an Outback or a Red Lobster lately. You can’t get a parking spot. There’s nothing wrong with the economy.”

Bill Farish, Lane’s End: “We got our horses sold for the most part and bought a couple back. I feel like the market is definitely thinner. Except for the rare case, you don’t have as many scopes (endoscopic throat examinations) as you would have in years past. The buyers are particular, but they’re not so particular that we don’t have anybody on our horses.”

Craig Bandoroff, Denali Stud: “The two horses of ours that they (the buyers) wanted sold very well. We had a few buy-backs, which is something I don’t like. But I think when you’re at this level, you’re selling for people who have the wherewithal to keep their horses if they really want to keep them. It’s not like when you get into Book Three (of the sale catalog) and you’re selling for people that this is how they make their living.

“In Book One, if somebody has a really nice horse, they generally get aggressive and say, ‘Look, I’m willing to sell it, but I’m not going to sell it unless you give me what I want.’ I never have a qualm with a guy who has a really nice horse (and wants a big price). It’s when they get unrealistic on a not-so-nice horse that it gets difficult.

“I think there’s an oversupply of certain sires and it hurts you (as a seller). When there are so many of them, they (buyers) say, ‘Well, you know, that’s a nice one, but I like this one better.’ It’s not that anybody is doing anything wrong, that’s just the way it is.”

Brereton C. Jones, Airdrie Stud: “There are a lot of industries in America that would like to have those numbers (posted by Keeneland during the opening session) representing their efforts. Hopefully, the market will continue to be positive throughout the sale, but it will be more difficult when you get into the latter half of the sale. There will be lesser priced horses, but the people who will be buying them will have smaller pocketbooks.

“Keeneland has done a masterful job of going around the world in areas that have racing to sell the Kentucky product. Of course, as we all know, it’s more than just the Kentucky product. But Keeneland is a Kentucky corporation, so they’re trying to bring the worldwide horse market in here. Something like 49 different countries were represented here at last year’s sale, and that was an amazing number.

“The fact that Keeneland decided to have the nighttime sessions (for the select portion of the auction) to get started has helped psychologically. People are relaxed, they sit down and meet their friends, and have a libation or two. If they’ve got some money at home, they get in the mood and think why not go ahead and spend it because we don’t know what this economy is going to do.

“Let’s say you were a successful entrepreneur and you were getting ready to start a business, but then you watch the squabbling that is going on in Washington between both political parties. You would think, ‘Golly I don’t feel comfortable going out and spending all of my money to start a brand new business. I think maybe I’m going to buy a horse or two and just wait it out.’ There is a lot of that going on right now.”


Meg Levy, Bluewater Sales: “The people who are looking to buy a horse around here, they still don’t want to feel like they are overpaying. They don’t necessarily want a 40% discount, but they don’t want to feel like they are overpaying in this market and I think the same goes for any other luxury item. This is a business like any other, and you want give yourself a margin to be able to make a profit even if it’s a lifestyle thing.”

“I feel like we could add a little more urgency to Book One just by maybe putting more horses in one night and compressing it into one night. I feel like people would feel more urgency because they wouldn’t have all this time to go through these horses.”

John Sikura, Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency: “The bidding last night was quite conservative. People aren’t nearly as gung-ho and enthusiastic. They seemed to set very stringent limits and levels on what they were going to do. Not that I could complain about that horse (the $1.4 million session-topping A.P. Indy – Malka colt); it was a good sale. But if he had made $2 million I wouldn’t have been surprised.

“I think a lot of it is the mentality. For so long there was such competition and everybody had to have the same horses. It drove things upward. The bidders are kind of in the drivers’ seat now and I think they’re probably enjoying it.

“We need to have healthier racing. For somebody to spend a million dollars for a horse there have to be a lot of purse opportunities. There has to be the ability for a horse to earn its way out of its purchase price. Healthy, great racing is what makes the Australian and Japanese buyers so strong. There are great purse opportunities to recoup their investment. There is an enthusiasm for the sport that makes the interest so much deeper.”

Learn how the experts select yearlings with Fundamentals of Conformation, new from The Blood-Horse DVD Collection. Order today!

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