Hot Start Changes Dynamics at Keeneland September

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There are lots of ways to analyze a horse sale. Comparisons to the previous year, using standard numbers like gross revenue, average price, median, etc. You can ask the loan officer of a bank that’s in the equine lending business how things are going, or maybe check with a Central Kentucky liquor distributor on the volume and quality of champagne being sold locally.

British bloodstock agent David Redvers summed up the collective might of the first four days of this year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale in Lexington, Ky., in just 140 characters on his @dredvers Twitter account. It’s as good as any review of the numbers that I’ve seen thus far.

Redvers Tweet

In 2012, Redvers spent $2,755,000 to buy 13 yearlings during the opening four sessions. He was able to zero in on some of the world’s hottest stallions, getting two yearlings each by Galileo, Malibu Moon and War Front, among others, spending no more than $400,000 for his highest-priced purchase.

This year, David Redvers Bloodstock was listed as buyer of just five yearlings totaling $1,230,000, the most expensive being a $325,000 colt by Blame.


Redvers obviously has more orders to fill after the conclusion of a blockbuster Book 1, and he’s not alone. Many out-of-towners have extended their hotel reservations and changed flight plans, including a number of American trainers who, in the past, were accustomed to finding value during the opening week of the Keeneland sale.

“I bought one, but I’m afraid I’ve underestimated the value of the rest,” said a California-based trainer who is a veteran of the Keeneland sale and will be staying longer than expected into this year’s sale.

That’s good news for consignors selling this weekend when the sale resumes with Book 2 on Saturday and Sunday, then marches on with Books 3, 4 and 5 the following week, concluding Saturday, Sept. 21.

Each session begins at 10 a.m., unlike the first week under Keeneland’s new and improved format, when the Book 1 offerings began at noon.

It’s inevitable that the momentum from Book 1 will carry over. The question is, “How far?” The Book 1 catalogue of 875 horses was smaller than the 1,047 offered during the same four days in 2012 in Books 1 and 2. But the 2013 sale is larger overall, with 3,908 yearlings catalogued, 8.4% more than the 3,604 last year. Here’s a quick snapshot of the opening week numbers:

–Gross revenue increased by 15.5% even though 16.6% fewer horses were sold. (546 sold for $153,385,000 in 2013, compared with 655 selling for $132,853,000 –Average price of $280,925 increased by 38.5% from $202,829 in 2012.

–Median price of $207,500 increased by 38.3% from $150,000 in 2012.

–The percentage of horses bought back by consignors was 27.0%, down ever so slightly from 28.6% in 2012.

–The clearance rate (percentage sold from catalogued to include outs and RNA’s was virtually identical to 2012 (62.4%, compared with 62.6%).

–18 yearlings sold for $1 million or more, an increase of 157% from the seven sold in 2012.

–60 yearlings sold for $500,000 or more, an increase of 42.9% from the 42 sold in 2012.

While the first four days of the auction account for only about 22% of the entire Keeneland September Yearling Sale in the number of horses offered, the gross receipts represent about 60% of the total. Projecting forward to when the final horse enters the ring a week from Saturday, it is estimated this year’s Keeneland sale will gross over $250 million dollars, with the average price per yearling approaching $100,000 and a median price just shy of $50,000.

Those are strong numbers.

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  • Rider717

    Hi Ray,

    Thanks for taking time to assemble the numbers from the first
    week of the Keeneland sale. Watching online is fascinating; I enjoy the
    auctioneer’s patois and many of those yearlings gave me chills. So beautiful, so promising, so young.

    Having a hard time understanding the influence of the sale on racing. Not being coy or combative, just can’t connect the dots. Understand commerce drives the industry and bloodstock is the coin of the realm. But I wonder what happens next. What if these colts and fillies don’t run? Some of the fillies may end up as brood mares, but what of the colts?

    Do any of the high-dollar types—buyers, sellers, bloodstock agents, consignors, breeders—contribute to a fund for retraining and rehoming of these horses whether they run or not?
    Should they? This is just one sale. What about the others?

    • RayPaulick

      This is the first year the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance checkoff is part of North American public auctions. Each day before the sale begins, the auction announcer reads off a series of important notices, conditions of sale, etc., and this year the TAA is part of that announcement. TAA is building momentum as an industry-funded pass through organization that will support approved horse retirement and retraining operations throughout North America. Sale participants may check off a box indicating their financial support of the TAA.

      • Rider717

        Thanks! TAA sounds like a worthy org and one to donate to. Will look them up.

  • Mimi Hunter

    I find sales fascinating. I’d be interested in finding the totals for fillies vs colts, both this year and last year. It just seems that there are more high dollar fillies than colts.

    • Anton Chigurh

      Go to the keeneland website. results for both are in an excel like format and easy to sort.

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