Keeneland's January Horses of All Ages Sale concluded Friday with returns mirroring the trend seen throughout recent sales seasons: steady results indicative of a stable marketplace combined with selectivity among buyers who place increasing emphasis on quality horses.
Gross sales for the five-day auction, held Jan. 11-15, totaled $35,463,000, up from the $35,305,500 recorded during last year's four-day sale. The average of $34,099 was down 8.44 percent from $37,242 in 2015. The median of $11,000 decreased 31.25 percent compared to last year's $16,000. This year 1,040 horses were sold versus 948 last year.
“The sales continue to bear two positive signs: market stability, despite a currently volatile economic climate, and the willingness of buyers to stretch their budgets for the exceptional horses,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “Buyers are spending discretionary income, and so they are extremely selective in making their purchases. They are also keenly competitive to acquire these top individuals. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, consignors who bring quality horses to market are well rewarded.”
The January Sale marks the close of an extraordinary sales year at Keeneland, with the September Yearling Sale and November Breeding Stock Sale bookending the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Keeneland's international recruitment initiatives have established the auction house as the world's leading provider of horses and buyers at every level of the market.
That demonstrated buying power is evident in the fact that during the three recent Keeneland sales, a total of 127 interests – 77 in September, 45 in November and five in January – spent $1 million or more.
The depth and breadth of Keeneland's buying bench produced 22 seven-figure horses at the 2015 November Sale, led by the most expensive Thoroughbred sold at public auction in the world last year: champion Take Charge Brandi, who brought a final bid of $6 million. Additionally, a filly by War Front from the family of Take Charge Brandi commanded a North American weanling record price of $3.2 million. Eleven yearlings sold for $1 million or more at the 2015 September Sale, topped by the $2.1 million paid for a colt by leading sire Tapit.
“There is plenty of money for quality,” said Mike Ryan, who as agent spent more than $1 million during the January Sale for various clients. “People are very shrewd. They know what they want and they're prepared to step up and buy them.”
While the market remains stable, the increasing level of selectivity among buyers coupled with increasing foal crops in North America and Europe raise notes of caution from sales officials.
“Demand remains strong for premium horses, but it's a different story for the less commercial end of the market,” Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell said. “By their selectively, buyers are sending a clear message that they want quality, commercially viable horses.
“This year, we cataloged an extra day each for our November and January sales, which translates to more than 600 additional horses,” Russell said. “Keeneland is here to serve the market, and we work throughout the year, around the world, to provide a marketplace that represents both established and emerging racing markets. But even the emerging markets have developed to the point where buyers seek quality rather than quantity. We as an industry don't want to lose sight of the hard lessons we learned just a few short years ago.”
Domestic buyers dominated the 2016 January Sale, a noted market for young broodmares and broodmare prospects and an increasingly popular venue for quality short yearlings. Prominent breeder and owner Virginia Kraft Payson acquired the two highest-priced horses, the half-sisters Summer Solo, in foal to Ghostzapper, for $700,000, and Summer Sweet, by More Than Ready, for $550,000, both consigned by the Part Dispersal of the Estate of Sarah J. Leigh, for which Denali Stud was agent. Two yearlings each fetched $450,000: a filly by Arch, also purchased by Payson from the Leigh dispersal, and a colt by leading sire War Front, bought by Cromwell Bloodstock from the consignment of Greenfield Farm, agent.
Payson's three purchases, two made in the name of her Payson Stud, totaled $1.7 million to make her the sale's top buyer.
During Friday's final session, Keeneland sold 197 horses for $1,790,100, for an average of $9,087 and a median of $5,000. There was no comparable session in 2015.
A 2-year-old colt by Uncle Mo out of the winning Cashel Castle mare Amor de Palacio brought the day's highest price, selling for $80,000 to Eico Ventures. The colt was consigned by Brandywine Farm, agent for the Dispersal of the Estate of Eric A. Delvalle.
For the third consecutive year, and 14th time since 2001, Taylor Made Sales Agency ranked as the January Sale's leading consignor, selling 92 horses for a total of $4,359,500.
“Keeneland thanks all the consignors and buyers who support our sales,” Russell said. “The breeding season begins soon, and we wish everyone the best of luck.”
Keeneland's next auction is the September Yearling Sale, to be held Sept. 12-24.
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