Keeneland sale wraps up; new format called successful

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:48am


Energized by a new format which generated active trade from a broad mix of buyers, the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, which concluded on Sunday with across-the-board increases, accomplished its goal of bringing stability and continuity to a recently volatile Thoroughbred market.

Receipts for the 14-day auction, held September 12-26, totaled $198,257,900, for an average $64,811 and a median of $25,000. In 2009, gross sales were $191,859,200, for an average of $60,734 and a median of $22,000. This year, 3,059 yearlings were sold compared to 3,159 a year ago. The not-sold rate was 26.7percent, down from 27.5 percent in 2009.  A colt by A.P. Indy out of multiple Grade 1 winner Balance brought a saletopping $4.2 million on opening night, the highest price paid for a yearling at the September Sale since 2006.

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“The success of the September Sale is borne out by a number of positive indicators – high volume of trade, a deep buying bench and strong average and median prices,” said Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell. “Since this is the industry's most important sale, it has long been the barometer of the health ofthe North American industry. Given the impact of the global recession on our industry, we wanted to change the tone. We felt the time was right to make some changes that would infuse new energy and help reposition the marketplace as economic conditions continue to rebound both here and abroad.”

This year's auction opened with two select evening sessions designed to create excitement and momentum that would carry forward into the following days of the sale. And, in an effort to spread the quality consistently throughout the first week, Keeneland reformatted its Book 2 into one comprehensive catalog, presenting yearlings alphabetically by dam rather than ranked by pedigree and conformation.

“One of our goals with the format change was to get more buyers to market, and we succeeded,” Russell said. “We saw a great mix of old and new faces, both domestic and foreign, and they stayed longer into the sale. Trading was very evenly spread among a number of buyers. That is a very healthy sign.” 

Trainer Tim Hamm agreed that market conditions and a change in buying strategies by some parties sparked more diverse participation.  “Buyers have more opportunity to get better pedigrees than we have had in the past, and really get involved in the early part of the sale. Before we were kind of shut out due to financial reasons,” he remarked.

Keeneland collaborated with consignors in development of the new sale format, and Russell acknowledged their hard work in making the sale a success.

“Our consignors deserve a good deal of credit; they've been supportive of the format changes and really brought some good stock to market,” he said.  “Their ability to evaluate the market was key to the strong clearance rate.”  Buyers from nearly every state and 39 countries were represented, producing high traffic in the barns and competitive bidding throughout the sale.  “The sale has been very positive. We've had a lot of volume at the barns,” said Tom Eastham of Legacy Bloodstock. “Different buyers from different regions with different business plans stayed around to see these horses. (The new format) allowed us to spread interest throughout our consignments.”

Three yearlings sold for $1 million or more, highlighted by the $4.2 million paid by Miami-based healthcare mogul Benjamin Leon Jr. for the colt by A.P. Indy out of Balance. Benjamin, a noted Paso Fino horse breeder but relative newcomer to the Thoroughbred industry, signed the ticket in the name of his Besilu Stables.

The colt was consigned by Mill Ridge Sales, agent.  Bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, in the name of Flag Lake #2, went to $2.05 million to acquire a colt by Distorted Humor. Consigned by Lane's End, agent, the colt is out of the Storm Cat mare Angel's Nest, a daughter of European champion Miesque. San Francisco businessman George Bolton purchased a colt by Smart Strike out of the graded stakes-winning Seattle Slew mare Ask Me No Secrets for $1 million from Bruce Gibbs' Greenfield Farm, agent.

For the seventh consecutive year, Taylor Made Sales Agency ranked as the leading September Sale consignor, selling 341 yearlings for $28,873,800.  Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Shadwell Estate Company Ltd was the sale's leading buyer, purchasing 22 yearlings for $8,230,000.

On Sunday, Keeneland sold 197 horses for $957,200, for an average of $4,859 and a median of $3,000.  Sunset Stables LLC paid $37,000 for a filly by Flashy Bull to top the final session of the September Sale. Consigned by Dixiana, the filly is out of the winning Carson City mare Dream City.

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