Keeneland September sale ends on high note

Lexington, KY (September 25, 2007) – Robust activity from domestic buyers and yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers, an increase in European spending, and demand for quality horses drove gross sales to near-record levels of $385,018,600 at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale, which concluded Tuesday.

This year’s total ranks as Keeneland’s second-highest grossing September Sale, down only 3.7 percent from last year’s 14-day record $399,791,800. Average price of $101,347 dipped 9.9 percent from the record $112,427 reported in 2006. The median of $42,000 was down 6.7 from last year’s record $45,000. Keeneland once again established an industry record for number of horses sold, selling 3,799 yearlings compared to 3,556 a year ago.

“The September Sale remains the world’s barometer of the Thoroughbred yearling market,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s Director of Sales. “This year’s sale was exceptionally strong, and its performance even more impressive than last year’s record sale. Buyers and consignors have commented throughout that it had a more enthusiastic feel to it than even last year. We agree given the positive indicators we saw – keen competition among buyers into the last days of the sale, strong domestic interest, greater spending by the Europeans, active buying from pinhookers, and a good mix of horsemen from around the world.

“Our consignors deserve a good deal of credit as they presented us with product of exceptional quality from the beginning to the end of the sale,” he said.

The quality and depth of the 2007 catalog was borne out by the fact that Keeneland reported significant increases over 2006 in 13 consecutive sessions of the 15-day sale.

“Some buyers might have shied away from Book 1 (sessions 1-2) because they felt they couldn’t be competitive,” Russell commented. “But less tussles at the top (between Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum and Coolmore Stud) has in fact encouraged more individual buyers to step in. For instance, we sold 32 million-dollar yearlings, the same number as last year, but more individual buyers bought those yearlings (19 compared to 16 in 2006). We want to extend our thanks to all those buyers whose hard work made this sale a success.”

European buyers were among those who increased their spending during this year’s sale. Excluding purchases by John Ferguson, on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Shadwell Estates, Rabbah Bloodstock and Demi O’Byrne, representing Coolmore Stud, European buyers spent $42.9 million during the first six days of the sale, up 68 percent from last year.

“The weakness of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies accounted for increased levels of spending by our international clients, but more so by our European clients,” said Russell, noting that buyers from 29 countries participated in this year’s sale. “Another factor is that the international market is very comfortable here because of the transparency of our transactions. They feel they get a proper shake because we disclose more information to potential buyers.”

Despite the strength of the September Sale, Russell had a word of caution.

“I don’t think the industry should look at the results of this sale and feel there is no concern for the long-term health of the market,” Russell said. “The breeding industry as a whole must take a long, hard look at its practices, particularly regarding stud fees and the oversupply of horses. There are currently too many non-commercial horses being offered. The industry needs to address these issues and encourage more participation in racing before we suffer a painful reality check.”

Demi O’Byrne, on behalf of John Magnier and Coolmore Stud, signed the ticket for seven million-dollar purchases, outlasting Texan Clarence Scharbauer, Jr., to acquire the sale topper, a colt by Unbridled’s Song for $3.7 million. Consigned by Lane’s End, agent, the colt is out of Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Status, by A.P Indy.

O’Byrne also signed the ticket for the sale’s highest-priced filly, paying $1.6 million for a daughter of Seeking the Gold out of the stakes-winning Crystal Crossing (Ire), by Royal Academy, consigned by Eaton Sales, agent. O’Byrne was the sale’s leading buyer, purchasing 13 yearlings for $17,920,000.

O’Byrne and Coolmore dueled only once with Sheikh Mohammed and his agent, John Ferguson, both sides bidding for a half-brother by Dynaformer to graded stakes winner and sire Pulpit. The colt, consigned by Claiborne Farm, agent, was eventually knocked down to Ferguson for $2.9 million, the second-highest price of the sale. Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed, was the sale’s second-leading buyer, acquiring 21 yearlings for $17,780,000.

Taylor Made Sales Agency topped all September Sale consignors for the fourth consecutive year, selling a total of 415 yearlings for $57,961,500.

During Tuesday’s final session, Keeneland sold 172 horses for $1,551,500, an average of $9,020 and a median of $5,750. No comparable session was held in 2006.

A colt by Mancini out of mare Are You Kidding, by Demaloot Demashoot brought the day’s top price of $50,000, paid by P.A. Everard, agent. The colt was consigned by John O’Meara’s Milestone Farm.