Gross Sales Top $70 Million at Keeneland

Lexington, KY (January 13, 2008) – The sale of four horses for more than $1 million contributed to gross sales of $70.4 million at Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale, which ended Sunday.

Gross receipts for the seven-day sale of $70,446,000 were down 3.3 percent from last year’s eight-day auction record of $72,868,200. Average price of $47,184 increased 20.6 percent from $39,134 in 2007, while the record median of $17,000 rose 13.3 percent from $15,000 posted last year. A total of 1,493 horses were sold in 2008 compared to 1,862 sold in 2007.

Four horses topped the $1 million mark – the most since January 2000 when six million-dollar horses were sold. The highest price came on opening day when Southern Equine Stables paid $2.7 million for Irish Cherry, dam of Grade 1 winners Spun Sugar and Daaher, sold in foal to Ghostzapper. She was consigned by John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent.

The January Sale also featured the complete dispersal of the estate of noted owner and breeder Cynthia Phipps, who died last October. Consigned by Claiborne Farm, agent, the dispersal sold 14 horses for $3,052,500, highlighted by the sale of Palais Versailles for $625,000 to WinStar Farm and her dam, the stakes-winning Versailles Treaty, for $475,000 to Gaines-Gentry, agent.

“We are very pleased with the results given the variability of January sales,” said Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell. “The sale unfolded as anticipated; buyers were very discriminating in their purchases in a continuation of what we saw in November.”

In 2007, Keeneland’s four sales realized a record cumulative gross of more than $814 million, with participating buyers representing almost every state and 45 countries, up from 42 the previous year. However, Russell cautioned that success was attributable to global economic factors rather than market strength.

“Make no mistake; record sales last year were built on the weakness of the U.S. dollar, which drove foreign spending. If not for that, we would have experienced a major market correction,” he said. “One only need look at the recent downturn in European sales, which did not have the benefit of the favorable exchange rate. It will happen here too, unless breeders make some hard decisions.”

Using North American yearling sales as a barometer of market health, Russell cited disturbing trends that should be red flags for breeders. According to The Blood-Horse, last year 57.8 percent of all yearlings sold for $20,000 or less; 43.4 percent of which sold for $10,000 or less. Keeneland yearling figures bettered the national average – 34.1 percent sold for $20,000 or less; 21.1 percent for $10,000 or less – but still give cause for concern when it generally takes a minimum of $20,000 in expenses (excluding stud fees) to get a horse to the sale.

Russell also pointed to significant increases in Keeneland’s annual sale days (27 in 2002 versus 39 in 2007) and the size of its September Yearling Sale catalog (an increase of 1,200 yearlings since 2002) as indicators of serious overproduction of the commercial market.

“Our sales have expanded dramatically over the past five years, yet the size of the North American foal crop (37,900 in 2001 versus 37,300 in 2006) has remained virtually the same,” he noted. “That shows there are too many non-commercial horses being offered. We get questions about the number of days and number of horses we now catalog, but as Keeneland is the marketing arm of the industry it is our role to catalog what we are offered. We raise the issue of overproduction out of concern for the long-term profitability of our commercial breeder clients.”

For the eighth consecutive year, Taylor Made Sales Agency led the January consignors’ list, selling 128 horses for $6,221,400.

Southern Equine Stables ranked as the sale’s leading buyer, purchasing 10 horses for $3,862,000, including the sale-topping Irish Cherry for $2.7 million.

A filly from the first crop of Saint Liam brought the sale’s highest-price for a yearling, going to Tom Van Meter for $475,000. Consigned by Robert E. Courtney/Crestfield Farm LLC, agent, the filly is out of the unraced Deputy Minister mare Ministrada, and is a half-sister to Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) winner Lone Star Sky.

The January Sale was the first to conduct testing for exogenous anabolic steroids. Under the policy, buyers can request testing of their weanling and yearling purchases. Only one request was made during sale.

On Sunday, Keeneland sold 153 horses for $1,017,800, down 45 percent from last year’s gross of $1,849,600. The average of $6,652 was down 27.3 percent from $9,156 reported in 2007, while the media dipped 19.5 percent from $4,350 to $3,500.

Comarillo, a stakes-placed four-year-old filly by Deputy Commander, brought the highest price on Sunday, going to Liberation Farm & Brandywine Farm for $47,000. Sold as a broodmare prospect, Comarillo is out of the graded stakes-winning Crafty Prospector mare Amarillo. She was consigned by Legacy Bloodstock, agent.

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Keeneland extends its thanks to participating consignors and buyers, and wishes them all a successful 2008 breeding season.

A reminder that Keeneland’s next auction, the 2008 April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, will span two evening sessions, Tuesday – Wednesday, April 8-9. Keeneland will hold one preview show on Monday, April 7.