Hip No. 712 proved to be the top selling horse in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale as it fetched $2.5 million. Keeneland Photo.
The first six sessions of this year’s Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale seemed to signal a changing of the tide for the Thoroughbred industry, as numbers reached pre-recession levels.
Through the end of Book 2, which marks the halfway point of the auction, 1,116 horses sold for $216,922,000, which is just $3 million shy of the total brought by horses in the entire 11-day sale last year. The average price of $194,375 jumped 32.8 percent over 2012, and the $145,000 median surged 45 percent since 2012’s sale.
Yearlings are organized into groups according to projected value based on their pedigrees and physical characteristics, with the highest-priced horses falling into the first book of the catalog at the start of the sale. This year, Keeneland expanded the prestigious Book 1, which normally lasted one session, to include 875 horses sold from Sept. 9 to Sept. 13, and bumped the start of the auction from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for those days.
Officials said at the start of the sale they hoped the new format would give high-level buyers more time to comb through horses. They also hoped broadening the catalog would prevent buyers without seven-figure budgets from feeling squeezed out of the bidding.
Whether thanks to the new format or to a buoying economy, prices from Book 1 showed a strong increase over last year’s select session: the average rose 38.5 percent over last year, and the median increased 38.3 percent. Eighteen yearlings brought seven figures, equaling the number of million-dollar horses from 2008.
“Mission accomplished,” said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell. “Our goal with the format change was to get as many high-quality yearlings and as many buyers on the grounds as possible. It worked; week one was a great success. Our consignors did an extraordinary job. They brought us the cream of the North American foal crop.”
Consignors reported increased activity at the barns as buyers came to inspect horses before the auction.
“It’s strong,” consignor Kitty Taylor of Warrendale Sales said about the auction. “There’s a lot of activity in the barn, a lot of people looking. It’s all been good.”
“It certainly appears to me the market’s coming back. It’s good trade for the buyer as well as the seller, and I’m just happy to be here,” said George Isaacs of Bridlewood Farm.
The economic recession that began in 2008 hit the Thoroughbred business hard, and perhaps no one felt the punch more acutely than commercial breeders and sales agents. Keeneland’s 2008 September sale began to reflect the country’s increasing financial anxiety, with averages prices sinking 7.7 percent and gross receipts reduced by 16.8 percent over the previous year. The sale’s 2009 figures were considerably worse.
The highest price of this year’s sale was Hip 712, a colt by War Front out of During mare Blading Gold Ring, that commanded $2.5 million. War Front has undoubtedly had one of the most successful years of any stallion in 2013, with graded stakes winners left and right, including Declaration of War, Jack Milton, Data Link, Departing, Lines of Battle, Bashart and Peace Preserver among others.
The colt was consigned by Peter O’Callaghan’s Woods Edge Farm, which bought the colt as a weanling at Keeneland’s November sale for $180,000. He was purchased by M.V. Magnier of Ireland’s Coolmore Stud.
“He was a good mover with nice legs,” Magnier said after the sale. “We’ve been lucky with War Front. This is a good-looking horse for us.”
A diverse group of buyers showed up for the more expensive first half of the sale, said Keeneland’s Russell.
“There was a hugely diverse group of buyers participating this week — foreign, domestic, new buyers, familiar faces, prominent pinhookers and end-users,” Russell said. “You name the criteria of the buyer, and they were here.”
The top five buyers included Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Company Ltd., which purchased 25 horses for $11.3 million; sales agent Ben Glass; Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier; and Live Oak Plantation and Northwest Stud (both of Florida).
The list of top spenders also included Borges Torrealba Holdings, which purchased four yearlings for more than $3.2 million in partnership with Lexington’s Three Chimneys Farm. The Torrealba family of Brazil announced an investment into the farm in November and began purchasing its first horses together at Keeneland’s breeding stock sale that same month.
Nicholasville-based Taylor Made Sales Agency was the sale’s leading consignor through the sale’s seventh session, with 141 horses sold for a total of $26,814,000 and an average of $190,170 each. BL