The mixed quality of the product cataloged for the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale prevented gains in its final totals, but market stability prevailed as the four-day exercise concluded Thursday.
The highs, lows and everything in between were about on par with what was expected of the first major domestic Thoroughbred auction of the season. While the sale of the Galileo mare Up for $2.2 million to Ran Jan Racing was the highest priced horse sold at the January sale since 2008, the market continues to be unforgiving for those offerings with holes in their physical make-up or pedigree.
Overall gross receipts of $35,305,500 from 948 head sold were down 13.94 percent from the $41,025,700 generated by 1,027 sold during the 2014 sale.
The average ($37,242) and median ($16,000) declined 6.77 percent and 20 percent, respectively, with the rate of horses not sold coming in at 25.18 percent compared with 19.58 percent a year ago.
Officials often caution against judging the market solely by a breeding stock sale, given the fact that quality can vary wildly from year to year and from sale to sale. Coming off a November Breeding Stock sale that produced gains in gross, average and a record-tying median, a strong depth of buyers remained during the January sale with the demand for newly turned yearlings especially competitive.
"You don't know what product you are going to get (in mixed sales) from year to year, because you are selling the factory. This year, we were a little off," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "But I don't think it has a reflection, really, on the whole industry.
"I think we come out of this sales season knowing we have some stability back in the market, which I think is a very good thing. I'm a big believer that having stability is better for the industry than having another big jump up that we can't sustain."
Following on the momentum that started in 2013, the past year has seen domestic buyers double down on their willingness to make long-term investments (broodmares) rather than solely seeking out yearlings and 2-year-olds that were close to going to the racetrack.
The 10 highest priced horses of the January sale were purchased by 10 buyers, with eight of those representing domestic shoppers.
"It's good, it's nice, to see fresh faces and some returning faces showing up," Russell said.
The highest priced newly turned yearling of the sale was Up's bay filly by War Front, which sold for $800,000 to Solis/Litt Bloodstock on behalf of LNJ Foxwoods. One of the expected stars of the January sale, champion Blind Luck, failed to meet her reserve after getting a final bid of $1.4 million, becoming the highest-priced buyback at the January sale since 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri was an RNA at $4.4 million in 2009.
Taylor Made Sales led all consignors, selling 85 horses for a total of $4,639,100.
"I think it's business as usual," bloodstock agent Bob Feld said of the sale. "The standouts sell for big money, and the rest struggle. People are sharp, and they do their homework, and you really have to bring the right product to the market."