While selectivity indeed took its toll in the latter of the Keeneland September yearling sale’s 13 sessions, contributing to cumulative across-the-board declines from its 2015 indicators, the world’s largest yearling auction demonstrated there is still resilience in the middle market, heartening the outlook of participants at all levels.
Given the rocky lead-in it had from the results of this season’s previous yearling auctions, the Keeneland September sale acquitted itself better than many expected as buying depth from both international and domestic participants yielded thoroughly fair trade — particularly during the first four books. With this year’s sale running one day longer than 2015, the overall gross of $272,890,500 from 2,792 head sold declined 3.06 percent from last season while the average ($97,740) and median ($40,000) fell off by 4.69 and 20 percent, respectively, though both those figures were on par with 2015 numbers heading into the final session.
At the top end, ultra-competitive bidding yielded nine horses which sold for $1 million or more, including a Scat Daddy colt that is a half sibling to champion Beholder, who went to Coolmore Stud’s M.V. Magnier for $3 million, the highest-priced horse to sell at the September sale since 2010. Though buyers have been hesitant to extend themselves into that seven-figure threshold, there was tremendous action just below that level as 84 horses sold for $500,000 up to $999,999 this year compared to 57 in that range in 2015.
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“I think this Keeneland September sale was a very good sale from start to finish,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “I think there was concern coming in for the middle market and kind of Books 3, 4 and 5, and we actually saw for ourselves great strength in Books 3, 4 and 5. So that was, I would say, a pleasant surprise.
“I think it comes back to a couple things. Our graduates have performed very well and (buyers) know this is where they can come to buy quality horses in that level of the market. And it’s the work we do year round. We work at this 52 weeks of the year and what we do year round with domestic and international buyers has borne fruit again.”
Where the OBS August sale and the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale were both plagued by buyback rates over 30 percent, the Keeneland September auction actually saw steady improvement on that front after it got through its first two days. The final rate of horses not sold came in 26.49 percent compared to 24.25 in 2015, still extremely selective but not the all-or-nothing feel of prior exercises.
“It’s a fair market. Good horses sell good, bad horses don’t sell.It’s like every other sale in the world,” said agent J.J. Crupi, who purchased 23 horses for a total of $5,619,000 including a Tapit colt out of Grade I winner Hooh Why for $1.2 million. “You have a good horse, everybody wants them. The sellers complain and the buyers say they paid too much.”
Many shoppers indeed commented that it was tough to get their orders filled, a good problem from a market standpoint as it prompted several prominent outfits to stick around beyond the first three days that featured the select Book 1 portion of the catalog. Shadwell Estate Company led all buyers with 15 horses purchased for a total of $10,750,000 while Taylor Made Sales led all consignors with 282 head sold for $32,899,300.
Though the September auction handled some market trends about as well as could be expected in the current climate, sales officials continue to warn about the delicate balance of supply and demand as the foal crops start to tick upwards once more.
“I think a lot of people are going home very happy because the middle market was a lot stronger than they anticipated,” Russell said. “I hope they look at it though to realize that they don’t want to get too crazy in this market. It is good. It is very solid and people can make good money in it. But I wouldn’t want to see anymore expansion.”