Citing the hardships of maintaining a "boutique" model in a shrinking marketplace, Keeneland officials announced Tuesday its April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale will be put on hiatus for 2015.
First held in 1993, the April auction featured a select catalog of 2-year-olds sold during a single-session auction conducted on a non-racing day early in the Spring Meet. The 2015 April Sale had been scheduled for April 6.
While the 2014 April sale produced double-digit gains in average and median from the prior year, just 38 horses were sold from the 125 cataloged. Seventy horses cataloged were withdrawn before the 2014 sale — 53 of which were pulled before the under tack show — leading to speculation as to how many select sales the market would be able to support going forward.
"The 'boutique sale' model has become increasingly difficult to construct," Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said in a release. "The April sale lacks a critical mass of horses, a key factor which makes our September Yearling, November Breeding Stock and January Horses of All Ages sales so successful. We will suspend the April sale this year and continue to review its viability in years to come."
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The ongoing decline in the foal crop has put supply and demand back in line within the market in recent years. However, as the inventory has decreased, the buying base has not increased at a similar rate.
Adding to Keeneland's struggles with the April sale is the fact so many consignors of 2-year-olds are based in Florida. With the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company offering both its stalwart, three-day March 2-year-olds in training sale and another four-day juvenile auction in late April, there was less and less reason for consignors and buyers to travel a long distance for a smattering of offerings.
"At the end of the day, these smaller sales, these one-day sales ... have really suffered because they've struggled to catalog 100 horses," said leading consignor Niall Brennan, who sold a half-brother to Tapit for a sale-topping $1 million at the 2014 Keeneland April sale. "That and the 2-year-old market is centralized in Florida here. So it's a lot easier, a lot less expense, a lot less stress on everybody when the horses can sell at the OBS sales because they're right here in town.
"You can't just have three or four of the larger consignors bring horses to Keeneland and have a full catalog."
The suspension of the April sale is similar to when Keeneland discontinued its boutique July yearling sale beginning in 2003. The market has continued to demand the breadth and depth of Keeneland's marathon September auction.
Though brief in history, the April sale has a track record of producing top performers including classic winners Palace Malice, Lookin At Lucky, Big Brown and Thunder Gulch.
"I'm sad they're not able to have a sale but I understand it completely," Brennan said. "It all comes down to the demographics of it and the reality is these select sales have struggled and these bigger sales are what people want. They want numbers, they want choice, they want to decide for themselves what are the select horses. They want something to choose from."
Sales figures for Keeneland's April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale since 2004:
Average Median Gross
2014 $230,763 $200,000 $8,769,000
2013 $197,288 $150,000 $11,640,000
2012 $165,322 $120,000 $9,754,000
2011 $165,200 $130,000 $11,564,000
2010 $169,197 $135,000 $12,013,000
2009 $178,864 $117,500 $11,805,000
2008 $211,675 $150,000 $16,299,000
2007 $202,890 $155,000 $16,637,000
2006 $211,954 $150,000 $18,440,000
2005 $162,290 $130,000 $17,040,500
2004 $217,941 $135,000 $22,012,000