Downward Spiral Continues at Keeneland Sale

The Keeneland January horses of all ages sale continued its scary downward spiral during the second session of its six-day run in Lexington. The gross revenue Jan. 13 dropped 66.2% from a year ago while the average price fell 61.6%. The median price plunged 55.8% while the number of horses sold was down least of all, 12.1%.

According to Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, a factor in the steep drops was the lower quality of the catalog compared to previous years. Many owners, he explained, chose to hold on to their better horses rather than try to sell them in a struggling marketplace.

Three horses brought seven-figure prices during 2008's second session. This year, the top price was only $300,000.

"These horses were entered in November when people realized there was a major financial crisis, so the quality was kept back and then you just factor in the global economy on top of that," Russell said. "As a sale within itself, from start to finish, there was competitive bidding on the better lots. The auctioneers felt like it was a stronger session even compared to yesterday. The people I've talked to--both sellers and buyers--felt the day had a good feel to it for what was here."

The 210 horses that sold grossed $9,145,700 and averaged $43,551. The median was $26,500. During last year's second session, the 239 horses that sold grossed $27,088,200 and averaged $113,340. The median was $60,000.

The buy-back rate rose from 21.1% in 2008 to 23.1% this year.

"The broodmares have really been penalized," said Kentucky bloodstock agent Mike Ryan. "If a guy has the capital, I don't know of a better time in the last 15 years to get in and buy mares because you're really getting mares worth the money. Some of these mares are going to foal in weeks. But it's just the world we're living in right now; it's tough. It seems to me the further they are away from the racetrack, the less people want to buy them."

The January auction's cumulative figures through two sessions were 412 horses sold, a gross of $21,091,600, an average of $51,193, and a median of $27,000. Compared to 2008, the number sold declined 5.1% from 434. The gross plummeted 56.4% from $48,414,100. The average dropped 54.1% from $111,553. And the median fell 53.8% from $58,500.

The buy-back rate decreased from 26.9% in 2008 to 24.8% this year.

The sale continues through Jan. 17, with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m. (EST).

(Originally published at  

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About the Author

Deirdre Biles

Deirdre Biles is the Bloodstock Sales Editor for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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