09/02/2009 11:00PM

Companies change November sales dates


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton have changed their November sales dates, citing a desire to make the sales as convenient as possible for buyers and sellers who plan to attend the Breeders' Cup in California on Nov. 6-7. Both companies also have trimmed their auctions' days, a sign of the economic times as many mare owners opt not to sell in a Thoroughbred market that is down roughly 25 percent even at its top end.

Keeneland initially scheduled its November breeding stock sale for Nov. 8-21, but now will hold the auction Nov. 10-22, cutting a day; each session will begin at 10 a.m. Fasig-Tipton's November select mixed sale, originally planned for Nov. 9-10, will take place on Nov. 10 starting at 5 p.m.

The rearrangement of dates will give buyers and consignors two more days after the Breeders' Cup to view or show horses before the auctions.

Neither auction house has released its November sale catalog, but Keeneland sale director Geoffrey Russell said a reduction in numbers is not a surprise in the current slumping marketplace and in a year when fewer mares have been bred.

"Basic sales economics 101 is that less horses bred, less mares sold," he said. "The majority of mares sold in the November sales are pregnant mares, and if a mare has not been bred, her commercial value has been compromised or is less, and therefore there would be less reason to market her."

Russell said he thinks the reduction is due largely to breeders either taking non-commercial mares out of production or holding on to mares, waiting for a year when they will be able to get more money for them.

"Talking to people this spring while looking at yearlings, and based on comments from people last year, we knew the numbers would be down," Russell said. "We've been talking for eons now about oversupply. If we have less supply, we hope the prices will go up."

Russell wouldn't say yet what the catalog numbers will be. But Overbrook Farm and Windfields Farm will disperse at the auction, factors that will add quality to the catalog, Russell said.

"I would expect numbers to be down a little bit," agreed Fasig-Tipton chief executive officer Boyd Browning. "I think anytime there's uncertainty in the marketplace, people are less likely to sell rather than more likely to sell. And looking at foal crop projections we've seen from The Jockey Club, any realistic person in the sales world would anticipate that number of horses sold is going to decline in the next few years rather than increase."

Strike Smartly dies in South Africa

Mrs. Bridget Oppenheim's Mauritzfontein Stud in Kimberley, South Africa, suffered a hard blow on Aug. 31 when its 12-year-old stallion Strike Smartly, a full brother to Lane's End's leading North American sire Smart Strike, died of a heart attack.

Mauritzfontein had stood Strike Smartly since purchasing him from Sam-Son Farms in 2002, and he was among the leading South African sires. His leading runners include a pair of 2009 Group 1 winners, Smart Banker and Bouquet-Garni.

Stud manager Gavin Schafer, quoted in South Africa's online publication Racingweb, said the Mr. Prospector horse had been prancing and rearing excitedly in his paddock just minutes before collapsing and dying. According to Schafer, necropsy results showed an enlarged spleen that pathologists called consistent with heart failure.