09/25/2009 12:00AM

Friday session: Not much good news


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's September yearling sale saw its steepest decline yet in gross on Friday as the total for 245 yearlings plunged 60 percent from last year, average plummeted 55 percent, and median dived 53 percent.

Sellers with horses cataloged late in this second week of the auction's open sessions had braced themselves for losses at the lower end of the market, and pre-sale expectations of more severe downturns than in the first week held true. The auction has rung up declines since its opening day, as was widely expected after 30-percent downturns in the early season 2-year-olds sales and the still-sluggish general economy.

Friday's session sold 245 yearlings for $2,504,800, for an average price of $10,224 and a $7,000 median. At last year's equivalent session, 276 horses brought $6,203,400 for a $22,476 average and $15,000 median.

Still, consignors only nudged the buyback rate upward this year, from 22 percent last year to 24 percent in 2009, a sign that they were prepared to cut their losses and take what the market offered in the difficult economy.

Friday's top price was the $80,000 that Just For Fun Stables paid for Hip No. 3919, a Stormy Atlantic colt consigned by the Taylor Made agency.

As at several of this week's sessions, yearlings out of young mares early in their breeding careers seemed to be among the more desirable offerings. Hip No. 3919 is out of Emptythetill, a 9-year-old Holy Bull mare who was second in three starts. Her first foal is 4 and unraced, but her 3-year-old Songandaprayer colt, Yukon Bull, is a winner.

The sale was to continue through Monday at the Keeneland sale pavilion. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m.