01/09/2015 1:25PM

Keeneland January: Steady market expected for sale

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Ponche de Leona topped the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale in 2014, going to Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable for $775,000.

The overarching theme of the 2014 auction calendar was steadiness at a competitive level following three years of rapid growth in the commercial marketplace. That trend began with last year’s Keeneland January horses of all ages sale and is expected to continue during the 2015 renewal.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, said the stability of the bloodstock market has started to become apparent over the past year beyond numbers on a balance sheet.

“It’s interesting,” Russell said. “If you drive around Central Kentucky, you’ll see so much fencing going up, and the same thing goes for ourselves on the [Keeneland] property. Things that we have deferred for a while because we didn’t have the cash for it, and with farms the same way, now they have some extra cash in their pockets and are going back and doing the repairs and maintenance, which is always the longest list at any farm.

“That just shows that they’re putting back into the farms and reinvesting in the farm,” Russell added, “be it in a broodmare or just in the structure of the farm itself.”

The four-day Keeneland sale kicks off the 2015 major North American auction calendar and will look to build on the momentum from the Kentucky November sales at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton.

Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale posted minor gains in total receipts and average price while maintaining a record median that was reached for the second straight year. Russell said he expected the momentum created at the November sales to carry through to the next stop on the calendar.

“November was very strong on all levels of the market,” Russell said. “There was great, spirited bidding throughout the whole sale, and we hope that will continue on. There does seem to be a revived interest in long-term investment in this industry, which I think is very good – at all levels of the market, not just at the top end or the bottom. Everyone seems to be interested in getting back in, and I think that bodes well for the industry.”

This year’s Keeneland January sale will start Monday and run through Thursday, beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

The catalog consists of 1,610 offerings, including 605 broodmares, 135 racing or broodmare prospects, 563 newly turned yearlings, 282 horses of racing age, and 25 stallion prospects. The number cataloged is up 1 percent from last year when 1,590 horses were cataloged.

While returns from recent auctions suggest that the market is beginning to reach a comfortable cruising altitude, buyers have kept a discriminating eye while selecting horses. Overall figures were generally strong during the major November auctions, as well as the yearling season that preceded it, but buyback rates trended upward at many sales.

“I think you’re going to see pretty much a similar market,” said Tommy Eastham of consignor Legacy Bloodstock. “There was some depth going through September, and October, and the November sales, but buyers were still not as strong as you’d like them to be. You could get horses sold, but the gauntlet was still pretty fierce. I think we’re still sitting in that market.

“It’s been polarized for a few years, and I think you’re going to keep seeing it,” Eastham added. “The demand is up for the good horses. The penalties are heavy, but if you get everything marked off and get all the way through, you can make retail plus. It’s a pretty good market at that juncture, but it’s hard to get there.”

However, Eastham noted that the January sale allows horses an opportunity to stand out better than they might have during the fall auction season, when the roster of horses catalogued is far deeper.

“The good thing about the January sale is you don’t have to go up and beat against a bunch of big, heavy bangers,” he said. “You can go over there with a horse and be a $75,000 horse and probably get that, but there’s not going to be any $3 million or $4 million horses out there. There’s a higher likelihood that you’re a bigger fish at that sale.”

Russell added that the January sale can provide a second chance for horses cataloged in earlier breeding stock sales if the first auction did not go as planned and the horse was bought back.

“We’re very fortunate every year that we’re able to get some of the horses that were cataloged in November but weren’t able to sell show up there and have an opportunity to be sold,” he said. “We have several of those in the catalog, so that’s a positive. It’s a service to the breeders to be able to sell some horses before the breeding season starts.”

The 2014 Keeneland January sale realized total receipts of $41,025,700 from 1,027 horses sold, down 9 percent from 2013, when 1,105 offerings brought $45,207,300. The average sale price dipped 2 percent from $40,912 to $39,947, while the median rose 33 percent from $15,000 to $20,000. The buyback rate also improved from 25 percent to 20 percent.

However, it is important to note that the 2013 renewal of the Keeneland January sale benefited from the high-profile dispersal of Fares Farm, which included several quality offerings that otherwise would not have been available on the open market. Removing the Fares dispersal from the 2013 sale, total revenue and average sale price each rose 8 percent in 2014.

Ponche de Leona, the dam of 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, topped the sale in 2014, going to Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable for $775,000. The daughter of Ponche was offered in foal to Distorted Humor.

Philip Blake purchased the highest-priced yearling of the sale, a Kitten’s Joy colt out of the placed Storm Cat mare Gata Bella, for $235,000.

KEENELAND JANUARY HORSES OF ALL AGES SALE
WHEN: January 12-15, 2014, 10 a.m. Eastern
WHERE: Keeneland Sales Pavilion, 4201 Versailles Rd., Lexington, Ky. 40510
PHONE: (859) 254-3421
CATALOG: 1,610 hips, up 1 percent from 1,590 last year
RECENT HISTORY: The 2014 sale posted mixed results, selling 1,027 horses for $41,025,700 (down 9 percent compared with last year), an average price of $39,947 (down 2 percent), and a median of $20,000 (up 33 percent). Brushwood Stable purchased Ponche de Leona, a Ponche mare who previously produced multiple Grade 1 winner Mucho Macho Man and was in foal to Distorted Humor, for $775,000 from the consignment of Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services, agent, to top the sale. The highest-priced yearling was a Kitten’s Joy colt purchased by Philip Blake for $235,000 from the consignment of Castle Park Farm, agent.
Internet: Live streaming at www.keeneland.com
 

KEENELAND JANUARY HORSES OF ALL AGES SALE RESULTS, 2005-2014

YEAR SOLD     AVERAGE     MEDIAN      GROSS

2014  1,027   $39,947     $20,000  $41,025,700

2013  1,105      40,912       15,000   45,207,300

2012  1,003      37,878       15,000   37,991,900

2011  1,021      24,731         7,500   25,250,350

2010     982      24,333         8,000   23,895,100

2009  1,338      24,532         9,500   32,824,000

2008  1,493      47,184       17,000   70,446,000

2007  1,862      39,134       15,000   72,868,200

2006  1,629      44,411       16,000   72,345,100

2005  1,361      39,249       13,000   53,418,000