09/29/2009 12:00AM

Keeneland September ends with 41% decline


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland September yearling sale ended its 14-day run Monday with harrowing losses that had yearling sellers tightening their belts for the upcoming breeding season.

After Monday's final session, Keeneland had sold 3,159 yearlings for $191,859,200, down 41 percent from last year's total for 3,456 horses. The 14-day cumulative average of $60,734 was 36 percent lower than last year's figure, and the $22,000 median was off by 45 percent. The buyback rate for the entire auction was 28 percent this year, up from 25 percent in 2008.

Diamond G Ranch purchased the last session's top-priced yearling, a $35,000 Forest Grove filly out of Summer Storm that Ron Blake's Blake Agency consigned. Diamond G also signed for the second highest price of the day, a $33,000 Tactical Cat-Make a Deal filly offered by Four Star Sales on behalf of Nuckols Farm.

The final session grossed $985,500 for 175 horses, down 38 percent, while the session average of $5,631 and $3,000 median were lower by 25 percent and 33 percent, respectively. The session buyback rate was 26 percent, up from 22 percent last year.

The auction sold four yearlings for $1 million or more, including the sale-topper, a $2.05 million colt from Storm Cat's next-to-last crop and the first foal out of champion older mare Fleet Indian (Indian Charlie). Summer Wind Farm consigned the colt through the Taylor Made agency and sold him to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stud.

The 2009 sale's other seven-figure horses were a $1.3 million Medaglia d'Oro-Beaties for Real filly that Live Oak Plantation bought from Barbara and Francis Vanlangendonck's Summerfield agency; a $1 million A.P. Indy-Madcap Escapade colt that Coolmore agent Demi O'Byrne purchased from the Hill 'n' Dale Sales agency; and a $1 million Unbridled's Song-Strawberry Reason filly that Darley Stud bought from Stone Farm, agent.

The number of million-dollar yearlings was down from 18 at the auction's 2008 edition.

Significant downturns were widely predicted. Keeneland sale director Geoffrey Russell had warned of a dangerous oversupply of horses since at least 2007, and the global economic recession that struck in the middle of Keeneland's second week last year prompted a sharp correction in the vast majority of Thoroughbred sales ever since. Still, many consignors agreed that the depth of the drop was worse than they had expected, particularly at the opening two sessions, the select days that traditionally have weathered downturns better. With even the top end of the market down between 30 percent and 35 percent from last year's figures, for many breeders the upcoming 2010 breeding season will mean deep cost-cutting and decreased foal production as they attempt to ride out the storm.