09/21/2013 4:05PM

Keeneland September: Sale ends with best financials since 2008 and a record median

Keeneland photo
A colt by War Front sold for $2.5 million to Coolmore's M.V. Magnier to rank as the most expensive horse sold at this year's Keeneland September yearling sale. The sale concluded Saturday with across-the-board gains and a record median.

The 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale ended on Saturday with the highest across-the-board economic figures since 2008, posting substantial increases compared with last year’s auction and setting a sale record in median. These results, generated by healthy trade across all price levels, provided the best support yet to a growing consensus in the bloodstock sector that the worst effects of the post-2008 recession are over.

Keeneland reported 2,744 yearlings sold over 12 sessions for total gross receipts of $280,491,300, jumping 28 percent from 2012, when 2,516 sold for $219,723,000 over 11 sessions. That total topped every year since 2008 and was the seventh-highest total since the Keeneland September sale was inaugurated in 1953.

The cumulative average price was $102,220, marking the fourth time in the sale’s 69-year history that the September auction finished with a six-figure average along with 2005-2007. The average spiked 17 percent compared with 2012, and the median price also finished ahead of the 2012 sale, rising 11 percent from $45,000 to $50,000. That median was a record, topping the mark established in 2006 and matched last year.

The buyback rate for 2013 was 20 percent, compared with 19 percent in 2012.

Keeneland benefited from a format change that spread out the Book 1 offerings over the first four days of the auction, from Sept. 9-12, instead of a single opening session. The sale’s highest-priced yearling, a $2.5-million son of War Front bought by Coolmore, sold during the final Book 1 session on Thursday, Sept. 9. One day prior, Mandy Pope went to $2.2 million to acquire the sale’s highest-priced filly, a daughter of Indian Charlie out of outstanding racemare and producer Take Charge Lady. Overall, 18 seven-figure yearlings were sold this year, the highest total since the same number reached that benchmark in 2008.

The momentum from Book 1 carried through the rest of the sale, and during the seventh session on Sept. 16, gross receipts surpassed the final totals from 2012. That session, the first of the Book 3 section, marked a transition into middle and lower-market offerings, and even on a more modest scale the Keeneland September auction continued to generate strong revenue. The penultimate session on Friday, Sept. 20, posted gains of 127 percent in gross, 41 percent in average, and 20 percent in median when matched against last year’s comparable session, which was the final session of the 2012 sale.

There were several trends that surfaced in the sale, all of them positive. Activity at the top of the market was robust, and compared with recent editions of Keeneland September, more diverse as well in terms of participating buyers. The Godolphin and Coolmore Stud teams, the two dominant buyers at Keeneland early in the 21st century, made their presence felt during the early sessions but did not dominate the proceedings – although a third major player, Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Ltd., finished the 2013 sale as the top buyer by gross again after doing so in 2012. This year, Shadwell bought 27 yearlings for $11,600,000.

These mainstays were joined by a group of mostly domestic buyers at the top end, including Nat Rea’s Regis Farms, which emerged earlier this year; Borges Torrealba, the Brazilian outfit which partnered with Three Chimneys Farm last year; Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, which continues to acquire high-profile fillies; and Florida-based Northwest Stud. Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farm partnered with Spendthrift Farm on two high-profile purchases early in the sale. Banke also joined with Rea on a $1.55 million buy and with Gainesway to secure a $1.2 million yearling, signifying a growing willingness by industry leaders to team up on prospects in an effort to mitigate risk.

Taylor Made Sales Agency repeated as leading consignor by gross at Keeneland, with 254 yearlings sold for a gross of $31,353,500. The Nicholasville, Ky.-based operation has finished as leading consignor at Keeneland for nine of the past 10 years.

Gainesway stallion Tapit was the leading sire by gross, with 38 of his offspring changing hands for a total of $15,670,000. Claiborne sire War Front was second in that category, with 35 yearlings, including the sale-topper, sold for $14,057,000. The leading sire by average among those with three or more sold was Coolmore’s international powerhouse Galileo, whose five yearlings sold averaged $523,000. Tapit was second by average at $412,368. Lane’s End stallion Quality Road led the way among a strong group of young sires with their first crop of yearlings offered at Keeneland, with 45 sold for a $5,538,000 gross, just ahead of Claiborne’s Blame. Blame led first-crop sires by average, as his 28 sold averaged $194,357.

Saturday’s final session concluded with 195 yearlings sold for $2,913,200, with an average of $14,939, a median of $11,000, and an 18 percent buyback rate. Two hips sold for $65,000 to pace the concluding session: a Hold Me Back colt bought by Joe Novogratz and consigned by Scott Mallory as agent; and a Belong to Me filly named Bella Loca, purchased by pinhooking outfit Eisaman Equine from the consignment of Paramount Sales, agent.

Next on the docket for Keeneland is the November breeding stock sale, which begins on Nov. 5 and runs for 10 sessions, through Nov. 14. Meanwhile, the yearling market will look to continue its upward momentum as sales continue elsewhere, beginning with the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic fall auction on Sept. 30 in Timonium, Md.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

-- additional reporting by Joe Nevills and Nicole Russo