04/21/2006 12:00AM

Keeneland withdrawals raise concerns


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 2006 Keeneland April 2-year-old sale was better on paper than last year's edition, but the number of withdrawals and buybacks suggest that many consignors found the going tough.

The 2006 auction sold 87 juveniles for $18,440,000, an average price of $211,954 and a median of $150,000. Those numbers were up from last year, when 105 lots brought $17,040,500 for a $162,290 average and a $130,000 median. But the number of horses that didn't sell also was telling. From 223 horses in the catalog, 76 were withdrawn from the auction and another 60 failed to reach their minimum bids.

Horses are withdrawn from auctions for a variety of reasons, including private sale before the auction opens, injury, or a seller's concern that the horse will not meet his reserve in the ring.

"The number of outs was very disappointing," said Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell. "But this is a performance sale, and these things happen."

The buyback rate of 40 percent, essentially the same as last year, also disappointed Keeneland officials, but, as Russell noted immediately after the auction, "these people have a lot of money invested in these horses," and sellers were unwilling to let horses go if they felt the price was too low.

"Overall, we're very pleased with the sale," Russell said. "It was a much better sale than last year. There was more enthusiasm."

Initial signs leading up to the Keeneland sale were positive. The sale took place in a season that earlier produced a world-record $16 million colt. Keeneland's first breeze show April 10 generated fast times, and its catalog was widely praised for good pedigrees. But bad weather and a slow track at the second under-tack show on April 17 kept a lot of horses in the barn. And a dates conflict with two other major sales - the Inglis Australian yearling sale and the Tattersalls 2-year-old sale in England - kept major bidders overseas.

Russell agreed that a three-way dates conflict wasn't ideal. But he pointed out that, in the age of cell phones and agents, buyers were well able to purchase horses from all three venues. At least one global player, Katsumi Yoshida, owner of Northern Farm in Japan, did exactly that. Coolmore representative Demi O'Byrne attended the first preview show before heading to Australia, and Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley organization had representatives simultaneously at Inglis and Keeneland.

"We had the buyers here, we just wish they'd all lighted on the same horses," Russell said.

The abbreviated second preview session did have a negative impact on some buyers.

John Fort of Peachtree Stable, who purchased a Siphon filly for $160,000 and an Officer colt for $240,000, said he didn't bid on a couple of horses on his list after their consignors opted not to gallop their horses on the off track.

"I thought that was a terrible mistake, not to even gallop them when there were buyers sitting there wanting to see them," Fort said.

That's one problem Keeneland shouldn't have next year after it installs the famously water-resistant Polytrack surface on its main track.

The select 2-year-old market's feast-or-famine nature may prompt yearling-to-juvenile resellers to spend less this season at the yearling sales.

"They might spend the same amount, but on fewer horses," said Russell. "I think professional pinhookers will sit back and revise their numbers or the amount they'll spend to get what they want."

One team that won't be pulling in their horns is Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds. The company, owned by Randy Hartley and Dean De Renzo, sold the $16 million Forestry colt at Fasig-Tipton's Calder sale, hitting the ultimate home run.

"We made a change last year to upgrade quality, and that worked well, so we'll probably continue that," De Renzo said.

But everyone else may be thinking smaller in 2006 and 2007.

"I think the whole middle to upper market was much stronger at the 2-year-old sales this year," said Russell. "Everybody wants to hit a home run, no mistake about it. But as one owner said to me, 'I didn't hit a home run, but I hit a double.' As long as you're making a profit, you're doing okay."

Ramseys sell Nothing to Lose

Ken and Sarah Ramsey have sold their Grade 1-winning turf horse Nothing to Lose for stud duties in Australia.

A 6-year-old Sky Classic horse, Nothing to Lose will stand at Walter Alteri's Newlands Thoroughbreds in Victoria. David Bernsen, owner of Carondelet Farm in California, brokered the private deal.

Nothing to Lose won four graded stakes in his career: the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap in 2004 and the Tropical Park Derby and Palm Beach Stakes, both Grade 3 events, in 2003. He left trainer Bobby Frankel's barn in 2004 with a record of 15-6-3-1 and $809,210 in earnings.

The Ramseys had hoped to bring Noting to Lose back in 2005 for a try at the Breeders' Cup, but minor physical setbacks and Hollywood Park's decision to cancel its turf racing that season prompted the decision to retire him in 2005, Bernsen said.

Nothing to Lose is out of the stakes-winning Clever Trick mare Cherlindrea. He is a full brother to stakes winner Everything to Gain.

Fastest breezes at under-tack show

A Songandaprayer-Island Lake colt offered by the Eisaman Equine agency breezed the fastest quarter-mile time of 20.80 seconds at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's under-tack shows Thursday and Friday in Florida. The fastest eighth-mile breeze was the 10 seconds posted by a Successful Appeal-Down South Trickin' filly consigned by Hartley/De Renzo. The top three-eighths-mile time was 34.20 seconds by a Suave Prospect-First Glimmer colt. The under-tack shows, which previews next week's OBS April juvenile sale, were to continue through Saturday.