09/26/2010 7:43PM

Sale ends with encouraging signs for bloodstock market


It wasn’t a home run. It may not even have been a double. But the Keeneland September yearling sale, which wrapped up on Sunday after 14 days of selling, posted solid returns that may have signaled that the bloodstock bust is over.

The overall figures were not spectacular, but average for the 3,059 horses sold during the 14 sessions was $64,811, up 6.7 percent compared with the average of $60,734 for the 2009 sale, when prices fell dramatically as the forces of the recession buffeted the bloodstock market. Median was up 13.6 percent, from $22,000 to $25,000.

Even with a smaller catalog, gross sales surpassed last year’s gross, with $198,257,900 in total sales compared with $191,859,200 last year. The percentage of horses that did not meet their consignor’s reserves was 26.7 percent this year, down slightly from 27.5 percent last year.

Last year, all of the financial indicators at the September sale cratered compared with the 2008 sale, which was held just as the banking crisis had begun. Average for the 2009 sale was down 33.3 percent, while median – an indicator of the strength of the middle of the market – fell 40.5 percent. Gross sales were down slightly more than $130 million, or 41.4 percent.

Keeneland accepted fewer horses for the sale catalog this year, and it split the traditional first day of selling into two sessions over two nights, in an attempt to re-create the kind of atmosphere that surrounded the boutique July sale, which was scrapped after 2002. During the first session this year, an A.P. Indy colt out of the Grade 1 stakes-winning mare Balance sold for $4.2 million, the highest price for a September sale yearling since 2006.

“One of our goals with the format change was to get more buyers to market, and we succeeded,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, in a statement. “We saw a great mix of old and new faces, both domestic and foreign, and they stayed longer into the sale. Trading was evenly spread among a number of buyers. That is a very healthy sign.”

Three horses, including the $4.2 million A.P. Indy colt, sold for $1 million or more during the sale.