Sunday, July 15, 2001

Keeneland set for sale of yearlings

Fewer horses, big money

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — There will be fewer horses than ever before parading through the auction ring Monday when Keeneland opens its two-day July Selected Yearling Sale.

        The drop in numbers, however, has done nothing to dampen hopes that thoroughbred prices will continue to rise, as they have each of the past six years.

        “We're cautiously optimistic,” said Mark Taylor, vice president of public sales for Taylor Made Sales Agency. “We'll be taking 26 yearlings over, and we feel this is one of our strongest groups in some time.

        “From what I've heard from other bloodstock agents, everybody seems to think there are a lot of strong horses cataloged. The economy is a little bit lethargic right now, but we have no reason to think this will be anything but another successful sale.”

        Only 164 horses have been cataloged for this year's sale, making it the smallest in the 58-year history of the event. That number is down 21.1 percent from the 208 cataloged for last year's sale.

        Much of the decrease stems from the fact that Keeneland's annual September yearling sale has continued to grow in stature and popularity.

        “Twenty years ago, the September sale was really an afterthought — a place to sell nice horses that were not going to bring in the big dollars,” Mr. Taylor said. “Now, some horses that have just a modest amount of pedigree can still bring $500,000 or $1 million if they have that powerful, athletic look.

        “The September sale has grown into a huge event in its own right, but there's still something special about Keeneland in July. There's just an intense atmosphere and a charged energy that you really don't find anywhere else.”

        Sheer numbers may not matter as long as progeny from high-end bloodlines continue to be available. During the 2000 sale, Keeneland sold 130 horses for $80,732,000 — an industry-record $621,015 average — including 24 which sold for more than $1 million.

        In each of the past six July events, gross sales and average continued to climb. In 1994, Keeneland sold 194 horses during its two-day July sale for $45,265,000 — an average price of $233,325.

        “The Keeneland July sale has produced horses that are successful throughout the world, and more graded stakes winners than any other sale,” Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said. “It is a select sale, and people come year after year because they know these horses are the best of the best.”

        More than 500 yearlings were nominated for this year's sale based on pedigree and conformation. The 164 that were cataloged include colts and fillies from a variety of big-name sires including Storm Cat, Deputy Minister, Seattle Slew, Unbridled, A.P. Indy, Seeking the Gold, Danzig and Saint Ballado.

        Bidding should be spirited for some of the final offspring of coveted sire Mr. Prospector. Seven yearlings by Mr. Prospector, a Keeneland summer sale topper in 1971, will be up for grabs, including a filly out of Grade I winner Classy Mirage; and a half brother to Grade I winner Tap to Music and Grade II winner Northern Afleet.

        Although the outbreak of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome sent a shock wave through the thoroughbred industry, officials say they think it will have little impact on this year's sale.

        Heart scans of most of the yearlings in the sale have shown no signs of pericarditis or any of the other maladies associated with the syndrome, which killed more than 500 foals and caused hundreds of spontaneous abortions.

        Mr. Taylor said he doesn't expect to see sale prices jump up or down significantly until the 2003 event, when yearlings from the syndrome-gutted 2002 foal crop — which could be as much as 25 to 30 percent smaller than usual — will be available for purchase.

        “My gut feeling is that people won't be thinking about the syndrome much this year,” Mr. Taylor said. “At first, I think there was a little hysteria that some of the hearts in this year's yearlings may have been defective, but those thoughts were unfounded.”

        The 2001 sale will include two sessions, Monday and Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., and will be televised live by TVG.


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- Keeneland set for sale of yearlings