NY-bred yearling sales success: key indicators up by a quarter at Keeneland September

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Keeneland photo

By Sarah Mace

In the context of this year’s highly successful 13-day Keeneland September yearling sale, which established a record average price and recorded a 22.51 percent increase in total sales, the New York-bred contingent set its own benchmarks. The New York-bred average and median prices improved by a quarter over last year, total sales were up by nearly a third and buybacks – which were elevated in the early books – posted a significant decline compared to last year.

This year 76 New York-bred yearlings were offered at the Keeneland sale, comparable to last year’s group of 75. Gross sales were $5,530,500, up a whopping 31.1 percent over $4,064,200 in 2017. Accordingly, this year’s average price of $97,026 was up 24.1 percent over $78,158 in 2017. The New York-bred median price, which came in at $45,000 this year, was up 25.0 percent over last year’s median of $36,000.

New York-bred buybacks, too, went in the right direction year-over-year. Despite the alarming 42.9 percent RNA rate for New York-breds in the first book and 37.0 percent rate through the first two books, the buyback percentage came down significantly over the course of the sale, ending up at 25.0 percent, which was significantly lower than 2017 when 52 of 75 sold for a 30.7 buyback rate.

While the strong New York-bred median is always a positive indicator for the marketplace as a whole, there was significant action at the very top of the market, as we have come to expect in recent years. In both 2017 and 2018, a total of 14 individuals sold for six figures. The topper in 2017 was an Into Mischief colt by Into Mischief out of Indian Rush bred by Pine Ridge Stables who was purchased by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Company for $750,000. This year’s top seller was a $500,000 American Pharaoah yearling bred by Chester and Mary Broman who is a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Bar of Gold. Additionally, this year 10 New York-bred yearlings sold for $200,000 and up, compared to four last year.

In the sale at large, the cumulative average established a Keeneland record, increasing 7.34 percent from $120,487 to $129,331. The median of $50,000 was 12.28 percent below $57,000 in 2017. Total sales in 2018 exceeded last year’s 12-day auction total of $307,845,400 on the seventh day of selling. Final receipts of $377,130,400 rose 22.51 percent over last year and represent the highest gross since the 14-day September Sale in 2005 when 3,545 yearlings sold for $384,349,900.

“We were optimistic that it was going to be a terrific sale,” Keeneland’s Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said Sunday. “But to be $70-million plus over the gross of last year and to have 27 millionaires, versus 13 last year, and to see the strength of the market carrying on through Book 5, quite honestly, exceeded our expectations.”

Elliston credited the strength of the catalogue as the reason for the sale’s success. “Credit goes to the breeders and consignors who brought one of the best crops of yearlings to market in years. Buyers responded with an enthusiasm that exceeded all our expectations.”

Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell agreed. “In the end, it has to be the horse,” he said. “Yes, there are external factors like a strong economy and stock market and new tax laws that obviously help raise the bar. But if the horses aren’t top quality, buyers aren’t going to pay extra money for them just because they have it in their pocket.”

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