Bidding Back in 2024: Keeneland January Sale Starts Monday

Keeneland sales grounds | Keeneland


The Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale begins Monday in Lexington and continues through Thursday with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m. Following on the heels of an apparently softening market at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale two months ago, consignors expect to see that all-too familiar polarization continue at the first auction of 2024.

“If you take a nice physical over there–the same as in November–it will stand out and should bring plenty of money,” said Hunter Simms of Warrendale Sales. “I think last year was a good year overall and I don't see any reason why that shouldn't lead to good demand in January.”

Reflecting on the November market, Simms said, “Judging from what we had and looking at the prices of what sold, the higher quality stuff brought very, very good money. The horses that people could fault, whether it was in produce records or older mares with a late cover date, maybe she has had four or five foals and there was no black-type, or if you had a foal and there were maybe some conformational faults or the sire didn't hit with 2-year-olds right off the bat necessarily, those were more of an uphill battle to get sold. It seemed like buyers were a little bit more reluctant to spend big money on those kinds of horses.”

Simms continued, “All of last year, the upper end of the market was very strong, but it was that middle to lower end where it was tough to get a lot of movement on horses, to get multiple buyers. I think that trend will continue. We've seen that trend for a few years now. It all reverts back to, if you have the physical, the right sire, and all of the pieces, your outcome should be good.”

The overall economy may offer a bright spot heading into the four-day January sale, according to Simms.

“I know interest rates are starting to creep down off that seven or eight percent,” he said. “Hopefully that will get some new people into the game that might want to start buying.”

Zach Madden of Buckland Sales agreed the January sale will continue the trend of polarized strength at the top and a weakening in lower strata of the market.

“I think it's going to be the same song and dance,” Madden said. “The stuff that is of quality is going to be very well received and I think foals that vet and walk well and have the pedigree and all of that will be hopefully strong. I think that we are just going to continue to see the same polarization of stuff that people really, really want and they go after and they pay top dollar for and then the sort older or “exposed” mares that just don't have much going for them or are in foal to a stallion that isn't making a lot of noise right now–man, that was really tough there in November and, candidly, I expect that to be worse next week. But I still think the top quality is going to bring a bunch of money and the stuff that is perceived to not be that will be a little softer.”

The 2023 November sale ended with figures down from the auction's strong 2022 renewal causing some jitters from consignors, but Madden saw reasons for optimism, particularly in the foal market.

“I know a lot of people were kind of doom and gloom over the market in general, but stepping out of the middle to top-end type of foal, they were bringing really good money,” Madden said. “I think there was an over saturation of buyers and not enough quality offerings. Why that is? I have no idea. But as people got their sea legs into books three and four, buyers who were looking at that $100,000 and down foal, I felt like that was really competitive. And I think a lot of people didn't fill their orders, so I do think that will be strong.”

Madden continued, “I sort of think that 'sky is falling' mentality overshadowed the, 'Hey, the foal market is pretty good.' It's obviously one sector of the whole market, but everybody wants to talk about how bad stuff is, and at the end of the day, I still feel like that quality and the foal market are going to be two strong things, hopefully, leading into next week.”

In all, 962 head grossed $45,408,300 through the ring last year for an average of $47,202 and a median of $19,000.

Ancient Peace (War Front), a supplement after breaking her maiden just weeks before, brought the 2023 January auction's top price when selling for $650,000.

The most recent supplements to this year's January catalogue include Sophia Mia (Pioneerof the Nile), whose first foal Speed Boat Beach (Bayern) captured the Dec. 26 GI Malibu S., and who sells in foal to Not This Time; and the 5-year-old mare Angel Nadeshiko (Carpe Diem), who won the Dec. 30 GIII Robert J Frankel S.

The final 10 supplements announced last week bring the total January catalogue to 1,477 horses.

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