Keeneland Digital Platform Continues to Grow

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Keeneland sales pavilion | Keeneland photo

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Keeneland, which debuted its first digital sale in June, will take perhaps its biggest swing at the on-line platform Tuesday with a December Digital Sale catalogue featuring some 70 offerings of weanlings, yearlings, broodmares and broodmare prospects and racing and stallion prospects.

“We are very happy with what we came up with,” Keeneland's Director of Sales Development Mark Maronde said of the strength of the catalogue. “It was kind of a surprise in that we just finished the November sales and leading into this time of year, we really didn't know what we would get.”

In addition to a French-based group of offerings led by Group 1 producer Fancy Green (Fr) (Muhtathir {GB}), the December catalogue includes mares who come into the on-line auction with major updates. Stakes-winning Surrender Now (Morning Line) (hip 44) is a half-sister to recent GIII Bob Hope S. winner Red Flag (Tamarkuz) and the 5-year-old is booked to Tamarkuz's sire Speightstown for 2021. Felicita (More Than Ready) (hip 22), who is offered in foal to Not This Time, is a half-sister to this year's GI Frizette S. winner and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Dayoutoftheoffice (Into Mischief).

“I think the November sales were maybe stronger than people thought they would be under the circumstances and they saw this [digital sale] as another opportunity,” Maronde said. “And then, with a horse like Surrender Now, she's a 5-year-old mare, they were probably go to breed her and the half-brother jumped up and won impressively in California. I think it gave them the option to test the market and see where it takes them. They always have the option to buy her back and breed her, but it was an opportunity that was probably too good to pass up.”

Maronde continued, “There is a half-sister to Dayoutoftheoffice in foal to Not This Time. I think Not This Time earlier in the fall wouldn't have been as hot. And then that filly jumped up and won in New York and then came back and ran second in the Breeders' Cup, probably it gave them a similar opportunity to see if they could cash in. This would seem to be the place to do it.”

The December catalogue also includes Westside Singer (Gone West) (hip 47), dam of multiple graded stakes winner Secret Message (Hat Trick {Jpn}); Meow (Gio Ponti) (hip 32), a half-sister to multiple graded winner Engage (Into Mischief); and Frankly J'Ray (Frankel {GB}) (hip 23).

As the digital sales continue to gain in popularity, Maronde expects more buyers and sellers to take advantage of the timeliness of auctions outside the traditional sales calendar.

“I don't think we are there yet, but I think the pandemic moved this format along a lot quicker than we thought it would,” Maronde said. “We thought this was going to be something that people would have to be exposed to and it would be slow going. So this being the third sale and to come up with 70+ entries did kind of shock us a little bit. I think that's related to the pandemic and also an awareness that there is an opportunity that doesn't always have to follow the sales calendar when you have a sale like this pop up.”

Nudged along by the travel restrictions caused by the global pandemic, Keeneland unveiled its digital sales platform in June with a pair of offerings bringing six figures, but with 18 of 31 horses failing to sell. The October sale was topped by a $200,000 racing or broodmare prospect and only seven head finding new homes.

“The first [digital sale] we had to see where we were,” Maronde said. “The second one, we didn't really know how  September [Yearling Sale] was going to play out and we wanted to give sellers every opportunity to move product. So we had that second sale taking horses who were RNAs out of the yearling sales. More so than anything, that was the purpose of the second sale. For this third one, we knew we needed to have another sale. There was a consignment that approached us and said they would like to try to have a digital sale focused around the November sale time frame, so people could go to the farm and look at horses and then be prepared to buy them on this platform.”

From its initial season of three auctions, Maronde said he expects the digital platform to only grow in 2021.

“We will be making a bigger commitment to this in 2021,” he said. “We will probably have seven or eight sales in the months that we don't have a live sale. And we will throw more resources at it. This has been a learning exercise for us for all three sales. We haven't had the opportunity to focus on it as much as we'd like. But this sale and the one in October were basically us trying to be reactive to what we thought maybe was going to be a need in the marketplace with the travel restrictions and a perceived tough market to sell into. I think we learned that the industry is pretty resilient and flexible. The online bidding at the sales everywhere has been a lot stronger than anybody would have thought. Videos are more in demand and more people will be doing videos and there does seem to be less of a negative on selling without being present on site. The big takeaway for all of us in this is that we thought it would be a little bit harder to get people to adjust to than it's been.”

Bidding on the December sale offerings begins Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. and bidding closes on lots every two minutes beginning at 2 p.m.

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