By Jessica Martini
The Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale concluded its four-day run in Lexington Friday with steady figures which continued to show strength in the marketplace into the new year.
“We are very, very pleased with the sale,” said Keeneland's vice president of sales Tony Lacy. “Continued competitive trade, high clearance rate and high median price have solidified some confidence in people who were nervous before the beginning of the sales season. They feel positive about moving forward into the rest of 2022 and are investing as such. The market is very broad in all respects; you're not seeing the spikes and valleys indicative of a narrow market. Demand is strong, with multiple bidders on horses at all levels, but not overheated. Prices, even the higher ones, are fair, believable and sustainable.”
The 2021 January sale was dominated by the dispersals of Sam-Son Farm and the late Paul Pompa, Jr., which combined generated gross of $13.5 million. Despite lacking those types of high-power dispersals, this year's auction produced fairly similar results.
Through four sessions, Keeneland sold 1,013 horses for a total of $46,341,100–second highest since the 2008 sale. The auction's average dipped just 3.23% to $45,746, while the median was up 33.33% to $20,000.
In 2021, 963 head grossed $45,522,100 for an average of $47,271 and a median of $15,000.
“There are a lot of happy sellers,” Lacy said. “The buyers can be a tad frustrated in places, but still, they understand that a competitive market is good for everybody. If it's competitive to buy, it's competitive to sell, so hopefully they will reap the rewards on the other end.”
The buy-back rate, which was 25.75% during the auction's first session, fell as low as 13.09% during the third session before concluding with a cumulative 19.35%. It was 21.26% a year ago.
“The high clearance rate continued through the middle and even lower end of the market, and that is really encouraging because this isn't a barometer sale like September and November,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach said. “This is a new tax year and yet there's the same hunger to buy horses where there hasn't been for years. That's a really good sign.”
Four Star Sales' Kerry Cauthen agreed the low buy-back rate was a positive indicator for the market.
“Comparable horses have been selling well compared with previous years,” Cauthen said. “Generally, when you bring a horse to January, you intend to sell. The number of horses not sold on Thursday was incredibly low. That means people are buying, and that is the name of the game.”
Three Chimneys Farm, buying out partner Hill 'n' Dale Farm, purchased the auction's top-priced offering when going to $750,000 for the 2-year-old filly Princesse Lele (Quality Road). Carl and Yurie Pascarella acquired impressive maiden winner Belgrade (Hard Spun), a late addition to the catalogue, for the sale's second highest price of $700,000.
“I think the higher-priced horses were fair,” Lacy said. “They weren't extraordinary, they were I think very rational and more sustainable over the longer term. I think it gives a feeling of confidence moving forward that there is viability in breeding a nice horse, whatever level it is, that you can get a return profit and get it moved along.”
Belgrade's late entry to the January sale was the highlight of a strong supplemental catalogue.
“The quality of the catalogue was very strong when it initially came together, but the ability to add a small number of supplements, such as Belgrade, who sold so successfully for Randy and Sandy Bradshaw, was very rewarding,” Breathnach said.
A colt by Gun Runner was the January sale's top-priced short yearling when selling for $375,000 to Narvick International. The youngster was one of 492 yearlings to sell at the four-day auction for a total of $18,136,300 and an average of $36,862.
Two short yearlings topped the $400,000 mark at the 2021 January sale–both to Larry Best's OXO Equine–with a colt by Munnings bringing top price of $475,000. In all, 421 yearlings sold for $14,958,600 and an average of $35,531 in 2021.
“I think pinhookers are looking forward hopefully to another very strong year,” Breathnach said, while agreeing it seemed like some sellers were being protective of their yearlings this early into the new year. “This past September was extremely good, with a record median among other metrics, so I think there is that confidence that the market is currently in a good state of supply and demand. There's a lot of energy behind the sport in terms of new ownership and new money that showed up in September, and it's not an overheated market. It's very solid, especially for the middle. So they might want to roll the dice deeper in the year than maybe they have in the last several years. There were also quite a few yearlings who traded for $200,000 or more, especially in Book 1 and that's a sign that what was offered was very popular.”
Best was the leading buyer at the 2022 January sale, but this time his purchases were all mares as he looked to support his three young stallions. Best paid $1.49 million on six horses.
Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, led consignors by selling 122 horses for $5,696,800.
Ron Winchell and Three Chimneys donated a 2022 no-guarantee season to Gun Runner to support relief efforts from last month's tornadoes in Western Kentucky. The season was auctioned off at the end of Tuesday's first session of the auction was brought a final bid of $130,000 from Bill Layni.
“This was such a generous gesture by Ron Winchell and Three Chimneys, and Keeneland was very pleased to have been able to facilitate the sale of the Gun Runner season,” Lacy said.
The racing or broodmare prospect Go Big Blue Nation (Animal Kingdom) (hip 1579) brought the highest bid of Friday's final day of the January sale when selling for $225,000 to R. Larry Johnson. During the session, 243 horses sold for $4,020,700, for an average of $16,546 and a median of $10,000.