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Keeneland September closes with big increases in turnover and average

Buyers from more than 20 different countries contribute to robust health

Keeneland: 27 lots sold for seven figures in 2018 compared with 13 last year
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Keeneland brought down the curtain on its marathon September Yearling Sale on Sunday with impressive increases in gross and average, although the median declined from last year's record level.

Topped by the sale of a War Front colt purchased by Coolmore Stud's MV Magnier for $2.4 million, the auction was an unqualified success.

The price given for the colt was the highest this year for a yearling sold at public auction worldwide.

Highlights were:

  • Gross receipts of $377,140,400 for 2,916 sold represented an increase of 22.5 per cent over last year's $307,845,400 for 2,555 sold and were fourth-highest in sale history and the best since the $385m total for 3,799 sold in 2007, just before the global recession.
  • Cumulative average of $129,335 marked a record for the sale, increasing 7.3 per cent over last year's previous record of $120,487.
  • The sale median price of $50,000 represented a 12.3 per cent decline from last year's record $57,000.
  • The 27 individuals sold for $1m or more were more than twice the 13 such transactions a year ago and highest since the 32 at this level, also in 2007. Three of those yearlings brought more than $2m each, led by the sale-topping War Front colt consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent.
  • From 4,538 cataloged, there were 904 horses not sold for an RNA [reserve not attained] rate of 23.7 per cent, compared with 25.2 per cent in 2017.

During Sunday's final session, Keeneland reported 183 horses sold for $1,334,200, for an average price of $7,291 and a $4,000 median.

The RNA rate was 26.5 per cent for 66 that went unsold. There was no comparable session during the 12-day auction in 2017.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey paid the day's highest price of $70,000 for a colt by Court Vision. Consigned as Hip 4435 by Vinery Sales, agent for Haymarket Farm, the colt is out of the Forestry mare Baytree.

Thanks to aggressive buying by the Godolphin operation of Sheikh Mohammed, who was making his first Keeneland sale appearance in nearly a decade, and by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Estate Company- and bolstered by a deep buying bench that included some of North America's most prominent racing operations and Irish-based Coolmore Stud - the sale began on a strong note that set the tone for what would follow.

"The September sale saw an all-out competition for horses that drove the volume of trade to robust levels," Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said.

"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."

There were a number of reasons cited for this year's bull market, including the strong US economy and tax laws on depreciation favourable to horse ownership, but the most compelling factor was buyer perception that this year's yearling crop was better than those seen in recent years.

"In the end, it has to be the horse," Keeneland director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell 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."

Godolphin and Godolphin Japan combined to acquire 27 yearlings for $19.96m, the highest amount for a single buying entity since 2006.

Sheikh Mohammed's acquisitions were highlighted by seven $1 million-plus purchases, including an American Pharoah colt bought for $2.2m and a War Front filly purchased for $1.75m.

The latter was the sale's top-priced filly and a half-sister to champion and 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who stands at Godolphin's Darley in Lexington.

Keeneland reported the deep buying bench included buyers from North America and more than 20 countries representing Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America, and Latin America. Purchasers of the sale's 27 seven-figure yearlings were nearly equally divided between 13 US and 14 international interests.

"Week one sets the table, and then the second week follows," Russell said. "We are able to recruit buyers from South America, Korea, and Russia to buy in Books 3 through 6. They like the American-bred speed dirt horse and know they are going to get good quality when they come here, regardless of the price."

On behalf of Coolmore, Magnier paid $6.925m for six yearlings, including an American Phaorah filly for $1.2m and a Tapit colt for $1.1m, in addition to the sale-topper.

Other prominent foreign interests were Liliana Solari's Don Alberto Corporation, which bought a Tapit filly for $1.4m, and Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani's Qatar Racing.

For the fourth consecutive year, and 20th time since 1988, Taylor Made Sales Agency was the September Sale's leading consignor.

Taylor Made sold 300 horses for $47,317,400, among them three seven-figure sales topped by the Medaglia D'Oro colt sold to Phoenix Thoroughbreds for $2.1m. for all the latest news from America

The September sale saw an all-out competition for horses that drove the volume of trade to robust levels
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