Patience pays off as leading buyer McKathan rules during penultimate session
Over $375 million has changed hands across 12 days of trade
Florida horseman David McKathan has a system for buying horses late at an auction like the marathon Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
During the penultimate session on Saturday, McKathan was positioned inside the rear walking ring where horses are shown before entering the sale pavilion, with his eye on future racing prospects to purchase under the name of Grassroots Training and Sales.
Although the horses catalogued in the latter days of the sale "are inferior conformationally (compared to) in the earlier days, that doesn't mean they aren't good athletes," said McKathan, who looks at every horse being shown. For those that catch his attention, he contacts his veterinarian positioned in the Keeneland repository, who can review a yearling's radiographs to see if it is worth pursuing.
On a day in which there continued to be vibrant trade, Grassroots emerged as leading buyer with two purchased for $74,000.
Although direct comparisons are difficult since last year's sale concluded with the 12th session, Keeneland reported 187 yearlings were sold Saturday for $2,228,600 (£1,704,735/€1,893,540), marking a 51.83 per cent increase over $1,467,800 for 135 horses sold on the same day last year.
The average of $11,918 was 9.61 per cent above the $10,873 figure last year, while the median of $7,000 remains unchanged from 2017. The 45 head that went unsold represented an RNA rate of 19.4 per cent.
From 4,538 cataloged through 12 sessions, cumulatively Keeneland has sold 2,733 yearlings for $375,806,200 (£287,467,315/€319,305,615), for a 22.1 per cent increase in gross receipts from the entire 12-session sale in 2017 when Keeneland sold 2,555 horses for $307,845,400.
The average of $137,503 was 14.1 per cent above $120,487 for the entire sale last year. The median of $60,000 rose 5.26 per cent above $57,000. The cumulative RNA rate is 23.5 per cent for 838 unsold yearlings, compared with a 25.2 per cent rate last year.
Among the yearlings bought by Grassroots was a filly (Hip 4088) by Goldencents out of the winning Tapit mare Bellezza Rosso. She was purchased from Four Star Sales, agent, for $65,000, co-highest price of the day.
The second $65,000 yearling was a colt (4107) from the first crop of Danza purchased by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Scott Mallory, agent for Spendthrift Farm, consigned the colt, who is from the family of Grade 2 winners Rockport Harbor and Regally Appealing.
Another domestic buyer competing with a broad cross-section - including many pinhookers and foreign buyers - during the Saturday session was Conor Foley of Oracle Bloodstock.
Foley said he purchased yearlings on behalf of clients throughout the early sale sessions and that he had one more order to fill, which he hoped to complete Saturday.
He, too, was not deterred by the perception of horses cataloged late in the sale.
"The horses don't know what they cost," he said. "A very good horse can still come out of this session today. You can still find an excellent athlete here. It's our perception on paper that they belong here this late."
Foley said filling orders in such a strong market is frustrating for buyers, but is also a good sign.
"I'm happy for the sellers and it means the industry is strong."
The sale concludes on Sunday with a session that begins at 10 am EST (3pm GMT).
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