Racing: Wall Street woes cause a slump at Keeneland

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Real life does not always impinge on the rarified world of bloodstock trading but the fallout from America's recent corporate financial fiascos came crashing though the walls on the first day of Keeneland's exclusive July Sale. And if the famous Kentucky fixture is the barometer for the élite end of the yearling market for the rest of the year, the glass is plummeting. Of the 78 bluegrass blue-bloods offered, just 41 changed hands; the average price was down 35 per cent and turnover 39 per cent. It was a vote of no confidence and a vendor's nightmare.

Real life does not always impinge on the rarified world of bloodstock trading but the fallout from America's recent corporate financial fiascos came crashing though the walls on the first day of Keeneland's exclusive July Sale. And if the famous Kentucky fixture is the barometer for the élite end of the yearling market for the rest of the year, the glass is plummeting. Of the 78 bluegrass blue-bloods offered, just 41 changed hands; the average price was down 35 per cent and turnover 39 per cent. It was a vote of no confidence and a vendor's nightmare.

"I think the stock market might have put a question in people's minds," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "I'm very disappointed, and surprised. We didn't see ourselves taking a big hit. But it's a boutique sale and there are a limited number of buyers."

In the area of straw-clutching, it might be said there were some mitigating circumstances. North American breeders are in an interregnum between the end of the Mr Prospector era and the development of new, young sires, and the current yearling crop was undoubtedly affected by the devastating effects of a disease which carried off many newborns last year without regard to the quality of its victim's bloodlines.

But even if Monday night was, as it was perceived to be, the weaker of the auction's two sessions, any rally during the second half will surely be only the difference between mediocre and moderate. Events in Kentucky, two months before the start of the European season, will have sent a frisson of disquiet across the Atlantic.

Last year the overall average price of a yearling soared to a new record at $710,000 (£454,000). This year it stands at, so far, $383,902. Twelve months ago 16 colts and fillies sold for seven-figure sums, nine of them for $2m or more, with a high of $4m, given by Team Coolmore for the colt now known as Warhol, runner-up in a Cork maiden on his debut.

This time round there were just two youngsters through the million-dollar barrier on day one with Demi O'Byrne, the Co Tipperary vet who generally signs for the Ballydoyle-bound ammunition at auctions, absent from the buyers' lists. As it became evident that the market was in a state of collapse as buyers sat on their hands and horse after horse was led out unsold with the dread "Reserve Not Attained" on the scoresheet, vendors and auctioneers had to wait until seven lots from the end for the trading peak.

It concerned the other of the ubiquitous behemoth presences in the top echelons; John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed's representative, bid $2m for a daughter of Belong To Me. But if the name of the filly's sire – a young, ordinarily-performed Danzig horse who was acquired to stand at Lane's End Farm after his first crop produced a Grade One winner – is relatively obscure, at least her dam has a high-class record on the track. Tomisue's Delight is a dual Grade One winner, six-times Grade One-placed and is out of another dual top-level winner in Prospector's Delite, a half-sister to a high-class Godolphin performer, Flagbird.

The filly, a white-blazed, flaxen-maned chestnut, had the looks to match her paperwork. "She's just an outstanding filly," Ferguson said, "You go in knowing she's one of the best, and you know what you have to pay for the best."

The sale-topper was consigned from Lane's End, the Kentucky nursery owned by Will Farish, as was the second youngster on the leaderboard, another filly, this time by Gone West. It was an all-American deal; D Wayne Lucas signed for her on behalf of top US breeders Robert and Beverley Lewis and Overbrook Farm. The Lewises raced the likes of Silver Charm, Charismatic and Serena's Song, from whom they bred Sophisticat.

Most unusually, all nine lots to make $500,000 or more at Monday's session were fillies. But then in uncertain times a well-bred female, with her paddock salvage value, is a safer blue chip investment than a colt who may end up a gelding.

Comments