Grade 1 winner Swift Temper: her dam, Glasgow's Gold, is catalogued as lot 218 in the Keeneland Janaury Sale, which opens todayPICTURE: Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos
US market looking to rebound as Keeneland January opens
POTENTIAL purchasers at the Keeneland January Sale in Kentucky, which starts its five-day run today at 10am local time, have been greeted by frigid temperatures, flurries of snow and a considerable number of withdrawals.
At the time of writing, Book 1 of the auction has already been hit by 161 withdrawals - 22 per cent of the book - and counting, including many of the sale's likely stars such as a Ghostzapper weanling filly out of US Horse of the Year Azeri, an Afleet Alex half-brother to Lookin At Lucky and Tuzia, the dam of another leading US juvenile of 2009 in Buddy's Saint.
"I'm amazed that there as quite as many outs as there are," says Antony Beck, president of Gainesway Farm. "And I think that the ones left inthe sale will be that much more desirable and that much more hard to get."
Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency adds: "That's been a trend-people entering and then getting cold feet. If they don't need to sell, why sell now, that type of thing. Our scratch numbers are kind of in line with what they have been for the last few sales, where people have scratched a lot of them because they are scared of the market."
Last year's January Sale was one of the weakest auctions of the US sales season as both the aggregate and average plummeted 53 per cent to $32,824,000 and $24,532. Island Fashion and Almonsoon jointly topped proceedings when selling for $950,000 each although Azeri was led out unsold at $4.4m.
At 1,753 entries, this year's catalogue is 26 per cent smaller than the 2009 renewal. But despite the high number of withdrawals, there are several lots remaining capable of providing fireworks, namely Glasgow's Gold (218), the dam of Grade 1 winner Swift Temper; Gio Ponti's stakes-winning half-sister Bon Jovi Girl (499); Pfeiffer (702), a Storm Cat daughter of 1,000 Guineas second Sundrop, andGrade 1 winner Point Ashley (706), who sold for $1.4m at Fasig-Tipton in 2008. Hidden away in Book 2 is Prix d'Astarte second Missvinski (1358).
The sale also features dispersals of stock belonging to C. Bruce Hundley and the late Allaire du Pont.
Due to its timing and shorter run, the January Sale is not such a valuable barometer to the health of the market as the Keeneland November Sale. Yet company officials will still be hoping that it can build upon the performance of the 2009 November, where the average dropped just six and a half per cent.
Even so, Headley Bell, managing partner of Mill Ridge Sales andpresident of Nicoma Bloodstock, is not so sure recovery is around the corner.
He says: "2010 is going to be more challenging because I think there are a lot of frayed, tattered operations right now that might not be able to be sustained.
"I think we'll see more of the consequences of the economy than we saw in 2009. It's just the timing. You're going to see some of these Ahmed Zayats and bank situations like that where they couldn't pay off what they needed to pay and the consequences of that. What that does for the overall mindset, we don't know. What we have to do is make our industry attractive enough to make people want to participate in it. That, to me, is the most important thing, to build the structure in such a way that it makes sense and answers everybody's needs."
However, Bell has been encouraged by the number of international buyers present at the sale grounds during the past weekend.
"There have been a lot of Europeans, and they don't have to come over here at all, especially for this sale," he says. "So, we've been very encouraged by our traffic. It's nice. I've seen everybody you like to see."
Particularly notable at the November was the demand for weanlings, something which Taylor expects to be apparent again.
He says: "We've had a lot of action on these short yearlings. In November, I thought good babies sold really well, so that's encouraging and it seems like now we have a lot of action on the yearlings, more so than on the mares."