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Dunkirk - KEY BISCAYNE, FL - 28.03.09

Russian buyer Vladimir Kazakov was able to secure a half-brother to Belmont Stakes second Dunkirk for $80,000 at Keeneland September Sale

  PICTURE: Getty Images 

Russians benefit as slump presents bargains

THE numbers for the select sessions of the Keeneland September Sale on Monday and Tuesday told the story of a tattered global economy: the gross was down 48 per cent, from $113,357,000 in 2008 to $54,756,000, the average price was off 30 per cent, from $377,857 a year ago to $264,667, and the median fell 28 per cent, from $300,000 to $215,000.

The $300,000 median, by the way, was a sale record first established in 2006, and it had remained the same in 2007 and last year, despite a steady decrease in gross and average price each year since.

Its seismic shift indicates best that even atthe top of the market there's not enough money to sustain an old way of life, and it's an ominous harbinger for the (non-select) rest of the two-week auction. But that's the view from the sellers, who are only half the equation.

For buyers, it's a different story, and it was for Russian Vladimir Kazakov, who snuck into the select sessions and came away with eight lots for a total of $295,000. In contrast, last year he was able to buy only three yearlings at the same sessions, for a total of $140,000.

On Monday, Kazakov purchased five yearlings for $200,000, and on Tuesday he bought the other three. His most expensive purchase was the $80,000 he gave Lane's End for a Dynaformer half-brother to Coolmore's Belmont Stakes runner-up Dunkirk - a $3.7 million yearling at the sale in 2007.

"That was a great buy for him," another Russian buyer told me. "I don't care what he looks like, he'll win in Russia."

The Russians have been as badly ravaged by the global crisis as anyone else, but they have more incentive to buy at Keeneland than anyone, because they're living a new way of life. This year, US-breds accounted for the lion's share of Russian Group races for two-year-olds, with a few local-bred or European-bred horses accounting for the remainder.

Remarkably, every US-bred Russian two-year-old Group winner of 2009 came out of the 2008 Keeneland September sale.

The best horse in Russia, the four-year-old Mineshaft colt Monomakh, was also a Keeneland September yearling, selling from the Lane's End consignment in 2006 for $12,000 to Stone Bridge Bloodstock.

The best three-year-old colts this season, the Indian Charlie 2,000 Guineas winner Indian Jameson and the Malibu Moon Derby winner Static Memory, also came from Keeneland. The former was purchased by Dexco for $11,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September sale, and the latter for $15,000 by Voxtron Managementas a weanling from the 2006 Keeneland November sale.

The shift from European horses to the Americans happened quickly after the US-bred Malibu Moon filly Moon Thistle, purchased from a two-year-olds in-training sale in Maryland for $4,000 by Alexander Khait in 2003, won the Russian Oaks a year later. The racing surfaces in Russia are dirt or synthetic, so the switch to American bloodlines was inevitable, if slow in happening.

Over the past five years, however, there's been an extraordinary number of US-breds imported to Russia - I've roughly counted at least 200 two-year-old starters in 2009 - so much so that most of the two-year-old maiden races in Moscow now feature the same types ofpedigrees seen in similar races in the US.

Aside from the sires noted in the chart, there's been Russian maiden winners by such as A.P. Indy, Dynaformer, El Corredor, Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant's Causeway, Harlan's Holiday, Lemon Drop Kid, Lion Heart, Orientate, Rock Hard Ten, Saint Liam, Seeking The Gold and Tiznow among others, at various Russian tracks.

This success should create more demand from Russians for US-breds at Keeneland, and theoretically less for European offerings at Tattersalls in the future.

So far at Keeneland, Kazakov has pulled the trigger early in this buyers' market, but there have been even more successful buyers for the Russian market.

Black Stone Farm, Dexco Ltd, and Raut Bloodstock Agency hold that distinction, and none purchased a horse from the select sessions this year. Last year, Raut and Black Stone bought one apiece, and Dexco purchased two. The Russians, however, are mid-to-tail-end buyers for the most part, so the remainder of the sale will tell the tale.

 

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