Sustainable success

2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Keeneland photo.
2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Keeneland photo.

The auction that is the thoroughbred yearling market barometer is now well into its annual renewal. As the Keeneland September Yearling Sale paused on Thursday, The Jockey Club released numbers showing upticks in breeding.

The juxtaposition of the two events brought back memories of Keeneland’s sales director Geoffrey Russell, about a decade ago, saying that the foal crops then of nearly 40,000 horses – the peak of the last 20 years was exactly a decade ago – wasn’t sustainable for the commercial market. When a recession followed, it added more layers of problems for the industry. But suffice it to say, Russell’s sentiment then proved correct.

Flash forward to a sale that continues the steady growth seen in recent years from the market’s bottoms (this descriptor is usually followed by something alluding to the pre-recession era being more glamorous in the auction ring, but, frankly, those levels could accurately be labeled insane) and breeding numbers that are again showing growth.

So, Russell, what say you? Is this level of growth sustainable?

“it is sustainable,” Russell said Friday. “After the big drop off after 2008, it is good to see constant growth and not (a) huge upward spike.”

On the breeding side, The Jockey Club reports 22,104 live foals of 2015 being reported to the breed’s official registrar, about 2 percent ahead of the same time last year. The official foal projection is still at 22,000.

A more concrete sign of growth, particularly in Kentucky, comes from the reports of mares bred. The 37,244 mares covered in 2014 for 2015 foals, according to reports so far, increased 1.6 percent from 2013 at the same time. In Kentucky, the 17,088 mares reported bred to 256 Kentucky stallions is a 7.8 percent increase compared to the 2013 stats at this time last year.

On the sale side, the first four days of the 12-day affair saw $172.8 million in gross sales on 701 yearlings, down from last year’s comparable five-day gross of $177.8 million, But the cumulative average of $246,538 is up 6.36 percent and the median of $200,000 is up 11.11 percent entering Saturday’s session. Eleven horses have sold for $1 million or more compared to 13 last year.

That cumulative median well positions the rest of the sale to continue the current five-year, post-recession streak of the median besting or equalling the prior September median – less glamorous, but sustainable.

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