Auction for the ages: Lexington sale sets new records for gross and average

The Lexington Selected Yearling Sale concluded Saturday with a gross of $46.48 million and an average of $60,997.

by Dave Briggs

The 2019 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale concluded Saturday with new records for gross ($46,480,000) and average ($60,997). The median rose from $35,000 in 2018 to $40,000 this year. About the only stat that was down from the 2018 sale was the number of yearlings sold for $100,000 or more (121 this year compared to 124 last year).

Though this year’s sale saw 60 more horses go through the ring than a year ago, the gross was up more than $6.7 million (16.9 per cent) from the previous record of $39,770,000 fetched in 2018. The average was up 7.7 per cent from the $56,652 reached in 2018 and up 4.2 per cent from the previous record average of $58,537 from the 2017 sale in which 622 yearlings grossed a total of $36,410,000.

“The average is up, so there’s a bigger demand,” said Randy Manges, who manages the sale with David Reid, who added that he looks at the increase in the median as an indicator of strength in more jurisdictions.

“You’re not getting an influx of Europeans or Pennsylvanians or Ontarians or New Yorkers, so it has to be a broad-based increase. I think the biggest thing all week has just been the offerings of a lot of the new sires,” Reid said.

“It’s a very deep group right now with the young sires, such as Captaintreacherous and Sweet Lou and Muscle Hill, Father Patrick, Trixton, and then we did very well with the foreign-bred horses, Love Yous and Ready Cash. I think it’s just a mix of the depth of the sire choices. In fairness, that’s a great tribute to our breeders that sell here and us to recruit them to sell at our sale, because we really believe that we’re truly an international sale and we focus on that when we try to recruit.”

This year’s median was up from last year, but off 4.8 per cent from the record of $42,000 set in 2017.

The sale will be best remembered for its off-the-charts opening session in which two yearlings sold for $1 million or more. The full-brother to Greenshoe sold for $1.1 million and the full-brother to Propulsion sold for $1 million.

“I think it’s a huge achievement,” Reid said of the million-dollar horses. “It definitely breaks a barrier. I think it’s going to be easier to sell the next one (for a million)… Speaking on behalf of Randy and myself, we’re happy that we’re the ones that broke the barrier.”

Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm said, “it seems like we’ve been building to this point and the question was posed early this spring of ‘Can there be a million-dollar yearling?’ and I’ve always been bullish that if it was going to happen it was going to be this year with Greenshoe’s brother and it happened to be Propulsion’s full brother as well, which was great. Father Patrick and Muscle Hill (siring) the two million-dollar yearlings, I think, sort of says everything that they are the pre-eminent stallions in the sport right now. Father Patrick is right there with Muscle Hill and we couldn’t be more thrilled… We were very blessed to be part of Father Patrick’s group, with them allowing us to buy into the horse.”

Cane Run Farm sold Propulsion’s brother. Kentuckiana Farm sold Greenshoe’s brother on behalf of breeders Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz.

“Marvin and Al and the whole team does an amazing job of really working together to make great animals,” said Kentuckiana’s Ken Jackson. “Selling a $1.1 million horse is exciting. I think it sets a threshold in our industry. Are we going to have a seven-figure horse every year from now on? Probably not, but I think it makes $500,000 a lot more possible.”

Jackson credited farm manager Bob Brady for Kentuckiana’s success. Asked what Brady told him he was thinking when Greenshoe’s brother sold for $1.1 million, Jackson laughed.

“(Brady) said, ‘I’m glad the hammer dropped.’ It’s that whole lead-up, you know, you start hearing it, you start talking about it and then you get them shipped in and everything and you just want to make sure that nothing happens in the stall because that can always happen; make sure that nothing happens on the lead down, so I think Bob was relieved. There’s nobody that makes a better animal than Bob. He’s been a great partner and he knows how to really raise a good animal and he puts a lot of time, effort and passion into it, so it’s really exciting to see him get rewarded and get credit for it,” Jackson said.

Kentuckiana finished third on the consignors’ list in both gross sales ($7,353,000) and average ($79,065) for 93 yearlings sold.

“As a farm, it’s been incredible across the board,” Jackson said. “We’ve had good results for our clients. For ourselves, we’ve had good results. For the sales company, it’s been an incredible year. It’s exciting to be part of it… I’m bullish about Kentucky right now, thoroughbreds, standardbreds, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s a great place to be for horses.”

Reid’s Preferred Equine set a personal record for gross sales with $9,731,000 for 137 yearlings sold. The average of $71,029 ranked Preferred fifth.

Cane Run led all consignors in average with $165,500 for 10 sold. Vieux Carre Farms was second in average ($87,217 for 23 yearlings sold).

Hunterton was second to Preferred in gross sales with $7,435,000 for 110 sold ($67,591 average).

Nancy Johansson led all buyers with a total expenditure of $1,980,000 for eight yearlings. Brixton Medical AB of Sweden was second with $1,680,000 spent on seven yearlings. Determination Stable was third with $1,520,000 spent on six yearlings.

Muscle Hill led all stallions in gross sales ($7,154,000) and average ($130,073) with three or more sold.

The leading pacer by money and average was Somebeachsomewhere ($5,360,000 and $112,763).

Saturday’s session saw 129 yearlings sell for a gross of just shy of $3 million and an average of $23,016. The session gross was up 7.4 per cent from the $2,765,000 fetched in 2018. The average was down 3.4 per cent from the 2018 average of $23,836.

Bowden, who stands three stallions that offered their first crops of yearlings — Always B Miki, Southwind Frank and Creatine — said he’s pleased with how the rookie stallions sold.

“Creatine himself exceeded expectations. He sold a filly and a colt for $60,000, which was beyond our expectations. He owns a special place in our heart, being a homebred and made $2 million dollars for us and then to see his first crop… we supported him with some good mares and so did other people. There were specific people out there that thought the same way that we did, so we were just very pleased,” Bowden said.

“Southwind Frank, as well. He sold a $200,000 yearling on opening night, then had a couple others bring six figures, so he sort of belongs in that group of new stallions that people felt very strongly about. Miki had a great book of mares and the individuals matched the pedigrees. He was popular as well.”

Saturday’s session-topper was Taboom, an Always A Virgin colt out of Walstan’s Lady sold for $97,000 to Kathy Smith of Ohio, who also purchased the third highest priced yearling sold that night — Swan For All—Love To Win filly Love for All for $93,000. Both yearlings were consigned by Anvil And Lace Farm, Agent.

Preferred Equine, agent for Lindy Farm, purchased Swan For All—Cree filly Creedom for $95,000 from Peninsula Farm, Inc., Agent.

As to what the record-breaking sale says about the health of the industry, the experts had some theories.

“I think everybody complains about our president, but I think our president has got the economy in the right place for everybody to be happy,” said Winbak Farms’ Joe Thomson. “Everybody is making more money, unemployment is down, stock market is at record numbers and people stopped complaining. When I was in the service they said when the guys stopped complaining there must be something wrong with them, so I guess under that statement then maybe the world is doing okay.

“When you get the stock market or discretionary income going up then horses and other things like that will do well. When you’ve got it going the other way then you’re in a recession and stock markets are in the tank, you’re going to find people don’t have the confidence to put forth the money to buy into things.

“As far as the confidence that the market can support big-time horses, we’ve got the people and we’ve got the people that are buyers that have very deep pockets and when they team up there’s a lot of money that can be had to drive the top of the market. That’s kind of where the thoroughbreds have been for a long time. It’s the top part of the market that makes all the headlines and the others slug it out just like everyone else in the horse business.”

Jackson said the sale is the indication of a positive trend both for the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale and the industry itself.

“What we’ve been seeing in the last couple of years at the sales is going to continue to happen,” Jackson said. “This is a global industry and it’s no different than technology… you can reach so many people in a phone call, in a Skype. Everything is global now and it makes it easier. When you see this happen and you see a global person buying a million-dollar horse… Everything has been positive. The racing has been great. Obviously, the sales company and the partners in the sales company do a great job with all that – Randy, Dave and the team do a wonderful job – and our consignors. It’s an exciting week.”