Lexington sale posts second highest gross in its history

Despite being staged during a pandemic, the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale concluded Friday with a gross of $41,552,000, just the second time it has surpassed $40 million in its history.

quotes by James Platz / story by Dave Briggs

The 2020 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale concluded Friday night (Oct. 9) with the second highest gross and fourth best average in its history, despite being conducted during a pandemic. The strong final totals were propelled by the most successful final night in the sale’s history based on every category.

Friday’s session, which was made up of mostly Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky-breds, saw 168 yearlings sell for a total gross of $4,943,000 for an average of $29,423 and a median of $20,000. Six yearlings reached $100,000 or more.

“Tonight, it was just a whole different feel,” said Spring Haven’s Senena Esty. “The vibe, the excitement… You know, us Ohio people, we get excited. There was a lot of people and the whoopin’ and hollerin’, I haven’t seen that down here in ages. I thought it was fantastic.”

Through five nights, 816 yearlings were sold, grossing$41,552,000 for an average of $50,922. The median was $32,000 and 107 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more.

Only the gross in 2019 ($46,480,000) was higher. Only the averages in 2019 ($60,997), 2017 ($58,537) and 2018 ($56,652) were higher.

The 2019 sale set records for gross and average. About the only stat that was down in 2019 was the number of yearlings sold for $100,000 or more (121 in 2019 compared to 124 in 2018)

The 2019 sale will be best remembered for its off-the-charts opening session in which not one, but 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.

The 2020 sale will be remembered for triumphing over a number of major challenges, the biggest one being a global pandemic.

“I’m thrilled,” said Randy Manges, who manages the sale with David Reid. “We averaged $56,000 last year and $50,000 this year. We could’ve averaged $50,000 without COVID-19, so I’m very pleased with the sale and really pleased with tonight.

“The crowd was good, too. To me, that was so good to see. You walked out there and there was a buzz, especially after one would bring $100,000. We had the Steve Elliotts, the Brian Browns, of course, they buy a lot of the higher ones, too, but those guys being here, staying after five days of sales and being here for the last session, that’s very good.”

Reid said, “The energy here in the building was as good, if not better, than it was all week. We saw a lot of new faces come into town… and from Randy and my point of view to structure a session like tonight just adds appreciation for the marketplace because they delivered.

“It was just a really good night to end the week on and put the 2020 yearling sale in the books.

“To pull this off, in light of everything, I know we talked about the pandemic, but we really didn’t talk about the stakes being cancelled, the purses for certain Sires Stakes programs being diminished and the racetracks being closed for a period of time… the gross dollars for purses were down significantly. That was my biggest concern coming in, personally, and how would that affect the overall marketplace. Now we’ve concluded the five nights, we’ve sold more horses this year and the gross is $41.5 million, which would be the second-highest grossing sale ever done here for us. That’s really satisfying.”

Esty said, “everyone was on pins and needles” coming into the sale, “At least we were, just not knowing the protocol, if people were going to come, or if they were scared… just the whole thing with what’s going on in the world, so we just felt very blessed that there was a sale, number one, and just very thankful that we were able to come here and sell our horses. We had a very good sale the first couple of nights and then not so much, here and there the next couple nights… it was kind of pick and choose. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride, to be honest, but we made up for it tonight and we’re very happy.

“I think it just goes to prove that Ohio, we’re finally stepping into the limelight. We’re showing that we have a good, solid program. We have so many different avenues that we can race — Sires Stakes, Stallion Series, county fair races, which is the heart of it all.”

The four highest-priced yearlings sold on Friday were all sired by Ohio’s Downbytheseaside.

“We’ve been doing this regional program on the last day for about five years and it’s always worked out well for us,” Manges said. “We sold one for $300,000 a couple years ago and one for $200,000 tonight. We sold several for over $100,000 and always, over the last three years I think, the highest priced on the last night was either an Ohio or Indiana-bred.”

The session topper was Hip #836 Sea Lionness, a Downbytheseaside filly out of Lionness Hanover purchased by Greg Luther of Ohio and consigned by Spring Haven Farm, agent. Luther also purchased Hip #721 Noa Blu, a Downbytheseaside filly out of Catharsis, that was sold by Crawford Farms.

“She’s a gorgeous filly,” Luther said of Sea Lionnees. “She stands well, she’s perfect conformation. Spring Haven raised her, which is one of the most respectable farms in Ohio. Gorgeous filly, she really stood out. I had my vet look at her and he looked at nine horses for me and he said ‘she’s the standout.’

Esty said, “We didn’t expect $200,000, but we definitely knew she was our consignment sale-topper, without a doubt. She was a beautiful, beautiful filly. Hickory Lane Farm in Findley raised her and they did a superb job.”

Luther said Noa Blu’s video was amazing.

“She had a really good video, looked strong. I felt that she definitely had the pedigree she needs. I thought she’d go for $50,000 or $60,000, but I was going to buy her no matter what she sold for.”

At the Lexington sale, Luther spent $583,000 to buy seven yearlings.

“I’m actually doing what we call ‘the million-dollar experiment,’ so I’m investing a million dollars in horse, in yearlings, this year. I’ve been in the business for 30 years and my dream
has always been to win the Little Brown Jug or Jugette, one or the other,” Luther said. “My brother trains for me, Todd Luther, and we’re right there in Ohio and Delaware has always been the home track.

“We’ve bought four or five horses for six figures this year, trying to win that big race. That’s on my bucket list.”

The other Downbytheseasides that were in the top four were: Hip #794 Bythemissal, a Downbytheseaside colt out of Dismissal, was purchased by Josh Green, agent for Eric Good of Delaware out of the Preferred Equine consignment for $135,000 and Hip #730 Coastal Front, a Downbytheseaside colt out of She’s Poison, was sold for $115,000 to Don Robinson, agent, out of Winbak Farm’s consignment.

“I’m really excited about Downbytheseaside,” Luther said. “I’m putting a lot of faith in Downbytheseaside this year, but those horses look amazing. I’m really excited to invest back in the business and try to get into a position where we can play with the big guys.”

This is the first year the sale offered online bidding through Proxibid andbids made through the online portal accounted for $2.5 million in sales for 79 sold.

“I think it was a savior for this sale, this year,” Manges said. “We used it in Ohio as well – we arranged for that before we knew about COVID-19… I don’t know how the thoroughbred people feel about it, but I think it was a savior for us.”

Reid’s Preferred Equine led all consignors with $8,153,000 in sales for 144 yearlings sold. In 2019, Preferred set a personal record for gross sales with $9,731,000 for 137 yearlings sold.

This year, Preferred was followed by Hunterton ($6,094,000 for 108 yearlings), Kentuckiana ($5,999,000 for 96 yearlings) and Winbak Farm ($2,589,000 for 93 yearlings).

Concord Stud led all consignors in average with $124,357 for 14 sold. Blue Chip Farms was second in average ($73,000 for 12 yearlings sold), followed by Brittany Farms LLC ($72,611 for 18 sold).

Andy Miller was the top buyer with $2,293,000 spent, in total, on 19 yearlings. Nancy Takter was second with $1,628,000 spent on 14 yearlings, followed by Ake Svanstedt ($1,482,000 on 12 yearlings) and Burke Racing Stable ($1,163,000 on 15 yearlings).

Muscle Hill led all stallions in gross sales ($6,493,000) and average ($132,510) with three or more sold. First-crop sire Walner was second in gross ($4,852,000). The leading pacer by money and average was Captaintreacherous ($2,853,000 and $98,379).

“We’ve got to thank the buyers, got to thank the breeders, the men and women that travelled here and bid on horses…we just can’t thank them enough and wish them nothing but the best. Hopefully, they get a champion that can be on the cover of the catalogue one day,” Reid said.

The Lexington sale concludes tonight with a single mixed sale session that starts at 7 p.m.