by Dave Briggs
Despite being staged during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, before vaccines were available, last year’s Lexington Selected Yearling Sale posted its second-highest gross ($41,552,000) in history and its fourth best average ($50,922). Still, co-manager David Reid said he is hoping the 2021 auction — which kicks off Tuesday (Oct. 5) and runs through Saturday (Oct. 9) — sees a return to pre-2020 days when more people bid in person again at the Fasig-Tipton Sale Pavilion.
“I’m looking forward to a good week of sales and a good week of racing,” Reid said. “I’m looking forward to seeing people in person again.”
As a thanks to its customers, this year, for the first time in recent memory, Tuesday’s opening session will kick off with a cocktail session from 5-7 p.m.
“It’s a sign of appreciation,” Reid said. “Enjoy the happy times when we have them and just try to set the night in a good tone and show appreciation for all our customers who are really important to our sale.
“Then, on Wednesday, we’re going to start off the afternoon session with the cocktail reception and stallion auction in support of the Breeders Crown Charity Challenge featuring a cocktail hour from 2-3 on that day. So, we’ve added the opening night cocktail hour and we’ll keep the traditional one for the charity auction.”
As for industry bellwethers heading into the sale, the signs appear positive for a strong auction.
“I follow the thoroughbred market quite closely and they returned to mostly normal and I would expect that we are going to return to mostly normal as well,” Reid said. His fellow sale manager, Randy Manges, agreed that strong sales this year, so far, are also a positive barometer for the Lexington sale.
“I’m just excited that all the sales that have taken place so far have been up or good sales, so that’s always good going into ours, whether it’s thoroughbred or standardbred,” Manges said.
For those that can’t attend, Reid said the sale will be the same as last year, with procedures in place for online bidding through Proxibid.
“We still have the procedures that we put in last year for people who are unable to attend due to travel and/or health restrictions. We’re going to have online bidding available, but we’re really looking forward to people coming to the sale live and being in person,” Reid said, adding anyone wishing to bid online is strongly encouraged to register (http://www.lexingtonselected.com/year-sale-proxibid.html) before the opening session starts Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Due to some travel restrictions, it’s unclear how many Canadians or Europeans will be able to attend the sale. Reid said the online bidding process is effective for anyone that can’t come to Fasig-Tipton.
“I think it’s helpful for anybody that cannot attend,” he said. “I think it’s also helpful for people that may attend at the beginning of the week and then they may have to go back to race horses or they have to travel or return to their businesses or whatever. It’s going to be available every night, so it’s just another tool that’s going to be handy for everyone.”
Last year, bids made through Proxibid accounted for $2.5 million in sales for 79 sold, or more than 5 per cent of the total gross.
AFTERNOON SALE SESSIONS
New this year will be two afternoon sale sessions. In the past, the sale has been held almost exclusively at night. Tuesday’s opening night session will be followed by sessions that start at 3 p.m. on both Wednesday (Oct. 6) and Thursday (Oct. 7). The sale returns to 7 p.m. sessions for both Friday (Oct. 8) and Saturday (Oct. 9) so people can attend the races at Red Mile during the afternoon.
“Even though tradition has it that there be night-time sales, with people wanting to come down for the Lexington experience, on a couple of those nights it did get a little late and just we got some feedback from some buyers and sellers. Randy and myself finally said, ‘Let’s try it’ and go to twilight sessions on a non-racing day… We hope to be done by 8 o’clock or 8:30 and people can go out and have dinner, relax or plan for the next day. They can go out and have more of the Lexington experience.”
Manges said one of last year’s sessions ran until nearly midnight.
“People have to be back to work at 5 a.m., so it makes for a short night. I think this will help in that area,” Manges said. “Also, the buyers like it. People come here and it’s an event. When the sale is over they want to go have a couple cocktails and get their feet up and just relax a little bit. They get to do that if they can get out of here before 9 o’clock.”
Reid said the sales company was not tempted to change the opening session to an afternoon start time because starting at night gives people all day Monday and Tuesday to inspect horses before the sale starts.
“Plus, there’s only 116 selling the first night,” Reid said. “So, people coming into town for racing on Saturday and Sunday, they can come out Monday and Tuesday and be prepared before the Tuesday session starts. Then, we roll right into Wednesday and Thursday.
Reid said the afternoon start times does not mean the sales company plans to have horses in the ring longer on those days to drag it out.
“What we did was catalogue 10 or 15 more horses in those sessions, but the pace of the sale is going to remain the same. We don’t want to drag it out. The purpose was to end on a good time and that’s going to be our goal,” he said.
Last year, 816 yearlings were sold. The median was $32,000 and 107 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more.
This year, 852 yearlings are catalogued — 36 more than a year ago — 489 trotters (55 per cent) and 395 pacers.
“We have a really strong catalogue,” Manges said.
“The consignor base is the same, except we’re welcoming Hanover Shoe Farms back with a consignment this year,” Reid said. “I think the sire roster is very strong again, across the board… There’s something from a lot of jurisdictions. Most importantly, a lot of the yearlings are dual eligible. In some cases, even triple eligible, meaning New Jersey, Kentucky and Massachusetts, which, like Kentucky, has had an increase to its Sires Stakes program.”
Manges said, like Reid, he’s looking forward to having more people at the sale this year, even though he doesn’t know how much of a bearing it has on the results.
“We had such a great sale last year,” Manges said. “As excited as I am about this sale, who knows if you’re going to be up or not?”