Quality Yearlings, Deep Buying Bench Yield Dynamic Market As Keeneland September Yearling Sale Concludes

Keeneland’s 80th September Yearling Sale closed Saturday with one of the strongest performances in recent memory. Large crowds of enthusiastic buyers participated from start to finish of the 12-day sale, driving gross receipts to $394,127,900, third-highest in Keeneland history, and establishing a record average price of $143,111. The vibrant market was further strengthened by the sale of 30 yearlings for $1 million or more each, equaling last year’s mark and led by an Into Mischief colt who fetched $3 million.

In cumulative results for the bellwether sale, which began Sept. 11, 2,754 yearlings sold through the ring for $394,127,900, down just 2.80% from last year’s record gross of $405,495,700 when 2,847 horses sold through the ring. The total falls just shy of the $399,791,800 recorded for the 2006 September Sale.

Cumulatively, for horses sold through the ring, the average price of $143,111 bests last year’s record of $142,429, while the median of $67,000 dipped just 4.29% from the record $70,000 in 2022.

Additionally, 130 horses that did not meet their reserve price in the ring were sold privately for a total of $13,927,000 to push total gross sales to $408,054,900 as of the close of the Sept. 23 session.

“The September Sale is unmatched in terms of generating excitement and optimism around the world for our sport; there’s just not anything quite like the positive energy you feel on the sales grounds during these two weeks,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “We so appreciate our buyers, consignors and sellers and thank them for bringing their best horses to this market. Their love of the horse and their passion for racing are evidenced in everything they do, and we are happy they were rewarded for their thoughtful planning and hard work.”

Several key measures of trade demonstrated the quality of the September Sale catalog, the depth of the market and the diversity of the buying bench:

  • 168 horses sold for $500,000 or more compared to 162 in 2022, representing 50 different consignors large and small;
  • The 10 highest-priced horses represented nine distinct consignors;
  • 82 different entities spent $1 million or more;
  • The 10 highest-priced horses sold to eight different buyers;
  • Of the 30 yearlings sold for $1 million or more, four brought $2 million or more each.
  • The 30 seven-figure yearlings were bought by 21 domestic and international entities; and
  • Demand for quality horses held the RNA rate to 20.22%.

“We are extremely happy with the sale and that our numbers are very similar to last year’s record sale,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy said. “The energy and enthusiasm were amplified this year. We welcomed a broader buyer base than we’ve seen in the past at all sectors of the market. The Sales Pavilion was absolutely packed, especially on the first day, and sellers felt very encouraged by the traffic and the amount of vet work being done.

“With the high purses, there’s a lot of validity to owning a racehorse right now,” Lacy said. “During our conversations with potential buyers on our travels during the summer, whether domestic or international, they were very much engaged with coming to Keeneland. So we felt confident the momentum would go through at least Book 4. But we’re incredibly happy with the way Book 5 started, and the clearance rate of around 90% (in the final days) is very positive.”

For the third consecutive year, Keeneland cataloged some 1,100 of the finest yearlings based on pedigree and conformation in Books 1 and 2 with the goal to present the largest number of exceptional horses before major domestic and foreign buyers during Week 1 and create momentum that would ripple through the entire sale.

“We feel we have a formula that works with the buyer base, and that’s an important part of the equation,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach said. “We’ve worked really hard to push physicals forward in the sale, and this produced significant results for the entire sale. If we have 400 horses in Book 1 and 700 in Book 2, that format allows a critical mass of horses on the grounds at effectively the same time. We can start at 1 p.m. with 200 horses per session in Book 1 and start at 11 a.m. in Book 2. Those are critical extra hours in the mornings for buyers to get their vet work done, do second looks and stay ahead of looking at horses in upcoming sessions. When we have the dark day on Friday, it gives people the opportunity to keep pace with the sale.”

“This format provides stability and familiarity, and consignors and breeders are starting to understand what we’re trying to do and what we’re achieving,” Lacy said. “Buyers were very happy with the quality. A lot of our top-end buyers only come for 2-3 days, so they want to see the best. They were enjoying themselves, and some even extended their stay because they were having so much fun. That energy and demand flow through the other books.”

Demand at the top of the market during Week 1 fueled gross sales of $234 million, on par with last year’s $236 million for the corresponding period. Average price of $367,818 rose 3.8% while the median climbed 9% to $300,000.

Day 2 of the sale was especially memorable as 15 yearlings brought seven figures, bookended by the first horse in the ring who sold for $1.3 million and the second-to-last horse knocked down for $1.25 million. At $3 million, the sale topper was a colt by Into Mischief who was bred by Mike Repole and sold to the partnership of Sonson, Woodford, West Point, LEB agent. A half-brother to Grade 1 winner and sire Outwork and from the family of 2023 Saratoga juvenile winner Fierceness, he was consigned by Lane’s End, agent.

“Keeneland has done a good job in Book 1 of getting better physical horses pushed forward, and the market responded to that,” said Mark Taylor, President and CEO of Taylor Made Sales Agency, which sold 268 yearlings for $39,387,000, including three for seven figures. “We sold horses in Book 1 for a lot of money by freshman sires and by non-traditional Book 1 sires. Keeneland’s ongoing push to get breeders and consignors to support Book 1 with really good physicals by a diverse group of stallions is paying dividends.”

Adrian Regan, Managing Partner of Hunter Valley Farm, which ranked among the leading consignors by selling 92 yearlings for $13,359,700, agreed.

“The atmosphere was fantastic for Books 1 and 2,” Regan said. “The second day of Book 1 I happened to be in the Sales Pavilion and I’d never witnessed an atmosphere at Keeneland like that before the sale started. Each year, the atmosphere at Keeneland has been improving, and this year the changes are really beginning to show positive effects on the sale and pay dividends in the sale results. Full marks to Keeneland for all the improvements they’ve made and the atmosphere they’ve created for Book 1.”

There was great diversity in the September Sale buying bench assembled by Keeneland’s sales team as part of a global, year-round outreach and recruitment strategy, which sets the auction house apart from its competitors. Buyers from nearly every U.S. state and 31 countries representing Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America and Australia converged at Keeneland. The Japanese buying contingent was the largest ever to attend, and buyers from China, Korea and Saudi Arabia also were active.

Buyers of the highest-priced yearlings featured a mix of the world’s most prominent entities. Leading buyer was Donato Lanni, agent for SF/Starlight/Madaket, who purchased 20 yearlings – headlined by a $1.1 million colt by Into Mischief – for $12.59 million. Lanni bought on behalf of a number of clients throughout the sale and paid the session-topping price of $185,000 for a Silent Name (JPN) colt on the final day.

Other top domestic buyers by total purchases were West Bloodstock, agent for Repole Stable; Mayberry Farm; Pin Oak Stud; Gavin O’Connor, agent for John Stewart; Sonson, Woodford, West Point, LEB, agent; Greg Tramontin and CHC Inc., Maverick Racing and Siena Farm.

Among the prominent international buyers were Coolmore’s M. V. Magnier, who on his own spent $6.15 million for five yearlings, including four purchased for $1.2 million or more each, and Sheikha Hissa Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Racing, which paid the top price on opening day of $2.3 million for a filly by Into Mischief.

“It’s been a very healthy market with a lot of buyer participation from both foreign and domestic buyers,” Breathnach said. “The high purse structure in the U.S. is permitting domestic buyers to be strong. We had tremendous international participation that was more evident on the grounds at some points than in the results sheets because the American buying base is very powerful right now. The top 40 yearlings appear to be staying in the U.S., even the ones purchased by Sheihka Hissa. It was very rewarding for us that she was here and she had a great time. Her participation is important in terms of the future of the sport and the international market.”

John Stewart, who is new to the Thoroughbred industry, acquired 13 yearlings for $8,425,000. At $2.5 million, his most expensive acquisition was a filly by Uncle Mo who is a half-sister to Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil and was consigned by Denali Stud, agent for WinStar Farm Bred & Raised.

“We bought our first filly here last year,” Stewart said. “I have been in Lexington a long time and have always wanted to get involved in the sport.”

Owner Dr. Joel Politi experienced the September Sale as both a buyer, purchasing six yearlings for $815,000, and the breeder/seller of the first foal out of his Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner, Serengeti Empress, for $1.2 million.

“I had a really great time at the sale, spent almost a week there,” Politi said. “It was a good opportunity to reconnect with everybody from all different sides of the industry: trainers, owners, agents and people from the breeding aspect.”

Major buyers such as SF/Starlight/Madaket, Pin Oak, Albaugh Family Stables/Donegal Racing, Grandview Equine, Belladonna Racing and Kenny McPeek remained active during Week 2, propelling the bullish market. Strength of trade in the latter days of the sale was reflected in the low RNA rates, which ranged between 9.79% and 18% during Sessions 7-12.

Session 7 recorded its highest price since 2015 when Gainesway, agent, sold a colt by Good Magic to Lanni, agent for SF/Starlight/Madaket for $700,000. Session 8 produced its highest-priced horse on record when Paramount Sales, agent, sold a colt by Twirling Candy to Pin Oak Stud for $925,000.

Gainesway earned it first title as leading consignor by selling 137 yearlings for $43,573,000. During the first three sessions, Gainesway sold nine horses for $1 million or more led by the aforementioned $2.3 million high seller on opening day. In Book 1, Gainesway sold five seven-figure yearlings bred by Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, including one bred in partnership with Three Chimneys Farm.

“I would describe it as a lifetime achievement,” Gainesway General Manager Brian Graves said about being leading consignor. “I’m just so grateful to our clients for giving us such a quality product to put us in a position to be the leading consignor. We knew we had a really nice physical draft of horses, especially with the addition of Mandy (Pope’s) horses and top pedigrees, and the feedback from Keeneland was very positive. They had asked us to put more horses into Book 1 and move more horses from Book 3 to Book 2, so that was a good sign we had a strong and really deep group of horses. Then the results turned out good.

“I think Mandy was in a position this year to where she set her sights on getting some income and putting her product that she had invested a lot of time and money in on the market,” Graves said.  “It was good to see her program develop in a manner that showed she can produce a top product that is accepted by the market commercially. It’s just a big compliment to her program.”

Behind Gainesway on the list of leading consignors were Taylor Made Sales Agency, Paramount Sales, Lane’s End Farm, Denali Stud and Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency. Joining Taylor Made with three million-dollar horses was Runnymede Farm, which sold two of those to lead the third session.

Two consignors celebrated the sale of their first seven-figure horses during the auction. Penn Sales sold a colt by Uncle Mo for $1.35 million, and Jody and Michelle Huckabay’s Elm Tree Farm, agent, sold a Gun Runner filly for $1.2 million.

For the fourth consecutive year, the leading sire by gross sales was Into Mischief, whose 53 yearlings – including 12 horses purchased for $1 million and more – sold for $36,995,000 (includes private sales to date). The amount is the highest total for a stallion at the September Sale since Storm Cat in 2005. Into Mischief also was the sale’s leading sire by average with $698,019.

Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby (G1) winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Authentic, a son of Into Mischief, was the leading first-crop sire with 67 yearlings grossing $18,114,000 (includes private sales to date).

During Saturday’s final session, 175 yearlings sold for $2,417,600, for an average of $13,815 and a median of $9,000.

At $185,000, the high seller was a son of Silent Name (JPN) sold to X-Men Racing/Madaket Stables/SF Racing. Consigned by Grovendale Sales, agent, the colt is out of the Holy Bull mare Holy Cargo and from the family of Preakness (G1) winner Red Bullet.

The amount is the highest price paid for a yearling on the final day of the September Sale on record.

This year, Keeneland continued its outreach to the Lexington community to build awareness of the September Sale, its importance to the livelihoods of many residents and its impact on the area’s economy. Keeneland sponsored two editions of Central Bank Thursday Night Live, an evening of music and more, in downtown Lexington and invited the public to attend the auction and learn about Keeneland sales operations.

“We felt the community’s embrace of the September Sale,” Arvin said, “and we thank those who came out to experience the fun by taking a behind-the-scenes tour, enjoy the grounds or watch the action in the sales ring.”

Racing returns to Keeneland for the 17-day Fall Meet from Oct. 6-28. The season, which will award a record $9.05 million in stakes purses, opens with the prestigious Fall Stars Weekend that features 11 stakes worth $5.55 million. Eight Fall Meet stakes are Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races, which award each winner an automatic and free entry into the World Championships at Santa Anita on Nov. 3-4.

Keeneland’s 80th November Breeding Stock Sale will begin Nov. 8 and run through Nov. 16, with the Horses of Racing Age Sale taking place Nov. 17.

The 11th Sporting Art Auction is Nov. 18.

Since its first race meet more than 85 years ago, the Keeneland Association has devoted itself to the health and vibrancy of the Thoroughbred industry. The world’s largest Thoroughbred auction house, Keeneland conducts five sales a year, in January, April, September and November. Graduates of Keeneland sales dominate racing across the globe at every level. In April and October, Keeneland offers some of the highest caliber and richest Thoroughbred racing in the world. Keeneland hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships in 2015, 2020 and 2022. Uniquely structured, Keeneland is a privately held company with a not-for-profit mission that returns its earnings to the industry and the community in the form of higher purses and millions of dollars donated in support of horse industry initiatives and charitable contributions for education, research, and health and human services throughout Central Kentucky. Keeneland also maintains Keeneland Library, a world-renowned public research institution with the mission of preserving information about the Thoroughbred industry. To learn more, visit Keeneland.com.

For more information contact:
Amy Gregory at 859 361-3490
Amy Owens at 859 421-2566