After the hideous day on Wall Street Sept. 15, somehow the downturns at the Keeneland September yearling sale don't seem so bad. Actually, nobody complained much during the first week of the sale. The setbacks were expected and just about in the range that had been predicted by many people.
The top of the market took the biggest hits. The number of buyers willing to pay seven figure prices has dropped, and there is little competition for Sheikh Mohammed and the handful of other who still are, giving them an opportunity to purchase big-pedigreed horses for much less money than in the past.
Rick Nichols, representing Sheikh Hamdan, said the Shadwell buying team bid on 32 horses in the first four days and was beat out on only four, which gives you an idea about how much the competition has diminished for select yearlings.
Legends Racing was the biggest domestic spender, and it will be interesting to see which trainers - Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, and Bob Baffert -- get which horses. Legends, launched as a racing investment fund earlier this year, won't reveal how much money it raised, but the amount must have been considerable. Maverick Racing (a WinStar Farm partnership) and the Reynolds Bell-managed Sequoia partnership also were very active, suggesting that there is still a healthy interest in buying and racing Thoroughbreds when the opportunity is available to pool resources.
The biggest news was generated when two horses didn't actually get sold when they went through the ring for big prices. One, Vallenzeria, was a $7.7-million record buy-back, if anyone knows where the last live bid was, please let me know. I couldn't find it, and nobody, from what I've heard, has owned up to it. The other horse, a $1.1-million Medaglia d'Oro filly, had a buyer, but Keeneland couldn't confirm she had enough money to pay the yearling even though she did manage to hold off Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, in the bidding battle. Keeneland took control of the yearling and sold her privately to celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who had been an original bidder on the filly.
Both incidents will go in the Strange People and Events at Sales Hall of Fame, which includes the man at OBS who signed a sale ticket for President "Georges" Bush a number of years ago and Bernice Givens Sykes, buyer of numerous cheap horses earlier this decade until the sale companies found she couldn't pay.