5 Reasons to Buy Thoroughbred Bloodstock at the Winter Sales

If you think that the only bloodlines worth buying have already passed through the ring this mixed-sale season, here are a few reasons to reconsider. While wintertime auctions are generally considered to be the appropriate venue for lesser breeding stock, a few unique factors this year will result in some high-quality mares being put under the hammer.

And the same economic climate makes it likely that you'll see an uncommonly well-bred group of short yearlings in January and February, as well.

Add to that a couple of mainstay advantages of wintertime auctions, and early 2010 might just be the best time to hold up your paddle at the auction ring.

We're five days away from the release of the Keeneland January catalog, and the Fasig-Tipton February nominations will close this weekend. I'll be watching for some impressive catalog pages, and here's why:

5. World and industry economics.  We've had signs that the Thoroughbred market is coming back and the world economy is improving -- but prices are still way off what they were two or three years ago. And sellers have come to expect lower prices -- and to set reserves accordingly.  Horses that might have RNA'd last year will be sold with a much lower reserve, if any at all.

4. Health of carried foals.  Most mares still carrying in January will not slip/abort.  Buyers have better odds than they do in October/November sales that the in-foal mare they've bought will actually produce a live foal.

3. Winter upkeep.  Half the winter is over.  Half your hay bill (and boarding fees, and veterinary care) was paid by the previous owner.  And because the horse you're buying was pointed to a wintertime sale, it benefited from extra attention to keep it in top form in a season when most horses tend to lose condition.

2. Self-enforced culling.  Breeders know it's not worth entering lesser bloodstock -- they just won't sell. It's been a buyers' market, and most buyers have found that their money is going a lot further than it ever has before -- meaning they can upgrade their stock. Bottom-tier horses don't sell at all, and horses just above the lowest quality don't get bids high enough to pay for entry fees and sales prep. Sellers have learned to leave those horses at home, or to sell them privately.

1. Quality Bloodstock.  The number one reason to look at the early 2010 sales is a situation unique to right now.  Lots of breeders who took a huge hit in 2009 yearling sales find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to raise funds quickly. Because they hadn't planned to have what amounts to a fire sale, they missed the early deadlines to enter weanlings or breeding stock in the fall sales. So some unusually high-quality mares were entered in the January and February mixed sales.


Leave a Comment:

Julie L.

Scott, I noticed a mare that sold at Keeneland whose name is Morning Time. She is by Gilded Time out of Morna by Blakeney. She sold in foal to Afleet Alex for $1,000. This mare I wish I was there to buy as she is a half sister to Casual Lies who was a major 3 year old SW and Classic placed. What do you think of her?

  • Scot's reply:  Wow -- she wasn't on my radar before the sale, but I wish she had been.  Someone got a rare steal.  Morning Time (catalog) didn't race, but she has produced a nice stakes winner of $262,002 and all three of her racing-age foals have won. Morning Time herself sold only two years ago for $210,000 -- not the type of mare you'd expect to sell for a grand. It appears she has some reproductive soundness problems, but I'd still value the 11-year-old mare in the five figures.  Lots of black type under the first dam ... an outcross to Mr. Prospector/Northern Dancer/Seattle Slew ... there's a lot here to like.
03 Dec 2009 11:11 AM

"Reproductive soundness" problems? Does that mean she founders after foaling? Or that she is hard to get in foal? Hard to foal?

(4 winning racing age foals?)

Poor darling, hope a kind person got her...

  • Scot's reply:  I don't know what the repro issues are, just what her record shows:  aborted foals in 2002 and 2005; barren in 2006, 2008, and 2009.  I believe it's actually three winners from three foals of racing age (the '08 colt might hit the track this coming year...).
03 Dec 2009 12:28 PM

If you look closely at the catalogue page...this mare was NOT in foal. She looks to be a high risk mare...thus the $1000.00 sale price...

03 Dec 2009 1:08 PM

Re- the supposed "bargains" at Keeneland November, and others potentially available in January-

I felt I bought one of these at Keeneland Nov. and passed, at the last minute, on another that I then regretted not buying. But, I shouldn't be too regretful, nor should I be that certain of a bargain. Those that bring medium-high prices do so because they are perceived (correctly) to be far more apt to produce a commercial product, AND those prices are paid, for the most part, with commercial motives in mind. This is the one segment of the business where most believe (rightly so) that there is a decent chance to at least break even. Yes, it may be easier now that ever to purchase a good breed to race type broodmare, but even with this edge the odds are heavily stacked against not taking a big loss down the road. This is, and has always been, unfortunately, the fiscal state of this sport.  

03 Dec 2009 10:30 PM
Julie L.

In the sale results it listed her as in foal to Afleet Alex I did not see the catalog page. Though her produce record may be spotty as I stated early I would have taken the chance on her as looking at her record I believe her to be a mare that should be bred every other year. She's obviously the type that needs the time to recoup and with her offsprings' record to date I say that for $1,000 you would be a fool not to give her a shot. Stop thinking about having a baby to sell every year and start think about the racing offspring. I hate this term but "back in the day" that's what good breeders use to do. Profit(creed), profit(creed), profit(creed) gets us in the mess we are in today and with a mare like Morning Time selling for $1,000. For a small breeder like me she is a dream.

04 Dec 2009 12:24 AM

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