The select Tattersalls October Book 1 yearling sale of 2013 may have been the tipping point in the economic balance between the American and European commercial yearling markets.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1990s, American breeders had the broadest base of desirable sires, and the world spent the bulk of its money on yearlings here. The sire pendulum, however, appeared to start swinging back toward Europe as the 1990s progressed and on into this century as indicated by the amount European buyers were collectively spending at American yearling auctions. On sale yearlings that made their first start in a major European racing country, buyers spent an average of $94.4 million from 1985 through 1989. The average spent on yearlings meeting this criterion has since fallen to an average of $30.44 million from 2008 through 2012.
Where has that money gone? The results of the recent select sessions of the Tattersalls October yearling sale show a lot of it is staying in Europe.
Tattersalls October Book 1 was phenomenally strong this year, setting records for gross sale, average, and median. The select portion also sold the highest-priced auction yearling for 2014 when M.V. Magnier, the son of Coolmore co-founder and managing partner John Magnier, paid 2.6 million guineas ($4,400,488) for a son of Galileo out of stakes winner Penang Pearl. The colt is a half brother to Harbinger, winner of the 2010 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Eng-I) and four other group races in England.
From 2005 through 2012, the median price for Tattersalls’ October sale has been roughly half of the median seen during the select sessions at the Keeneland September sale. Several caveats, however, go with this comparison, primarily because Keeneland has been experimenting with the format of its September select sessions for several years. In 2012 Keeneland held only one select session. In 2013 the Keeneland Book 1 format expanded to four days.
All these changes make uniform comparisons difficult.
But this we can note: Over the last two years Tattersalls October’s median has grown substantially to the point that, for the first time in more than a decade, it now exceeds Keeneland September’s select median. Yes, Keeneland expanded Book 1 to four days and more horses will affect overall statistics. But Tattersalls’ October Book 1 is held over three days, and the changes in median are less affected by numbers sold.
The Keeneland September select median grew from $207,500 in 2013 to $240,000 this year. By comparison, the Tattersalls October Book 1 median was $219,765 in 2013, breaking the $200,000 threshold for the first time. The median grew another 14% this year to $253,575.
Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock agent John Ferguson and Magnier were the leading buyers at both the Keeneland September Book 1 and Tattersalls October Book 1 sessions. Ferguson spent $7.3 million at Keeneland and $29.6 million at Tattersalls. Magnier spent $7.14 million at Keeneland and $11.6 million at Tattersalls.
“The quality of the stallions currently standing in Britain and Ireland has arguably never been higher, and buyers throughout the world are recognizing this in ever increasing numbers,” said Tattersalls chairman Edmond Mahony at the conclusion of the Book 1 sessions. “The influence of our regular and hugely valued buyers from the Gulf region has been truly immense this week, and to have so many of the principals in attendance from start to finish is a crucial part of the sale’s success. New faces, particularly from America, China, and Hong Kong, have added a new dimension and made a major contribution to a sale which has seen the record books completely rewritten.”
Two years does not a trend make, but it appears the sire power pendulum has crossed the midpoint and is steadily rising toward Europe.