The first million-dollar horse has been sold at Keeneland’s 68th Annual September Yearling Auction. Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm bought a filly by Unbridled’s Song for $1 million. The auction attracts international crowds to bid on and purchase yearlings, who are at their peak sale price in September. The 13-day auction has more than 4,300 horses cataloged this year, but that number is less than previous years, said spokeswoman Julia Balog. Demand dialed down in 2008 because of the economy and breeders focused on more desirable horses, she said.
“When the economy changes and people have less money for luxury items such as a race horse then the value of it changes. And so what happens are the best horses continue to be sold and then the less commercially viable ones, just through attrition, are not bred the following year,” said Balog.
But sales are on par with expectations, despite fewer thoroughbreds catalogued for sale. In the first two days 129 horses have sold for a total of $45 million, she said.
“We’re actually quite pleased, because going into a sale like this we were hopeful that we would be able to maintain about where we were last year and so far we’re able to do that,” said Balog.
The auction’s first two days are a good indicator of how well the auction will go, said Balog.
Keeneland Thoroughbred Racing and Sales holds four auctions throughout the year, but Balog said September’s yearling sale is the bellwether for the thoroughbred industry.