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How Expensive is too Expensive? Keeneland Yearling Sale Day 2

September 11, 2012 · By Jeff Lifson · Share

Multiple graded stakes winner Justwhistledixie was purchased at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

About 6 a.m this morning after the dog had done her business and I was pouring the first cup of coffee down the hatch, The Louisville Courier Journal punched me in the face with its headline. Apparently, the Keeneland September Yearling Sale is roaring back after the first night of buying brought increases in the average and median prices.

This surprised me just a bit, as I found the tempo and prices mixed during the first three and a half hours of the sale. Wouldn’t you know it, I was about 20 hips too early heading to the parking lot and driving home to Louisville. That’s when tote board lit up and drove the sale up, up, up.

For our part at West Point Thoroughbreds, we targeted three horses that passed all our eyeball, biomechanical and veterinary tests. We bid on the first and the last of the three- the first didn’t make the reserve set by the buyer of almost $300k and the last brought more than $600k. In both cases,Terry Finley made the decision that the price did not match our own valuation.

It sort of begs the question, how much is too much? It’s an agonizing one, because there are so many conflicting examples within the industry and for West Point specifically. Seattle Slew and Real Quiet, were both yearlings bought for less than $20k. Zenyatta was less than $100k- seems like spending any more than that could make you look wasteful with your money.

For our part, at this very sale several years ago, we spent more than $400k for a yearling filly who went on to become Justwhistledixie- turns out that $400k was a pretty good deal for her racing partnership. 

The answer here isn’t very clear. It’s part instinct, part budget and part recent history. When you look at 2012 so far, we’ve raced seven new 2-year-olds and won with nearly 30 percent of them- pretty darn impressive numbers so far. All of them cost less than $200k. Safe to say we’re feeling pretty good about keeping our checkbook in check.

That said, you have to allow for the Justwhistledixies of this life to stride into the auction ring. And that’s when instinct can trump discipline. The paper tells us that this Keeneland September sale has started off more expensive than in past years. My guess is we’ll respect the facts and react in subtle ways if that trend continues, keeping our discipline that has served us well so far this year.

But if the next Justwhistledixie rolls into the ring- can you blame anyone for making one more bid beyond “enough?” 

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