The mixed sale and 2-year-old auctions have been fairly consistent to date in 2009: Horses, give or take, are worth about 35 percent less than they were a year ago. The yearling sales, which begin this summer, will be an indicator of where the market is versus last year, when the cracks in the economy started the downward push in prices at Keeneland September.
The private sales market, likewise, has been down and has largely mirrored the trends of the public auctions. However, prices for Triple Crown prospects have historically defied the laws of gravity, and the market is made on these types by the whims of a few. For instance, in 2006, the then-2-year-old colt Nobiz Like Shobiz, who was second in the Grade 1 Champagne and won the Grade 2 Remsen, was the subject of a $17 million offer from Sheikh Mohammed as a legitimate classics prospect. Elizabeth Valando, who owned the colt, did not sell. Last year, in 2008, Grade 1 Hopeful and Champagne winner Vineyard Haven was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed for $12 million, after initial offers of $8 million and $10 million had been rejected by trainer and part-owner Bobby Frankel, who was representing a group that included Joe Torre. Neither of these colts had the pedigree to warrant such offers — Nobiz is a son of Albert the Great; Vineyard Haven is by Lido Palace (Chi) — and they could only have been made by a man such as the sheikh, who has been on a mission to win the Derby at all costs.
From a time-line perspective, a 90 percent interest in War Emblem, the 2002 Derby winner, was purchased by Prince Ahmed Salman for $900,000 after the Illinois Derby, which put a valuation of $1 million on the horse. This year, IEAH purchased a half-interest in I Want Revenge, prior to the Wood Memorial, for $3.175 million, which made the horse worth $6.35 million on paper. That’s almost 50 percent less than Vineyard Haven’s sales price, but significantly higher than what it cost to get War Emblem. Again, neither War Emblem nor I Want Revenge had a particulary commercial pedigree.
Here are some valuations of bloodstock across the price spectrum (in some cases from private sales, either confirmed or estimated) from this year:
Rachel Alexandra, a filly, was purchased before the Preakness for an estimated price of $8 million by Jess Jackson.
An 80-percent stake in Medaglia d’Oro, the sire of Rachel Alexandra, was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud for an estimated $35 to $40 million, which would value the stallion at $50 million or more.
The asking price of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, a gelding, is believed to be in the range of $4 to $5 million.
The asking price for a Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-old filly who won her maiden on the synthetic by open lengths is $200,000.
An Asian farm has a standing order for a Grade 1 winner on turf at a mile with a European pedigree for $500,000.
A Graded stakes-winning sprinter of nearly a million dollars was sold as a stallion prospect for $50,000 — to a farm south of the border.
An El Prado stakes-winning filly was recently claimed for $50,000.
A half-sister to a Grade 1 winner was NOT claimed in a race for $12,500.
Half-sisters to Graded stakes winners routinely run in claiming races of $7,500 and less and do NOT get claimed.