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The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.

As the Keeneland November sale winds its way toward a closing, one thing is incontrovertible: the demand from overseas buyers is one of the fundamental strengths behind the improvement of sales returns this year.

From the first day to the last, the demand for Kentucky stock is high, and it is rather evenly spread across all price levels. The Japanese and high-powered Europeans competed for and purchased some of the most select lots, and countries from the Pacific Rim, as well as Russia and its satellites, have been selecting weanlings and broodmares for their less-mature programs at lesser prices.

In the middle market, there were more domestic buyers, as well as some less-obvious players, including owners and breeders from the Middle East and South America.

Will Barrons, a bloodstock agent who lives in England, was one of dozens of buyers and advisers for offshore clients at Keeneland. Barrons bought nine mares for a “Middle Eastern client who is trying to acquire foundation mares for his program.”

Among the stock that Barrons purchased for his client are Coaching Club American Oaks winner Tweedside (Thunder Gulch) and multiple G2 stakes winner Allamerican Bertie (Quiet American). The bay mares both showed high class on the racetrack and have produced winners. Tweedside, age 13, is in foal to Speightstown and sold for $75,000 in Book 1, and Allamerican Bertie, age 12, is in foal to Eskendereya and sold for $85,000 in Book 2.

Despite the fact that mares such as these were top-class performers from robust producing families, they were not strongly pursued by domestic buyers. This is not surprising because many of the commercial breeders in America have been seriously injured by the economic depression in horse sales.

Many overseas buyers, however, are not commercial breeders but producers for their own racing operations. That is the case with the client that Barrons was representing.

Barrons said that he has a “select group of clients, more abroad than in England,” and he noted that he and his clients are attracted to the Kentucky bloodstock market because of the “wide spectrum of mares available.” He said, “The variety of types and bloodlines available here fits quite a lot of different people, different programs, and it doesn’t hurt that you get more punch for your pound here,” due to the advantageous exchange rate and the oversupply of stock compared to the domestic demand.

Ned Moore, breeder and bloodstock agent based in Virginia but with strong ties to Argentina, said that “interest from South America has been growing for years, in good part due to Keeneland’s marketing, which even includes sponsoring races. I’ve been buying for South American clients since 1990, and those are still buying. There has been a slight drop in the sales because of the economy and because South American countries are finding an oversupply of homebred horses.”

Such conditions are making some buyers more selective, and as one group passes on a particular type of horse, or age group, or male line, those horses become easier to buy for another group with slightly different parameters to their selection process.

Among the continuing points of interest for Moore’s clients, he said, are deep pedigrees. “The South Americans like to buy into blue-hen families. They cannot afford the great mare, but they can buy her daughters or half-sisters.”

When one travels to Argentina, it is surprising but reaffirming to find daughters and granddaughters of well-known Kentucky families in their broodmare bands. And part of this emphasis has grown, Moore said, because “they have been upgrading through buying better stallions or shuttling better stallions.”

The diversity of bloodstock at Keeneland also has helped to attract many different groups of buyers. Moore said, “The people from Argentina, which reflects the largest breeding industry in South America, have been the largest buyers, although I’ve seen buyers from Brazil, Venezuela, and other countries.”

One of the side-effects of the greater attraction of the Keeneland sale has been increased demand and higher prices. Moore summarized the situation: “There’s a lot of depth to this sale, but it’s tough to buy. The carry-over from the Evans dispersal has had an effect at all levels, and it has been work to find horses that clients want and can afford. But it’s my job to keep looking. Instead of wearing out one pair of shoes at the sale, I’m wearing out two pairs.”