Keeneland’s January horses of all ages auction, which takes place this year without a major dispersal, opened Jan. 6 with mixed results, but there was a 17% jump in median price.
Life Happened, dam of Vyjack, topped the session at $750,000.
Monday’s session took place in arctic conditions: It was about 10 degrees when Keeneland consignors did the morning feed, but by sale time that had dropped to 3 degrees, and temps bottomed out at 1 degree before the final gavel fell.
Keeneland offered some comfort for bidders, placing heaters by the outdoor walking ring and a soup and coffee bar just behind the auction ring. And, despite the cold, buyers showed up, looked at horses, and bid.
The first session sold more horses this year than last—232 versus 201—despite a smaller catalog. But gross sales fell 10.5%, from $15,331,400 to $13,714,900.
Average price dropped 22.5% from $76,276 to $59,116. Last year’s opening session was lifted by the $1.3 million sale of Nereid, and the absence of that kind of horse dampened results, Keeneland sale executives Walt Robertson and Geoffrey Russell said. The session also lost a potential big sale with the scratch of Egg Drop, a 5-year-old grade II winner.
But in a positive sign for sellers, median increased from last year’s opening-day figure of $30,000 to $35,000. Buy-backs also fell from last year’s 34.1% to 23.9%, a significant improvement.
Market assessments among buyers and sellers varied from “good” to “spotty but strong at the top,” with many predicting the market would strengthen at the Jan. 7 second session.
The 2014 catalog featured 1,590 horses and is 16% smaller than last year’s, making this year’s edition a four-day sale, down from five sessions in 2013. It also lacks a major dispersal.
A year ago, Issam Fares’ Fares Farm dispersal added $7,313,000 to the auction’s bottom line, though none of those horses sold on opening day.
Life Happened, already the dam of a pair of graded winners—Vyjack and Tepin—appeared to be a bargain to buying agent Jason Litt, who said he was on hand to bid “just in case” the 13-year-old mare went for good value.
“It’s still a good amount of money,” Litt said after signing the ticket, “but, at the end of the day, you don’t see too many mares that have this kind of production record and this much potential upside.”
Life Happened, a Stravinsky half sister to grade III winner Disco Rico, sold as part of the Select Sales consignment. She sold carrying a foal from Harlan’s Holiday’s last crop.
Litt bought her for LNJ Foxwoods, a family-owned stable Litt said is acquiring fillies and mares for a home breeding program. They currently own about 20 horses, including eight broodmares.
Their filly Fleet of Gold, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro and champion Fleet Indian, ran third in Aqueduct Racetrack's Busanda Stakes just two days before the auction. Another of their 3-year-old fillies, Fiji Moon, is an Indian Charlie half sister to Malibu Moon ; she won her debut at Laurel Park Dec. 6.
“These are ones we bought as yearlings about a year-and-a-half ago, and they’re showing some promise, so everyone’s pretty pumped,” Litt said.
Life Happened’s sale alone made Stravinsky the session’s top sire by gross. The leader by average (three or more sold) was Speightstown , whose four horses averaged $152,500.
Also thanks to Life Happened, Harlan’s Holiday led covering sires by gross; by average (three or more sold) the leader was The Factor with three at $159,000.
Glen Hill Farm bought the session’s second-most expensive mare at $425,000. That was Louvakhova, a stakes-winning half sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) winner Flotilla. Hill ’n’ Dale Sales consigned the 6-year-old Maria’s Mon mare, who was in foal to Arch.
Monday’s top-priced yearling was an April 4 Kitten's Joy colt, a half brother to stakes winner Ha Ha Tonka and a grandson of grade I winner Capote Bell. David Ingordo signed the ticket but listed the buyer as Philip Blake.
Noel Murphy’s Castle Park Farm consigned the colt, whose dam, the Storm Cat mare Gata Bella, is a half sister to grade III-placed Zapper Belle.
Earlier in the session, Haruya Yoshida’s Oiwake Farm went to $400,000 to buy grade I winner Unbridled Belle. Hill ’n’ Dale consigned the 11-year-old Broken Vow mare, who was in foal to Bernardini.
“We’ll probably bring her back to Japan and try to breed her to a son of Sunday Silence,” said Yoshida’s representative, Taro Iseki, who attended the sale with Haruya Yoshida’s son, Masashi Yoshida. Father Haruya, who bred Gainesway stallion Hat Trick, is the brother of Shadai Farm owner Teruya Yoshida and Northern Farm owner Katsumi Yoshida.
Haruya Yoshida also bought the grade I-placed stakes winner Yonagucci, in foal to Bodemeister , for $150,000 from Select Sales, agent; and the 3-year-old Tale of the Cat filly Celestial Cat from the Bluewater agency for $100,000.
Haruya led buyers by average purchase price (three or more bought) with an average expenditure of $216,667. Taylor Made Sales led all consignors by gross after selling 49 for $2,585,000. Castle Park Farm led by average (three or more sold) with three bringing a $163,333 average.
Keeneland’s January sale was to continue through Jan. 9. Sessions start at 10 a.m. EST daily and also are available online via live streaming at www.keeneland.com.