The fourth session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale produced mixed results, but the cumulative gross revenue and average price continued to remain well ahead of last year's pace in Lexington.
"I thought it was a good sale from the start and especially all the way to the end," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "(The buyers) are discerning, there's no mistake. But when perceived quality is there, there's plenty of money still around."
The 237 horses sold grossed $28,188,000 and averaged $118,937. The median price was $95,000. Compared to last year's fourth session, the number sold and gross were down 7.8% and 10.9%, respectively, from 257 and $31,626,000. The average decreased 3.3% from $123,058, while the median advanced 5.6% from $90,000. The buy-back rate rose from 23.7% in 2006 to 26.4% this year.
"You never like the 'not solds' going up, but (the buy-back rate) is still at a manageable level," Russell said. "With breeding stock sales, it's not as easy as with yearling sales to compare year to year. With yearlings, you're selling the produce from year to year, so you kind of get an idea about everything.
"Here we have mares, and people don’t sell their factories every year. Every year, the sale is different; the composition of the sale is different, so you can't really get too tight on comparisons. Were there more foals? Were there more mares? It’s different every year."
In general, seller Joe Seitz of Brookdale Sales was pleased with the market during the fourth session.
"We've had a wonderful day," Seitz said, even though he was frustrated by a late buy-back in his consignment. "The prices are exceeding our expectations, and we've been busy at the barn. The action at the barn seems to be much greater than it has in years past for broodmares. The buyers are doing a lot more homework, and they're looking at mares at the barn a lot more, which usually translates into great prices in the ring.
"We, obviously, have fewer weanlings than we do mares, but the demand for them has been healthy, and they’re tired at night because they've been getting a lot of looks."
Countess Gold, the dam of European group II winner Strike the Deal, was the session's most expensive horse, selling for $850,000 to Frankfort Park Farm after a bidding battle that also involved Coolmore Stud. The 8-year-old daughter of Mt Livermore is in foal to Eurosilver.
Irishman Brendan Gallagher, a partner in Kentucky-based Frankfort Park's ownership, said Strike the Deal was a major factor in the decision to purchase Countess Gold. A 2-year-old son of Van Nistelrooy, Strike the Deal scored this year in the Richmond Stakes (Eng-II) and finished second in the Shadwell Middle Park (Eng-I) and Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef (Eng-II) Stakes. He also was third in the Prix Robert Papin (Fr-II) and fourth in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
"We saw Strike the Deal sell at the breeze-up sale (for $295,029 at Tattersalls in the spring), and we thought he was a good-looking horse," said Gallagher, who conducts business in Europe in the name of Emerald Bloodstock Services with his wife, Olive. "(Countess Gold) is a young mare, and we hope she'll keep throwing foals like she's throwing already. We might cover (breed) her here next year and then take her back overseas."
Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud consigned Countess Gold for Five-D Thoroughbreds: William Dobozi and his wife, Sandra, of Lexington; their sons, Brian and Todd; and Brian's wife, Shay. William is a retired orthopedic surgeon, and Brian, who lives in Louisville, is a gastroenterologist.
"This business is crazy; it's unbelievable," said William Dobozi, whose family has experienced the agony and ecstasy of Thoroughbred breeding and racing in 2007. "We're not anything big. We're just trying to have fun."
Earlier this year, Countess Gold, who was bought back for $32,000 at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, and the family's other mare, Abba Gold, both lost their foals to salmonella. Countess Gold's foal was by Forest Camp; Abba Gold's was by Pulpit.
"We were depressed after those two died, and we decided enough of this, we're going to sell (the mares) and get out of breeding," Dobozi said.
Then Strike the Deal won the Richmond in August, and the Dobozis' luck started to change for the better.
Abba Gold was in the Keeneland November sale with Countess Gold, but the Dobozis bought the former back for $240,000 earlier Nov. 8. "She's in foal to Bluegrass Cat, so we don't mind keeping her," William Dobozi said. The family also owns Strike the Deal's yearling half-sister, Silk Stalker (by Ten Most Wanted), and they plan to race her.
"This has been the greatest year, watching that Strike the Deal run and watching Countess Gold sell now; we’re just thrilled to death," Dobozi said. "We had the reserve in at $400,000, and we were hoping for $500,000, but those two were really going after her, Coolmore and that other guy. We were pleasantly surprised."
Added Brian Dobozi: "We've been from the very lows to the biggest highs."
Countess Gold, who didn't win any of her four career races, is a half-sister to the winner Garve, who was second in the 1998 Solano Beach Stakes at Del Mar. Other members of the family include Irish champion Solford and Brazilian group I winner Enable To Loose. Countess Gold's dam, Art's Prospector, captured the 1988 Miss America Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.
Bandstand, a 4-year-old winning daughter of Deputy Minister, brought the second-highest price of $520,000 during the Nov. 8 session. California storage mogul B. Wayne Hughes, who owns Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky, purchased Bandstand from Eaton Sales, agent for the Young family's Overbrook Farm.
Produced from the grade I-winning Carson City mare City Band, Bandstand is a half-sister to stakes winners Weather Warning and Foolishly. Bandstand is in foal to Eddington.
The most expensive weanling was a $460,000 Broken Vow colt out of the 9-year-old Tabasco Cat mare Tango Passion, who is a half-sister to stakes winner Fisher Pond. Other members of the family include Salt Spring, a group I winner in Argentina and a grade III winner in this country, and grade I winner Mongoose. Chesapeake Partners bought the bay weanling from Padraig Campion's Blandford Stud, agent.
The cumulative results through the Keeneland November sale's first four days were 875 lots sold for a gross of $249,325,000. Their average was $284,943, and their median was $150,000. Compared with a year ago through four sessions, the number sold was down less than 1% from 873, but the gross was up 10.3% from $225,978,000. The average increased 10.1% from $258,852, and the median fell 3.2% from $155,000.
The Keeneland November auction continues Nov. 9, with selling beginning at 10 a.m. (EST).