After a slow start, Keeneland's April auction of 2-year-olds in training closed with a flurry of bidding Tuesday that helped establish sale records for both average price and median price.
The 91 horses sold grossed $14,898,000 and averaged $163,714. The median was $125,000. Compared to a year ago, the number sold plunged by 26.0%, and the gross dropped by 19.5%. However, the average and median enjoyed increases of 8.8% and 19.0%, respectively. The number of horses sold this year represented an all-time low for the auction, which was inaugurated in 1993.
The buy-back rate was 37.7%--the April sale's highest ever--with 55 of the 146 horses offered failing to find new homes. Last year's comparable figure was 36.9%
"We were very satisfied," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's assistant director of sales. "We think the sellers who brought the really nice horses here got top dollar for them. I know it sounds like a broken record, but it all comes down to performance on the racetrack."
Fifteen (51.7%) of the auction's first 29 horses through the ring failed to sell, and bidding was spotty for much of the day. But the final 18 horses catalogued included six that sold for $300,000 or more apiece and three that brought $500,000 or more, including the $775,000 sale topper.
Sold third from the end, the auction's highest-priced juvenile was a muscular chestnut filly by Dixieland Band, who was consigned by Allen Jenkins' H.T. Stables, agent. Florida horsemen J.B. McKathan signed the sale ticket. The immediate underbidder was Barry Irwin of Team Valor.
McKathan said the filly will race for Del Mar, Calif., resident Allan Gilbert, who is a new client of trainer Bob Baffert's. The filly worked an eighth-mile in :10 1/5 during the sale's first under tack show on April 9. The time was only one-fifth of a second slower than the fastest clocking for the distance.
The sale topper was produced from the 5-year-old Drone mare Honey Bee Gold, who is a half-sister to stakes winner Jungle Gold, who finished third in the 1988 Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) and to Solar Slew, the dam of two-time Horse of the Year Cigar.
"The thing that really makes you love a filly like this is the Drone mare," McKathan said. "They (horses out of Drone mares) go long. This filly was very fast, and she looks very fast, but she's got a pedigree that says she'll keep on running. To me, she's a filly who could start running at Del Mar and keep winning races all year long. She's a really, really exciting horse."
The filly was purchased for $285,000 by Canadian real estate investor and developer Cam Allard at the 1999 Keeneland November breeding stock sale from Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent. Allard consigned her to last year's Keeneland July yearling sale through Eaton Sales and bought her back for $425,000. He offered her again through the same consignor at the Keeneland September yearling sale and bought her back for $325,000.
Two years ago, the pinhooking team of Jenkins and Allard sold La Salle Street, a son of Not For Love, for $2 million at Keeneland in April. The price is a record for the Keeneland April sale, and it shares the world record for a 2-year-old sold at public auction.