Keeneland September Sale Slumps at Start

Keeneland September Sale Slumps at Start
Photo: Joseph DiOrio
Hip 12, a daughter of Playful Act (IRE) who sold for $850,000, was one of the highlights of the first morning of the sale.
Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, had some advice for shoppers during the Keeneland September yearling sale’s opening day, which suffered downturns of 16.8% in gross revenue and 7.7% in average price from 2007’s first session.

“If somebody is thinking of buying a racehorse,” he said, “this is a good time to do it because I think there will be value to be had throughout the course of the year. The market is probably a little sticky.”

The 154 horses sold in Lexington Sept. 8, during the first of the auction’s two select sessions, grossed $56,047,000 and averaged $363,942. The median price was $300,000, the same as a year ago. The other key business figures for 2007’s first session were 171 horses sold, a gross of $67,395,000, and an average of $394,123.

The buy-back rate rose from 24% last year to 29% this year, while the number of yearlings selling for $1 million or more dropped from 11 to five.

“The world is a different place from a year ago,” said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell. “Based on the (troubled) economic climate at the moment, I thought today was very favorable and very solid. This is where the market is at the moment, and I think we’ll see similar things at all strata.”

Ferguson was the first session’s biggest spender, paying $8,825,000 for nine yearlings. Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud also bought an El Prado—Dreams filly for $160,000. Ferguson’s most expensive purchase, which was the session’s top-priced horse at $3.1 million, was a striking bay A.P. Indy filly that is a half-sister to the winner Loving Vindication (by Vindication). Their dam, the 8-year-old Elusive Quality   mare Chimichurri, won the Tempted Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct and the Jersey Jumper Stakes at the Meadowlands in 2002.

“She is a filly that Sheikh Mohammed saw earlier today,” Ferguson said, “and both he and (his wife) Princess Haya felt that she was an absolute queen, or should I say princess? We’ve been very fortunate over the last few years with A.P. Indy (and his offspring), be it Bernardini, Music Note, or Little Belle. We’ve got some exciting 2-year-olds by him now, and he’s an absolutely sensational sire. Chimichurri was a very fast mare by Elusive Quality  , and she had a lot of quality as does this filly. She was a filly that we were very, very keen to have.”

Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings bred the $3.1-million filly in Kentucky. Gainesway, as agent, consigned her to the Keeneland September sale.

“Mr. Jackson deserves to be congratulated because he’s bred some lovely horses of which this one was a highlight,” Ferguson said. “I thought she was a strong enough individual, with that pedigree, to be one of the top fillies in the sale. It is so hard to breed fillies to look like that. When you do and you have an outstanding sire and a great mare, you deserve to be paid for it. She oozes class. She has a great shape and excellent conformation, and she looks like a real athlete. You’d have to say she has what it takes.”

Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell operation was the opening session’s second-biggest spender, paying $6,220,000 for 12 yearlings. Legends Racing ranked third, spending $2,005,000 for five head.

Two yearlings brought $1.7 million each. Ferguson bought an Unbridled’s Song—Silken Cat filly consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent for Aaron and Marie Jones, and Jon Kelly purchased an Empire Maker—Aurora filly sold by Middlebrook Farm, agent.

The first foal out of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri established a Thoroughbred public auction buy-back record when the colt, named Vallenzeri, failed to find a new home at $7.7 million. The previous mark was $7.5 million, set when Ajdal, who went on to become a champion in England, was bought back during the 1985 Keeneland July select yearling sale.

John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned Vallenzeri (also by 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy) for his breeder, the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust. An Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder, Paulson died in 2000. The primary trustee of the trust is Paulson’s son Michael.

Michael Paulson told The Blood-Horse’s Lenny Shulman he would like to form a partnership to race the handsome chestnut colt.

“We’re working with some people who have expressed interest in him,” Paulson said, “and hopefully we can strike a deal where we keep part of him.”

In an interview two days before the September auction’s start, Paulson admitted he had mixed emotions, saying: “He (Vallenzeri) is so exceptional. It’s hard to consider selling him.”

Paulson and his wife, Lenora, spent more than two weeks in Kentucky in 2007 so they could be on hand for the colt’s birth, which was on Valentine’s Day.

“She (Azeri) is a special gift left by my father, and he (Vallenzeri) is like part of the family,” Michael Paulson said.

The Keeneland yearling auction continues through Sept. 23.

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