Downturns Continue at Keeneland

Downturns Continue at Keeneland
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Hip 422; filly; Mushka, Empire Maker - Sluice by Seeking the Gold brought $2.4 million to lead the 2nd day of the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

When most everything else in the world—including stocks and home values—seems to be losing value, 3-year-old Mushka went up in the value, proving the old adage that good horses will bring good money, even in tough economic times.

The daughter of Empire Maker out of the Seeking the Gold mare Sluice was purchased for $2.4 million by Elizabeth Moran’s Brushwood Stable from the consignment of Eaton Sales, agent for Ahmed Zayat’s Zayat Stables to top day two of the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale Nov. 4 in Lexington.

For the second of 15 sessions, Keeneland reported 150 horses sold to gross $42,006,000. The average was $280,040 and the median $160,000. The buy-back rate was 34.5% with 79 horses failing to sell. Seventy-five horses were withdrawn from the session.

“I thought today had a little more uniformity to it,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. “There was still active bidding from a wide range of people and countries, and that is always interesting. As we said yesterday, this is the marketplace and they (the buyers) decide what the prices are.”

Compared to last year, the number of horses sold dropped 18.9%, while the gross fell 39.3%. The average was down 25.2%, and the median slipped 27.2%.

Last year’s second session saw 185 hips sell for $69,285,000. The average was $374,514 and the median was $220,000. Eleven horses sold for $1 million or more and the buy-back rate was 19.8%.

For the first two days, Keeneland reported 299 horses sold for $90,027,000. The average was $301,094, and the median was $170,000. The book-one buy-back rate was 36.4%, with 171 horses failing to meet their reserves. The number of outs for the first two sessions totaled 145.

Compared to the first two sessions last year, the number of horses sold fell 21.1%, while the gross slipped 49.5%. The average was down 36.0%, and the median was off 32%.

Last year, through two days, 379 horses sold to gross $178,349,000. The average was $470,578, and the median $250,000. Thirty-nine horses had sold for $1 million or more and the buy-back rate was 19.5%.

For complete results from this sale, including Hip-by-Hips and cumulative sale results, click here.

Mushka, who sold as a racing or broodmare prospect, was part of a Zayat consignment that included horses of racing age, broodmares, stallion prospects, and a few weanlings. Zayat said before the sale that it was part of his business plan to offer ready-made racehorses to the public.

“The first part of the sale (when selling fillies) was phenomenal, but the second part (when colts were sold as racing or stallion prospects), I don’t understand,” said Zayat. “But the horses like Massive Drama, a grade III winner and who is grade I placed (failed to meet his reserve when bidding stopped at $350,000), I don’t understand. I came here to sell horses and that is what I am going to do.”

In addition to Mushka and others, Zayat sold grade III winner Baroness Thatcher (Johannesburg—Natkeeta, by Gulch) for $1.8 million to her former trainer Patrick Biancone, whose one-year suspension with the Kentucky Racing Commission expired Oct. 31. He was suspended after cobra venom was found in his barn at Keeneland.

Bred in Kentucky by Diane Snowden, Mushka was purchased by Zayat for $1.6 million at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. Her price topped the yearling auction.

“The whole package is there,” said Franny Abbott, who signed the ticket on behalf of Moran. “She’s got great size, she’s correct, she can run now, and she has tremendous potential as a broodmare.”

Mushka will remain in training with Bill Mott.

Commenting on the price, Abbott said he would have bid more than her hammer price of $2.4 million to acquire the mare. “I think Mrs. Moran really loves the filly and wanted to have her. When she gets determined, she likes to go for it,” he said. “She brought $1.6 million as a yearling, so you had to know that her price would be somewhere above that. He wasn’t going to give her away for less than that. And what she has done, and the way she grown up physically, we were prepared to be right there where we were.”

Tom VanMeter of Eaton Sales said he was pleased with Mushka’s $2.4-million price tag, saying she has it all—race record, pedigree, and looks.

“This is part of the (Zayat) business plan,” VanMeter said of the decision to offer ready-made racehorses. “He wants racehorses. He doesn’t want to be in the breeding business, and these are great horses. He bought her for $1.6 million and she still has run in her. She could win a grade I race.”

Van Meter said it was six-month process to package the horses Zayat wanted to offer during this auction. “We already know they are great horses; they were hand selected. They have the pedigree, and the conformation, the race records. They have the whole package. But the main thing we wanted to do was bring them over here and let the market know they could buy these horses. He set very fair reserves and wanted people to buy his horses.”

For detailed analysis of the results of Day 2 and a preview of Day 3, Download the Data Digest.

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