Session three of the Keeneland January horses of ages sale in Lexington was brightened by the most expensive yearling sold so far, a $390,000 son of Maria’s Mon. But the auction's key business figures remained grim when compared to 2008's results.
The number of horses sold Jan. 14 fell only 1.3% while the gross revenue dropped 42.8%. The average price declined 42.1%, and the median price decreased 50%.
“I’ve seen some depth in the market today,” said Keeneland senior auctioneer Ryan Mahan. “There has been fair action, but it hasn’t been anything crazy. The trade has been good for what’s been offered.”
The 230 horses that sold grossed $4,443,800 and averaged $19,321. The median was $10,000. Last year, the 233 lots that sold grossed $7,772,400 and averaged $33,358. The median was $20,000.
The buy-back/no bid rate was about the same, 22.8% in 2008 compared to 22.6% this year.
“The sellers have had an eye toward business; they’re not emotional,” Mahan said. “The reserves have been reasonable, and I think we’re getting there. A number of horses have sold for considerably more than their reserves. They (the sellers) might have thought two years ago that a horse was going to bring $100,000. Now they’re thinking $50,000 and let’s put the reserve at $34,000. However they determine that number (for the reserve), we’re getting past there a lot of the time.”
Florida pinhooker Jimmy Gladwell, in the name of Ferguson Valley Ranch, purchased the $390,000 Maria’s Mon yearling, which was the most expensive horse sold Jan. 14. The immediate underbidder on the handsome chestnut was Brian Graves, who is the director of public sales for the Beck family’s Kentucky-based Gainesway Farm.
“He has a lot of stretch and scope to him and is real correct,” said Gladwell of the colt. “His mother has thrown some real high quality runners. We think he’s the kind of horse that, at the top of the market, the buyers will be looking for. He will go back in a yearling sale later this year, and we think the top of the market will hold up.
“I thought the price was plenty strong for the horse,” Gladwell continued, “but we liked him an awful lot. We’ve been out on a limb before, and we’re out there again taking a shot. He was a horse we really wanted to take home, and we just hope we have some luck. All the sharp guys were on him. It wasn’t a surprise that he was going to be one of the higher-priced yearlings here. He was an obvious horse, and we stretched and took a shot.”
Gladwell said Fasig-Tipton’s director of yearling sales, Bill Graves, who is the father of Brian Graves, described the colt as the best yearling in the Keeneland January auction.
Produced from the 16-year-old Last Tycoon mare La Cucina, the colt is a half-brother to Sir Cherokee(by Cherokee Run), who captured the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) in 2003 and the Ack Ack (gr. III) and Maxxam Gold Cup Handicaps in 2004. The yearling also is a half-brother to Miss Isella (by Silver Charm), who scored in the 2008 Falls City Handicap (gr. II). The colt’s other siblings include Lady Linda (by Torrential), who finished second in the 2003 All Along Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT) and third in the 2004 edition of the race. She also was third in the 2004 Bayou Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT).
“I thought he was awesome,” said Brian Graves of the yearling. “He’s the type of colt that everybody wants. I haven’t gotten to buy a horse yet just because it doesn’t seem like there is any difference in the market for a good one, the one that ticks all the boxes. A (young) horse that has a good physical and has got any kind of desirable pedigree can bring somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000. I watched the Speightstown yearling (out of Treysta) sell for $270,000 yesterday and didn’t get to raise my hand.
“The people who are shopping here (for yearlings) are the professional guys who do this all the time,” Graves continued. “Most of them either got their money back last year or made a bit of money. Even though the economy is changing, they still need product, and they still have got the same ammunition, so I don’t think there has been an effect on the very good (short) yearling market yet.”
Meg Levy’s Bluewater Sales consigned the $390,000 yearling for Domino Stud of Lexington. Kenneth T. Jones, the owner of Domino Stud, died last year. His family is continuing the operation with more of a focus on racing than breeding.
“The horse had it all,” Levy said. “He is by an established sire, and he is a half-brother to two graded stakes winners, the more recent one being Miss Isella, so he had a hot update. He had a great physical, and he was correct. He was everything you would want in a racing or a pinhooking prospect. I think the selection (of quality yearlings) is so small here that they (the buyers) are really having to pay the prices for the ones that meet all the criteria. The feeling I get is that everyone has gone back to the established sires.”
Donna Jones, a daughter of Kenneth Jones, was at Keeneland to watch the colt sell.
“It’s a big change for Domino right now,” she said. “We’re kind of restructuring the business and taking it in a different direction. To see how the people on the farm worked so hard and turned out a horse like that, I’m very, very happy, and I know the rest of my family will be as well.”
The cumulative results for the first three days of the Keeneland January auction were 642 horses sold, a gross of $25,535,400, an average of $39,775, and a median of $20,000. Compared to 2008, the number sold declined 3.7% from 667. The gross plunged 54.6% from $56,186,500. The average dropped 52.8% from $84,238. And the median decreased 50% from $40,000.
The buy-back/no bid rate fell from 25.6% last year to 24% this year.
The Keeneland January sale runs through Jan. 17, with sessions starting each day at 10 a.m. (EST).