History was made during the third session of the surging Keeneland November breeding stock sale in Lexington. The complete dispersal of horses owned by the late Edward P. “Ned” Evans became the highest-grossing public sell-off of Thoroughbred stock ever in North America and probably the world as its take surpassed $55 million Nov. 9.
“It’s been a great testament to Mr. Evans and our program the way these horses have been received by the market,” said Chris Baker,manager of Evans’ Spring Hill Farm in Virginia.
The gross for the 101 Evans horses and stallion shares sold by Lane’s End at the November auction through its third day was $49,669,500. Added to the gross of $6,527,000 for the 50 Evans horses sold by Lane’s End during this year’s Keeneland September yearling auction, the total for the dispersal was $56,196,500 and there are more lots still to be sold.
The Evans dispersal’s two-sale amount exceeded the former North American record of $46,988,000 for the 42 horses and 20 stallion shares that were sold during the Newstead Farm dispersal in November 1985 by Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky. On the opening day of this year’s Keeneland November auction, the results for the Evans dispersal’s November and September lots combined topped that auction firm’s previous record, which was the $46,912,800 gross for the 580 horses sold during the Nelson Bunker Hunt dispersal in January 1988.
“If Mr. Evans was here he would say, ‘They never gave me this kind of money when I was alive. I’ve got to die for them to pay this for my horses?’ And he would have thrown a couple of ‘F-bombs’ in there with it,” Baker said. “He would have had a dry sense of humor about it. But I know he also would have been very proud.”
The Keeneland November sale’s results for its first three days combined included a gross of $147,028,500 for the 542 horses and stallion shares that were sold. The average was $271,270 and the median was $140,000.
Compared to last year, when 580 lots were sold, the gross rose 60.5%. The average increased 71.8% while the median advanced 40%.
The buy-back rate was 21.1%, the same as in 2010.
During the third session alone, the 257 lots that were sold grossed $32,347,000 and averaged $125,864. The median was $90,000. The gross was up 52.2% from last year, when 254 lots were sold. The average increased 50.5% and the median rose 38.5%.
The buy-back rate was 23.5%, about the same as 2010’s result of 23.3%.
"The comments we received after Book One (of the sale catalog) were that a lot of people didn't buy anything (because of the high prices), so they've just been moved back to Book Two, making the (bidding) top lots more competitive both inside and outside the (Evans) dispsersal," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales.
The broodmare Quiet Now, from the Evans dispersal, commanded the third session’s highest price of $1.85 million early in the evening. Claiborne Farm purchased the 6-year-old winning daughter of Tiznow in partnership with longtime client Adele Dilschneider.
In foal to City Zip , Quiet Now is a gray or roan half sister to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam (by Saint Ballado), grade III winner Congressionalhonor (by Forestry ), grade II winner Quiet Game (by Giant's Causeway ), and added-money winner Dance Quietly (by A.P. Indy). Their dam, Quiet Dance (by Quiet American), was a stakes winner.
“I’ve wanted something from that family for a long time,” said Claiborne’s Seth Hancock. “I tried and Mr. (Benjamin) Leon got the ones I wanted on Monday, so I tried on (Hip No.) 746 today and Ned’s brother, Shel, got me; this was the last gasp. Our backs were to the wall if we wanted something from it. She’s a nice, big mare and I loved her weanling (a colt by Tale of the Cat that brought $425,000 from Bluegrass Hall in the same session). Her first foal was a More Than Ready (colt) that Shadwell bought (for $325,000 at Keeneland in September), so he’s going to have a chance to do something. It was way too much money, but we wanted her.”
Edward Evans died late last year. He was the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s national Breeder of the Year for 2009 and 2010.
“Ned Evans would do it like I like to try and do it,” Hancock said. “He kept his broodmare band culled down and he bred them to the right kind of stallions. He raced his horses and he loved them. I thought he was a lot like us and I’m happy to have something from his best family.”
Hip No. 746, the broodmare Minishaft, was third session’s third-most expensive horse, bringing $620,000 and, as Hancock said, going to Evans’ brother, Robert S. “Shel” Evans.
A 5-year-old winning daughter of Mineshaft , Minishaft produced a Street Sense colt earlier this year and is in foal to Tale of the Cat . Royal Pegasus Farm bought the Street Sense weanling for $120,000 Nov. 9 at Keeneland.
“This is the first full-sized horse I could buy (from the dispersal),” said Robert Evans after signing the sale ticket for Minishaft. “I bought some of the weanlings. The full-sized ones are expensive. I’ve been on some of the mares before now (but failed to buy them). I actually got on this one because I thought she would be relatively cheap. That turned out not to be the case, but I was kind of tired of finishing second.”
Minishaft is a gray or roan half sister to 2010 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) winner A Little Warm (by Stormin Fever) and the winner Ministorm (by Storm Cat), who produced 2007 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) winner Mini Sermon (by Pulpit).
Their dam, Minidar (by Alydar), captured the 1994 Chicago Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. III). Their second dam, Minstrella (by The Minstrel), was a champion overseas and a grade II producer.
“My brother was magic; it’s amazing what he accomplished,” Robert Evans said. “You can see that in the (results of the) sale here; it’s been verified in the last few days and there are still more to go. It’s unbelievable.”
“He was probably one of the smartest people I ever knew,” Evans continued. “People who went to school with him and everything else knew that. He did an incredible job running Macmillan (serving as chairman and CEO of the publishing group). When he stopped doing that, he put most of his efforts into the Thoroughbred business. If you take a guy with some money and some brains like he had in the Thoroughbred business, they can make it successful. It was a lifelong work for him.”
Watching his brother’s horses being dispersed “is very hard (emotionally),” Evans said. “We first came to Keeneland in 1965 to the summer sale together. We bought some mares in partnership when we were kids. We both were in it (the horse business) a long time. It was hard to lose him. He was an inspiration to me in an awful lot of ways.”
The second-most-expensive horse on the Keeneland November auction’s third day and the session’s highest-priced horse outside the Evans dispseral was a Tapit weanling filly that commanded $700,000. She is out of the unraced Unbridled mare Piedras Negras.
Demi O’Byrne acquired the chestnut filly for Ireland-based Coolmore Stud from Three Chimneys Sales, agent for John and Marsha Antonelli. The weanling is a half sister to 2007 Victory Ride Stakes (gr. III) winner La Traviata (by Johannesburg), who raced for Susan Magnier, wife of Coolmore managing partner John Magnier; Michael Tabor; and Derrick Smith.
“She (La Traviata) was a very fast filly; she was just unlucky with what happened to her,” said M.V. Magnier, one of John and Susan Magnier’s sons. “Demi and Paul (Shanahan) loved the (Tapit) filly and we bought her to race her.”
The Keeneland sale continues through Nov. 17, with each session starting at 10 a.m. (EST).