The Keeneland January horses of all ages sale continued to sizzle during its second session in Lexington. At the end of the day Jan. 10, the cumulative gross for the auction stood at $30,115,300, which exceeded the total for last year’s entire five-session sale of $25,250,250 by 19.3%.
The combined gross through the first two days of the 2011 auction was only $19,600,200.
“The market has been bloody good here, hasn’t it?” said Blandford Bloodstock’s Tom Goff after signing a $600,000 sale ticket for the broodmare Magnificent Honour.
The average price for the 487 horses that were sold during the first two sessions in 2012 was $61,838 and the median price was $30,000. Compared to 2011 at the same point, the number sold was up 24.2% while the average and median represented gains of 23.7% and 50%, respectively. The buy-back rate was 21.3%, down from 30% in 2011.
“Buyers are going after quality mares and quality yearlings with equal gusto,” said Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales.
The auction has benefited from the momentum generated by a rallying Thoroughbred marketplace in 2011. A lower supply of horses, which is more in line with demand, and a strong Keeneland November breeding sale last year that prevented buyers from filling their orders also are important factors.
“For a period of time, since 2008 (when American recession spread worldwide), there was a hesitation by breeders to get involved in long-term investments and that is in the past,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “I think breeders have decided that this is what they do for a living. They do it at a lower level than they did pre-2008, but they’re back in it for the long haul and they’re buying mares again. That’s what the difference is. With the yearlings, we knew that the pinhookers hadn’t been able to buy enough in November. They’re very strong here, but an end user bought the highest-priced (short) yearling today. Quality sells. It always has and it always will.”
The results for the second session only included a gross of $16,183,100 for the 278 horses that were sold. The average was $58,213 and the median was $27,000. Compared to 2011, the number sold grew 35.6% and the gross increased a whopping 81.6%. The median rose 33.9%.
The buy-back rate of 15.8% was down from 24.6% last year.
Magnificent Honour topped the second session and is the third-highest-priced horse sold during the January auction so far, trailing only opening day stars Topliner at $1.4 million and Spice Island at $775,000. Goff’s competiton for Magnficent Honour, who is a 10-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy, included Eddie Kane, representing Brad Kelley’s Kentucky-based Bluegrass Hall operation, and Craig Bernick of Florida-based Glen Hill Farm.
In foal to Giant's Causeway , Magnificent Honour is the dam of the winner Ghost Honour (by Ghostzapper) and is out of 1998 Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) winner Better Than Honour (by Deputy Minister), who is a former Kentucky Broodmare of the Year. Better Than Honour’s offspring include Magnificent Honour’s full sister, champion and 2007 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Rags to Riches, and half brother, 2006 Belmont winner Jazil (by Seeking the Gold). Better Than Honour also is the dam of 2008 Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) winner Casino Drive (by Mineshaft ); Irish champion and 2009 Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Man of Iron (by Giant’s Causeway); and stakes producer Teeming (by Storm Cat).
“It’s probably one of the best families in the American Stud Book in my humble opinion,” Goff said. “Her (Magnificent Honour’s) 2011 Tiznow filly is very nice and she has a great cover. As for her price, let’s put it this way, it was at the upper limit of our valuation.
“I bought her for a European-based commercial breeder and the mare will stay here,” Goff added. “I would say there is a chance she will be sent back to Giant’s Causeway.”
Paramount Sales consigned Magnificent Honour for Michael Daly of Ireland, according to Paramount’s Pat Costello. In 2006, Edward Daly Bloodstock purchased her for $575,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, at the Keeneland January sale.
“That was a fantastic sale; it was a great price for the mare,” said Costello of the amount brought by Magnificent Honour at this year’s January auction. “We are delighted and the owner is delighted.”
Other second-session highlights were the $490,000 commanded by robust gray or roan son of Unbridled's Song and the $400,000 brought by a striking bay daughter of Empire Maker. Those horses are the highest-priced yearling colt and filly sold during the January auction so far, and the son of Unbridled’s Song is the fifth-most-expensive horse.
Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm bought the Unbridled’s Song colt, which is out of the 14-year-old placed Hennessy mare Ideal Image.
“He’s an Unbridled’s Song and he’s gray, and we’ve had a lot of success with Unbridled’s Song horses (such as Old Fashioned and Eight Belles),” said Victoria Keith, Porter’s assistant. “We weren’t here looking for short yearlings, but this one caught (Kentucky horseman) Mark Taylor’s eye and he told us about him. That’s why we started looking at him. He (Taylor) thought the colt was outstanding and an outstanding Unbridled’s Song is something we like, so that (deciding to buy him) was pretty easy.”
The colt will be sent to Taylor and his family’s Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, according to Keith.
“We’ll have to see how he grows up,” she said. “Then we’ll either put him in the stable or he may go back to a sale.”
Andy Havens’ Havens Bloodstock Agency consigned the colt for his breeders, Barry and Judith Becker of California. The Beckers said they purchased Ideal Image while she was carrying the Unbridled’s Song colt for $170,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, at the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Keeneland reported that the mare was sold to South Point Bloodstock.
The Unbridled’s Song yearling is a half brother to Sassy Image (by Broken Vow ), who is the winner of six added-money events, including the Humana Distaff Stakes (gr. I) and Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) in 2011.
“Sassy Image moved him a whole up lot; she’s a finalist for an Eclipse Award and she is fresh in everybody’s mind,” Barry Becker said. “He’s a big colt and he looks really good, so we thought this was the time to sell him and that he would be a big fish in a small pond here instead of just another yearling in September. The price was fantastic.”
Tim Hyde, a well-known Irish pinhooker and a close associate of Coolmore Stud, signed the sale ticket for the $400,000 Empire Maker filly. He said she probably would be resold later this year. Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks Racing Stables was among the other bidders on the filly.
“She’s very nice, isn’t she?” Hyde said. “I like that she is a very good filly (physically) and that her dam was very, very good (as a runner). And I like Empire Maker. Probably she’ll be back here (at Keeneland) in September; that’s the plan.”
The filly is the third foal out of the 11-year-old Royal Applause mare Ticker Tape, who captured six added-money events, including the 2004 editions of the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland and American Oaks Invitational (gr. IT). Eaton Sales consigned the yearling for Forging Oaks Farm’s Jim Peyton, who is in the process of dispersing his horses. Last year, Eaton consigned Ticker Tape to the Keeneland November breeding stock sale and she brought $950,000 (while in foal to Giant’s Causeway) from Katsumi Yoshida of Japan’s Northern Farm.
“In January, $400,000 for a yearling is a great price,” Eaton's Reiley McDonald said, “but she is an exceptional filly. I think she was very special, and her mother could run. She (the yearling) was a typical Empire Maker, much like all the good Empire Maker fillies -- correct, good length, and good scope. They aren’t striking with a lot of flash and white, just sort of all bay. He (Hyde) made a good buy and I think the seller had a good sale. It was fair trade.”
The supply of Empire Maker offspring is becoming limited in the North American marketplace, following the stallion’s move from here to Japan following the 2010 breeding season.
“A lot of times these horses move away and suddenly they get runners, but Empire Maker has always had runners,” McDonald said. “What is unusual is that many times when they move away, people don’t pay the kind of premium for (the offspring of) those stallions any longer. In Empire Maker’s case, he was just too good. It might have been one of the most negative things to happen to our breeding business in the last couple of years, seeing that horse leave the country.”
The Keeneland January sale continues through Jan. 12, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. (EST).