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Keeneland January Third Session Posts Gains

Competitive bidding helps four-day auction rebound into positive territory Jan. 8.

Keeneland's January horses of all ages sale rang up gains Jan. 8 at its next-to-last session, and, after a financial dip at its second session, the three-day cumulative median rebounded into positive territory.

Wednesday's session sold 246 horses for $5,953,300, a 20.2% increase over last year's total for 227 horses. The day three average also jumped by 10.9%, from last year's $21,823 to $24,200. The median did even better, rising 15.4%, from $13,000 last year to $15,000.

Wednesday's RNAs also fell to 21.2%. That's down from 23.6% a year ago.

Cumulatively, the four-day auction's first three days were showing mixed results, but, importantly, the median was running slightly ahead of last year's figure at the same point. So far, the 2014 sale has sold 754 horses for $36,462,400, a 9.5% drop from last year's three-day gross, and the $48,359 average was 18.9% down. But the median eked out a gain to stand at $25,500, which is $500 ahead of last year's cumulative median at the same point. And buybacks also eased, shrinking from last year's three-day figure of 25% to 20.7% through Wednesday.

Last year's auction, which sported a larger catalog, sold three horses for $1 million or more and also featured the major dispersal of Issam Fares' bloodstock.

Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farm went to a session-topping $310,000 for Lady Kierkegaard, a Claiborne Farm-bred Arch mare who ended her career last fall with a win and $114,773 to her credit. Lady Kierkegaard is a half sister to graded-placed stakes winner Haint and grade I-placed Play With Fire, and she's a three-quarters sister to stakes-producer Domain.

Winter Quarter Farm consigned Lady Kierkegaard.

Paxton said after buying the 5-year-old mare that Arch was part of her appeal. "I like Arch," he said, "and she was a pretty filly."

The bid lifted Claiborne's successful stallion Arch to the top of the session's sires by gross on Lady Kierkegaard's sale alone.

"He loves the family," Paxton's agent, Tim McMurry of Fleetwood Bloodstock said. "It's a good Claiborne family, and he's got a lot of nice shares, so I'm sure she'll get somebody really good. She's very pretty for an Arch filly, she's very smooth. Some of them can be a little coarse, and she's not. She's a big size, correct, an 'A' physical. Jerre would tell you, 'You know, it's a beauty contest,' and she's pretty."

McMurry said Paxton would send Lady Kierkegaard to Greenfield Farm to start her breeding career and that her future foal probably would go to the sales.

Lady Kierkegaard was one of five horses to bring six figures Wednesday.

A pair of mares brought $170,000 at Wednesday's session. The first was Evil Kitten, bought by Frank Stronach's Adena Springs, the session's leading buyer by both gross and average (three or more bought). Adena purchased five horses for $417,000, with an average price of $83,400.

Adena's Eric Hamelback did the bidding and signed for Evil Kitten, a grade III-placed winner  with $234,414 in earnings and a stakes-winning half brother in Lucky Halo. The 5-year-old Kitten's Joy  mare came off the racetrack in October. Kitten's Joy was Wednesday's leading sire by average (three or more sold) with a trio of offerings who were bought for an average of $85,000.

The Taylor Made Sales agency consigned Evil Kitten and was the session's leading consignor by gross with 50 horses bringing $1,541,200. The leader by average price (three or more sold) was James Herbener after his consignment's eight horses averaged $45,500.

Adena Springs also bought Starship Universe from Taylor Made for $160,000 late in the session. The 5-year-old Mineshaft  daughter placed two times in grade III company and is a half sister to stakes winners Sir Five Star and Overpass.

The Denali Stud agency's Fonepferesh was the second mare to bring $170,000, this time from Wellington Partners. The Irish-bred 3-year-old is by Coolmore's Holy Roman Emperor and out of Vee Gita, a half sister to 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Vale of York.

Fonepferesh won her last start, a maiden special weight Dec. 21, before heading to Keeneland January as a racing or broodmare prospect.

Also selling for six figures Wednesday was $150,000 Hard Life, a grade II-placed winner from the family that produced the great Cigar.

Calumet Farm, the session's second-ranked buyer by gross with seven horses totaling $361,000, picked up the 6-year-old Rock Hard Ten mare from Taylor Made Sales, which sold her on behalf of Sport Thoroughbreds.

Hard Life, a $143,454 earner, was in foal to Darley sire Hard Spun , who was Wednesday's leading covering sire by gross solely on her sale. The leader by average (three or more sold) was Taylor Made's Eskendereya with three bringing an average price of $41,000.

"For the select mares, there may be a little bit of overpaying for them, there's no doubt about it," Adena's Hamelback said, "especially when you see some of the horses that have got a race record that have run for a tag, they're still going way above that tag. So, for the right mare, I think the market's been very good, very strong overall. For a January sale, we've been very pleased with what we've got. It has been a little tough on the very nice ones, for sure."

The market for short yearlings also remained robust Wednesday. The market peaked with the Brandywine Farm agency's Feb. 14 Frost Giant  colt, who brought $85,000 from Is It Real Stables. The New York-bred colt is out of the winning Is It True mare Sarahisittrue, who is a half sister to grade III-placed Successful Sarah.

Keeneland's January sale will hold its final session Thursday, Jan. 9, in the sale pavilion adjacent to the racetrack. The session starts at 10 a.m.