The second of four sessions of the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale Jan. 7 saw declines across the board when compared with an equivalent session last year that featured two million-dollar horses.
But many buyers and sellers pronounced the 2014 market solid and competitive, despite a 12.5% lower median Keeneland officials attributed to the lack of a major dispersal.
Ponche de Leona, dam of 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Mucho Macho Man , brought $775,000 as the high point Tuesday at the sale in Lexington.
The Jan. 7 second session sold 276 horses for a combined $16,794,200, down 16.3% from last year’s session total for 248 horses. The average price declined 24.6%, from $80,700 a year ago to $60,849, and median decreased from $40,000 to $35,000.
Session buy-backs were essentially the same this year as at last year’s second day at 17%.
Cumulatively, the median fared much better, remaining level with last year’s two-day figure of $35,000. The first two days in 2014 have sold 508 horses for $30,509,100. That’s 13.7% less than last year’s gross for 449 at the same point, and the cumulative average was down 23.2%, from $78,200 to $60,057.
The cumulative buy-back rate fell. Last year, it was 25.7%; this year, it stands at 20.5%.
The 2014 catalog is 16% smaller than last year’s, and, unlike the 2013 sale, this year's January auction features no major dispersal.
Ponche de Leona was the January sale’s marquee name. The 15-year-old Ponche mare got a big boost in value when Mucho Macho Man won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November, and she also had stakes-placed Mucho Mans Gold to her credit.
She went through the ring in foal to the fashionable WinStar Farm sire Distorted Humor , and predictably, interest in her was high. In the end, the winning bidder was Betty Moran of Brushwood Stable, bidding on the telephone via agent Reiley McDonald.
The $775,000 sale was a high-water mark for Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services, the partnership of Ron Blake and Hanzly Albina that consigned Ponche de Leona for owner Steven Marshall of Black Rock Stables.
Marshall paid $300,000 for Ponche de Leona at the Keeneland 2011 November sale, when she was carrying another colt by Adena Springs’s Macho Uno . He bred her to the Gainesway stallion Tapit and put her right back in the auction ring the following year at the Fasig-Tipton November sale but bought her back on a $1.4 million hammer price.
Albina said Marshall has retained the 2012 Macho Uno colt, the full brother to Mucho Macho Man, and has put him in training. He also owns Ponche de Leona’s yearling Tapit filly.
“Individually, we’ve both done very well, but together, we’ve not broken $1 million,” Hanzly said of the partnership’s personal best. “We thank Mr. Marshall and my partner Nick Sallusto for having faith in us to let us sell this horse. We kind of put our hearts into it and tried to do our best for them.”
“Mare gets great foals, dam of a Breeders’ Cup winner, and there are not many like her in the sale, so we felt like we stretched a little to get her,” said buying agent McDonald. “But who knows what the first foal is worth? We love the Tapit coming in right in front of her.”
A lot of buyers were stretching for horses they wanted Tuesday.
“It’s real tough,” said Ben Glass, racing and bloodstock manager for Gary and Mary West. “We’ve been watching mares that were sold last year or the year before for $8,000, $10,000, or $12,000 come back in here and bring $80,000 or $90,000.”
Glass was the session’s leading buyer by gross after spending $1,025,000 for 17. Tuesday’s leading buyer by average (three or more purchased) was Jonathan Sheppard, as agent, who paid an average of $235,000 for three horses.
The session’s second highest price was the $750,000 that Phyllis Wyeth (Braxton Lynch, agent) paid for the grade III-winning Rock of Gibraltar mare Sweeter Still. The 9-year-old mare was in foal to Galileo.
Eaton Sales agency consigned Sweeter Still, whose foal will be bred very similarly to group I winner Kingsbarns, a Galileo colt who is Sweeter Still’s half brother.
Consignor Eaton Sales ended the day as the session’s leading consignor by average (three or more sold) with eight bringing a $166,125 average.
It was a long drop back to the next few who sold at $300,000 or more, including $325,000 broodmare Patti’s Regal Song, in foal to Spendthrift sire Malibu Moon . The partnership of Ina Bond’s River Bend Farm and Musselman Equine made the buy from the Paramount Sales agency. The partnership is a family affair, involving Bond; her son, Austin Musselman; and his wife, Janie.
“She has about 12 broodmares, and she has more quality than quantity,” Musselman said of his mother’s breeding program, which is largely commercial. “She has been in the business since, I think, 1988, and I’m excited to partner with her on this.”
Patti’s Regal Song, an 8-year-old Unbridled’s Song mare, is out of the stakes-winner Regal Pennant. That makes her very similarly bred to Rockport Harbor, who was also by Unbridled’s Song and is out of Regal Miss Copelan, a half sister to Patti’s Regal Song.
Musselman said the partnership is likely to sell Patti’s Regal Song’s Malibu Moon foal. “I think we got her for a good price,” Musselman said. “We’re excited about the Malibu Moon.”
The only other horse to sell for $300,000 or more was the Dynaformer mare Rietondale. The 12-year-old mare is unraced but already has produced three stakes-placed runners, including a pair that are graded-placed: dual grade I-placed Stormy Len and grade III runner-up Shadow Banking, both by Harlan’s Holiday.
Rietondale is a half sister to grade I winners Cetewayo and Dynaforce and to grade I-placed Bowman Mill. Offered in foal to Lane’s End stallion Candy Ride , Rietondale sold for $300,000 to Glen Hill Farm.
The Mill Ridge Sales agency consigned her and was the day’s top seller overall, grossing $1,639,000 for 19 horses.
The session’s top-priced short yearling was a $225,000 Malibu Moon colt WinStar’s Elliott Walden signed for in the name of Maverick Racing. The Feb. 19 foal is out of the graded winner Kettleoneup, a daughter of former WinStar stallion Victory Gallop.
“He’s a nice, big, stretchy colt, and he looked immature a little bit,” Walden said. “The mare could run, so we’ll just see what happens.”
Walden said the price was perhaps slightly more than anticipated, and he called the market “solid.”
Distorted Humor was the leading sire by gross Jan. 7 after five of his horses brought $782,000. As Ponche de Leona’s covering sire, Distorted Humor also was the leading covering sire by gross. Ponche de Leona was the only mare to sell Tuesday in foal to Distorted Humor.
The leading sire by average (three or more sold) was the late Unbridled’s Song with three horses bringing a $195,000 average.
The leading covering sire by average price (three or more sold) was Candy Ride. His three in-foal mares fetched an average of $220,000.
The Keeneland January sale will continue through Jan. 9. Sessions start each day at 10 a.m EST.