Buyers kept up the Thoroughbred market's brisk pace Nov. 5 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale's opening session, with $4 million broodmare Awesome Maria leading a day of huge gains.
Coolmore's M. V. Magnier signed the ticket for Awesome Maria, a grade I winner in foal to Coolmore sire Giant's Causeway . The 6-year-old Maria's Mon mare is an E. Paul Robsham homebred (Hip No. 87) and sold through the Lane's End consignment as part of Robsham's pricey dispersal. She's from the family of grade I winner and Darley sire Discreet Cat.
Tuesday's opener earned big increases, selling 113 horses for a combined $42,255,000. That was up a whopping 52.7% from last year's total for 100 horses. The $373,938 average advanced 35.1%, and the $220,000 median increased 72.5%.
The buyback rate improved sharply, declining from 30.1% last year to 20.1%.
"She's a lovely mare and a very good racehorse," Magnier said of $4 million Awesome Maria. "She comes from a fantastic family, and she's in foal to Giant's Causeway. She's being bought for clients of ours. When I meet them later on, we'll decide as to what she's going to. That hasn't been decided yet. We'll see what the Giant's Causeway looks like.
"She deserved to make it," he added, referring to the price. "She's a nice mare. It's good to see horses like that making prices like that again."
Robsham's dispersal produced a spate of high prices. In addition to session-topping Awesome Maria, the Robsham draft brought in big prices with $2.15 million Broadway's Alibi, in foal to Smart Strike, who sold to Jon Clay's Alpha Delta Stables (Reynolds Bell, agent); as well as $1.6 million R Heat Lightning, in foal to Bernardini , who went to Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Thoroughbreds.
R Heat Lightning's first foal, an April 12 Medaglia d'Oro filly, followed her through the ring and brought $250,000 from Dell Ridge Farm. And R Heat Lightning's dam, the Gold Fever mare Yellow Heat, brought $525,000 from Judith and Barry Becker; she was in foal to Candy Ride .
Lane's End also sold a notable non-dispersal mare, dual grade I winner Lady of Shamrock, for $2 million to Gerard and Alain Wertheimer, better known as Wertheimer et Frere. The buyers' representative, Pierre Bureau, confirmed that the 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly will retire now to the breeding shed.
"We've been trying to buy a few mares the last two days, so we're happy to get one that's good," Bureau said. "She proved everything, she's a nice filly. It's time to breed now."
The Wertheimers also plucked up a Robsham horse, taking home Awesome Maria's 11-year-old dam, Discreetly Awesome, in foal to Malibu Moon , for $675,000.
"It's a great collection," consignor Bill Farish of Lane's End said of the Robsham dispersal horses. "They've pared down over the years to a really select group of mares and foals, and we're glad to be doing it but sorry to see the mares go, because they're a nice group.
"I think it's pretty much where we thought they'd be, maybe a bid or two more here or there. But there are good prices so far."
Lane's End led all consignors at the session by gross and average, grossing $13,970,000 for 15 horses. The consignment averaged $931,333.
Another dispersal, that of the late Eric Kronfeld, also saw some expensive horses. Foremost among them was Eblouissante, the Bernardini half sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta, who sold for $2.1 million to Ian Banwell's St. George Stable.
Keeneland's Tom Thornbury did the bidding from the press box with Banwell on the phone. After signing the receipt, Thornbury confirmed that Eblouissante will remain in training with John Shirreffs.
Kronfeld, who bred the immensely popular Zenyatta, died in May at age 71 with Eblouissante in his racing stable. Don Robinson's Winter Quarter Farm, which boarded Kronfeld's stock, handled the dispersal.
Eblouissante, a 4-year-old, has won two of her three starts so far. Most recently, she finished sixth in Authenticity's Shuvee Handicap (gr. III) back in July. Eblouissante was fractious in the gate before that race and came out of it with scrapes and two broken teeth, Shirreffs said. Initially, Maverick Racing—Kronfeld's children, not the WinStar-related entity—cataloged her as a broodmare prospect, but Keeneland's announcer noted as the filly came in the ring that she was a racing or broodmare prospect.
At least one other well-connected horse did not fare as well. Courting Elaine, a half sister to reigning Horse of the Year and very recent Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) repeat winner Wise Dan, hammered for $270,000 but failed to reach her reserve. She returned to seller Adena Springs.
Keeneland's six $1 million-plus horses beat last year's opening-session figure by one and came one day after $5.2 million Betterbetterbetter topped Fasig-Tipton's lively one-session November sale, where blazing prices for top mares served notice to major players that upper-level demand is fierce.
Weanlings, too, proved popular and expensive.
Before buying Awesome Maria, Coolmore sprang for the opening session's most expensive weanling, an $800,000 War Front–Treasure Trail colt, another from the family of Zenyatta.
"He's a very nice horse, and all the lads liked him," Magnier said. "He comes from a great family, and War Front is having another great year. We'll bring him back to Ashford and raise him there, and then we'll see."
Coolmore has ample reason to like War Front, as they own his grade I-winning son, Declaration of War , in partnership with the colt's breeder Joseph Allen. The Saturday before the Keeneland sale, Declaration of War finished third behind Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge in the Breeders' Cup Classic's very close three-horse finish. And Coolmore also owns the colt's second dam, Vertigineux, who produced Zenyatta.
Claiborne consigned the Feb. 2 colt. the Paris, Ky., farm stands both War Front and also stood the colt's broodmare sire, Pulpit, until his death last December.
The opening session's leading sire by gross and average was Maria's Mon with Awesome Maria's sale alone; by gross, three or more sold, Darley's Bernardini led by gross with six totaling $3,440,000. By average, three or more sold, the session's leading sire was Trippi, who featured in some of the Robsham horses and now stands in South Africa. Trippi's three horses averaged $781,667.
Among covering sires, Distorted Humor led by gross, with three or more sold, with three bringing $2,775,000. He also led by average, three or more sold, with an average sale price of $925,000.
The Keeneland November sale will continue through Nov. 14, with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m. ESTin the sale pavilion.