Anne M. Eberhardt

Strong Final Numbers for Keeneland January

The $45.2 million in total sales this year is the highest since 2008.

After taking just three days to surpass total sales recorded at last year's four-day event, the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale registered strong gross, average, and median figures when this year's five-day auction wrapped up Jan. 11 in Lexington.

Total sales were up 18.99% to $45,207,300. But more telling was an average up 8.01% to $40,912 and a median that stayed the same at $15,000 during an event that added a day compared with 2012.

That 2012 total saw a 50.48% spike in gross to $37,991,900. The $45.2 million in total sales this year is the highest total since 2008.

"The horse industry is remarkably resilient, and we see greater evidence of market confidence with each sale," said Keeneland vice president of sales Walt Robertson. "It continues to be a highly selective, highly competitive market characterized by strong trade. The money, and just as importantly the enthusiasm, is there for quality individuals, and that makes for a very healthy outlook."

Robertson said quality horses were offered throughout the five sessions, although he was concerned about the percentage increase in buybacks from 19.76% to 25.19%.

The sale was helped by the most expensive newly turned yearling sold at Keeneland January since 1998, a Street Sense  filly who went for $1.45 million; and the dispersal of Issam Fares' Fares' Farm. Dispersal horses were offered in the second and fourth sessions and 78 horses sold for a total of $7,313,000, an average of $93,756. The median price was $56,000.

The sale marked the continued emergence of a new player at the high end in Canadian Nat Rea (Regis Farms), who bought the $1.45 million sale-topper. Rea, 47, recently purchased Silver Springs Farm near Paris, Ky. and began buying weanlings in November.

The Street Sense yearling is out of the grade III-winning Doc's Leader mare Please Sign In, who has produced group I winner Certify and grade I winner Cry and Catch Me. She is the second-highest priced yearling ever sold at Keeneland January, ranking only behind Inkling, who was purchased by Demi O'Byrne for $3.4 million in 1998.

The filly was consigned by Alfred Nuckols Jr.'s Hurstland Farm. An emotional Nuckols said that of horses he has owned, the filly was the most expensive he'd ever sold.

"I thought coming up here she was a $300,000 to $350,000 filly," Nuckols said. "But when we had her up here, everybody was interested and we started to hear from a lot of people telling us what a lovely filly she was. The word was going around the sales grounds. I've had the whole family for four generations and she's probably the nicest filly to come along so far."

Rea, who resides on a ranch in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada with his wife and five children, retired last year from Martinrea International, an auto parts company he founded and later sold. The company grew into a multi-billion dollar entity that manufactures fluid systems assemblies, tubing products, stampings, and welded assemblies.

"We like to be quiet," said Rea during an exclusive Blood-Horse interview shortly after purchasing the sale-topping filly. "We don't like to make a splash. We want to keep it simple. It's not about me. It's not about the farm. It's all about the horses. Let the horses speak for themselves."

Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings led all buyers by gross with five horses, all broodmares or broodmare prospects, purchased for a total of $2,810,000. Stonestreet landed three different horses for $800,000 each: grade II-winning broodmare prospect Potesta (by Macho Uno ), two-time grade III-winning broodmare prospect Salty Strike (by Smart Strike), and stakes winner Supreme (by Empire Maker ), in foal to Giant's Causeway .

The second-leading buyer was Lane Seliger as Baumann Stables. Seliger purchased the sale's highest-priced broodmare or broodmare prospect in Nereid. Seliger landed the Rock Hard Ten 5-year-old grade I-winning broodmare prospect for $1.3 million. Seliger purchased six horses (five broodmare or broodmare prospects and one racing or stallion prospect) for a total of $1,962,000.

Lane's End Farm, which consigned the Fares Farm Dispersal, finished as the leading consignor with 113 horses sold for $9,298,900.

The sale also saw a pair of the late Barbara Hunter's horses sell in half sister broodmare prospects Keertana, by Johar, who was purchased for $1 million by Denali Stud, agent; and Snow Top Mountain, by Najran, and in foal to Blame , who was landed for $950,000 by Audley Farm Equine.

Tony Lacy, of consignor Four Star Sales, agent for Hunter's Brownwood Farm and the bloodstock manager for Brownwood, said it was a bittersweet day when the two mares out of Motokiks, by Storm Cat, sold on the second day of the sale, Jan. 8.

"It's never really been a family that's been sold. It's an heirloom of Barbara's," Lacy said. "It's a credit to Barbara and her legacy. I'm very proud for her."

In the fifth and final session Jan. 11, one horse reached six figures as Greendale Bloodstock went to $100,000 to secure a Kitten's Joy  colt. Consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, the newly turned yearling is out of the winning Stephen Got Even mare, Esther Got Even. The colt is a New York-bred.

During the fifth session, 181 horses sold for a total of $1,518,700, an average of $8,391, and a $4,000 median price. Last year's sale featured only four sessions.