Plum Pretty topped the opening session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale with her $4.2 million price.

Plum Pretty topped the opening session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale with her $4.2 million price.

Keeneland Photo

Keeneland Sale Opens With $4.2 Million Topper

The Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner brings $4.2 million from Whisper Hill Farm.

Demand was strong for quality young mares and broodmare prospects as the Keeneland November breeding stock sale opened its 11-day run in Lexington. Plum Pretty, who won the 2011 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), topped the session with her $4.2 million price, and Bill Farish of Lane’s End called the enthusiasm of buyers “amazing” for the very best horses.

But as Keeneland officials had expected, business couldn’t keep up with last year’s pace. The number of horses that were sold Nov. 6 and the gross declined 32% and 56.3%, respectively, from 2011, when the offerings included stallion shares. The average price and median price, meanwhile, dropped 35.7%, and 44.6%, respectively.

The buy-back rate rose from 16.9% to 30.1%.

Keeneland management wasn’t surprised by the downward trends because a dispersal of elite horses owned by the late Edward P. Evans' Spring Hill Farm had pumped up prices in 2011 and there wasn’t a similar sell-off of quality horses to start off this year’s auction. On 2011’s first day, that dispersal generated $40,684,500 for 44 lots. Fourteen horses commanded prices of $1 million or more compared to five in 2012.

“It will be difficult to compare this sale to last year if not impossible,” said Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales. “Today we were minus Spring Hill, which was the biggest dispersal that has ever been (in terms of gross by the time it ended later in the auction) and tomorrow we will be minus the Chanteclair Farm dispersal.

“I think all in all, it was a pretty good horse sale,” said Robertson of 2012’s first November session. “There was quite a bit of depth at the top. It was better at the top than what I expected and pretty much what I expected below that.”

When this year’s results were compared to 2011’s opening day figures without the Spring Hill dispersal, the number sold rose 19% and the gross increased 22.5%. The average grew 2.9%, but the median fell 22.7%.

Last year’s buy-back rate without the Spring Hill lots, which were offered without reserve, was 26.3%. Only three horses outside the dispersal brought seven-figure prices.

“It’s caught me a little off guard,” said Farish of the excitement generated by this year’s best offerings. “This kind of fervor is interesting because I don’t think anybody expected quite this level of bidding on these really good grade I mares and fillies. It’s not easy to find ones that have both the (outstanding) pedigree and the (outstanding) race record, but this is amazing and I don’t think it is finished.”

Mandy Pope of Florida-based Whisper Hill Farm purchased Plum Pretty after buying 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace for $10 million the night before at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed auction.

“We’re obviously trying to upgrade our broodmare band and make adjustments in the quality that we have,” said Pope, who was sitting in Keeneland’s sale pavilion with Chris Brothers of Xavier International Bloodstock during the bidding. “She (Plum Pretty) is going to be right (up) there with Havre de Grace. She and Havre de Grace are going to go to Timber Town Stable (in Kentucky), so they’ll be with Cathy and Wayne Sweezey. They will have a very loving home, and I may just move into the barn (and stay) in the stall between the two of them. We’ve got two grand race mares and hopefully Whisper Hill Farm is going to be making a name for itself with their babies. Hopefully, we’ll get some nice colts on the ground to be sold and have a filly from each to keep.”

Plum Pretty, who has earned $1,688,746, also captured this year’s Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) while racing for John Fort’s Peachtree Stable. The 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro  and the unplaced A.P. Indy mare Liszy was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect.

“She is very well balanced,” Pope said. “She has a lot of size to her. I also liked her dam (who was a $500,000 buy-back during the first session). I looked at her dam, and I also thought she was pretty and had good size. Hopefully that will transfer to the next generation of babies.”

Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned Plum Pretty for Fort at Keeneland and also offered Havre de Grace, as agent for Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, at the Fasig-Tipton November auction.

“It’s been great,” said Taylor Made’s Frank Taylor. “The market is unbelievable and Mandy Pope is unbelievable. She’s been representing America well. I thought it (the amount brought by Plum Pretty) was a fair price that was in the range of where we thought it would be. It (the price) was well past the reserve.”

Plum Pretty, who was cataloged as a racing or broodmare prospect, has won five of her 12 career races. The bay filly’s record also includes two runner-up finishes and three thirds. Her dam is a half sister to the added-money winner Gold Case (by Forty Niner) and her second dam, Silent Account, triumphed in the 1985 Alcibiades Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.

“She’s just a beautiful filly with class in everything she did,” said Taylor of Plum Pretty. “She’s smart, was an Oaks winner, and has great conformation. She’s everything you could ask for.”

Harmonious, a grade I-winning daughter of Dynaformer, brought the first session’s second-highest price of $2.8 million. The 5-year-old dark bay or brown mare was offered as a broodmare prospect. She is out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Jade Tree, who is a half sister to the added-money winner Megantic (by Theatrical). Harmonious’ second dam, Jade Flush (by Jade Hunter), was a grade II winner.

Nicolas de Watrigant of the Mandore International Agency, which is based in France, purchased Harmonious after an extended bidding battle. His competition included Alain and Gerard Wertheimer of France, Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Stables, and Greg Goodman of Mt. Brilliant Farm.

“She’s a beautiful mare,” said Benoit Jeffroy, who works with de Watrigant. “She has size and scope, and she is by Dynaformer, who was a tough stallion, and out of Storm Cat mare. She’s a group I winner.

“The price was about where we thought,” he added.  “It was pretty expensive last night (at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale). You can see the trade is very good.”

Jeffroy declined to reveal the identity of Harmonious’ new owner.

“She’s just for a client of the agency; that’s it,” Jeffroy said. “No plans at this minute. We’ll talk to the (new) owner and then we’ll see what’s going to happen, if she stays here or goes somewhere else.”

Harmonious captured the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland and the American Oaks Stakes (gr. IT) in 2010. She earned $625,420 while winning four of her 13 career races. Harmonious also finished second three times and third twice while racing for Martin and Pam Wygod and their daughter, Emily. Martin and Pam Wygod bred the mare in Kentucky.

Lane’s End consigned Harmonious for the Wygods.  She was Hip No. 24 in the catalog, so she went through the sale ring during the auction’s first hour and was the first horse to bring a seven-figure amount.

“The Wygods had very fair reserve on her and she more than exceeded that; I think they were very happy,” said Lane’s End’s Will Farish. “She’s a lovely mare (physically) as you can see and that’s why she did well. Aside from her (solid) pedigree, she had great talent and lots of speed. She was just one of the really good ones that everybody would like to have.

“If she had sold 60 or 70 horses later,” Farish continued, “she probably would have done even better. But still, she did well; we have no complaints. We think she’s a very nice prospect and she sold that way. There was plenty of action on her.”

Marty Wygod and his family weren’t at Keeneland to see Harmonious sell, according to Farish, and he didn’t know exactly why they decided to sell her.

“Marty is a very good businessman,” Farish said. “He’s got a lot of horses and like anybody else, he’s got to keep the cash flow going.”

Grade I winner Zazu was the opening day’s third-most-expensive horse at $2.1 million. Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm in Japan purchased the 4-year-old daughter of Tapit  and the winning Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line. Zazu is a half sister to stakes winner Corinthian’s Jewel (by Corinthian).

“We have her half sister, Art Princess (purchased by Yoshida for $400,000 at the 2012 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale),” said Yoshida’s son, Shunsuke. “Zazu was a very nice racehorse. We looked at her the first time here and decided we wanted her.”

Zazu carried the colors of Jerry and Ann Moss to victory in the Las Virgenes (gr. I) and Lady’s Secret (gr. I) stakes in 2011. She also captured the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) last year. Lane’s End, agent, consigned her to the auction.

“I think they (the Mosses) are very happy with the price,” said Lane’s End’s Bill Farish. “She’s a tough one to see go because she’s such a great broodmare prospect. I don’t know exactly why they decided to sell her, but it’s probably a numbers thing. I think that they didn’t want to keep as many mares as they had. Fortunately, they’ve got (2010 Horse of the Year) Zenyatta (who is boarded at Lane’s End), so it’s a little easier to part with Zazu. But it’s still tough to see her go and I know they hated to part with her.”

Mandore International was the session’s biggest spender, paying $6,035,000 for four horses. In addition to Harmonious, the bloodstock agency’s purchases include Shotgun Gulch for $1.6 million and Negligee for $1.25 million. Shotgun Gulch, who was a grade I winner, is in foal to Bernardini . Negligee, who was a Canadian champion and a grade I winner in this country, is in foal to Distorted Humor .

Taylor Made, agent, consigned Shotgun Gulch and Hunter Valley Farm consigned Negligee.

Badgers Bloodstock bought the most expensive weanling, a $625,000 GalileoPiste Noire filly that was consigned by VanMeter Sales, agent.

The Keeneland sale runs through Nov. 16, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. (EST).