By Frank Angst and Esther Marr
Known for her perseverance, veteran breeder Mandy Pope displayed that quality in landing Horse of the Year Havre de Grace for $10 million on Nov. 5 at a wildly successful Fasig-Tipton November sale in Lexington.
The sale of Havre de Grace for the third-highest price ever for a broodmare or broodmare prospect highlighted a sale that saw gross receipts nearly double last year's mark, six horses surpass last year's $2.3 million sale-topping price, and one other horse equal that mark.
"Obviously it was a remarkable evening," said Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning. "It exceeded our most optimistic expectations."
At night's end, total sales had surged up 83.9% to $60,220,000 compared with the 2011 figures.
"The thing that was most encouraging was the breadth of bidders at very high levels," Browning said. "This was not a sale tonight that was dominated by one or two buyers."
One of those new faces to the highest levels was Pope, who has spent more than 30 years in breeding and previously may have been best known as breeder of 2011 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) and Whitney Handicap (gr. I) winner Tizway. She is now tied to Havre de Grace, just the second reigning Horse of the Year to be offered at public auction.
The public responded to the offer. Bids on the 5-year-old daughter of late stallion Saint Liam quickly rocketed to $7 million. After a short break, and then some $100,000-increment bids, the action picked up again, surpassing two more million-dollar milestones before settling at $10 million. Some underbidders included Frank Stronach and Ben Leon Jr.
"She was absolutely gorgeous—there's nothing more to say...she's beautiful," said an emotional Pope after signing the ticket for the champion mare. "You look at her and she's everything a racehorse should be, and she has a wonderful attitude...she's the epitome of what we're all trying to breed as far as conformation and racing ability. Hopefully she'll pass that on to her foals."
Pope purchased Citra, Fla.-based Whisper Hill Farm 30 years ago and keeps mares there and at Kentucky farms. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency for Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, Havre de Grace is the third-highest broodmare or broodmare prospect to sell, behind Playful Act who went for $10.5 million at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale and Better Than Honour, who went for $14 million at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton November sale.
"It's always hard (to sell) when you have a horse like (Havre de Grace) that you spend so much time watching perform the way she did," said Porter, who originally acquired Havre de Grace for $380,000 through Tom McGreevy, agent at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale from Mill Ridge Sales, agent. Havre de Grace earned Horse of the Year honors last year after winning three grade I stakes and finishing fourth against males in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
"It was hard when I went to say goodbye to her today," Porter continued. "But it was exciting to see her bring what she deserved because she's got the whole package. I'm really glad Mandy ended up buying her; I think she loves the horse as much as we do."
Larry Jones, who trained Havre de Grace, said interested buyers could see her class on and off the track.
"She is just the total package; there's not a weakness in her," Jones said. "I've had some good racehorses but she was the perfect racehorse. She handled every situation that was presented to her. ... You can just see the class in her. ... She just absolutely never made a mistake."
On a night of big prices for broodmares and broodmare prospects, the eight-figure price on Havre de Grace helped fuel impressive gains at the sale as average soared up 67% to $692,184 compared with a 2011 sale that saw gross revenues increase 17% from 2010. The market did remain selective as there were 47 buybacks leading to a slight drop in median price to a 5% drop in median to $190,000.
But the night steadily delivered fireworks. The dam of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Bodemeister , Untouched Talent by Storm Cat, drew the second-highest price of the sale when she went for $5 million. M. V. Magnier, son of John Magnier, signed the ticket. The Coolmore-associated buyer said the 8-year-old mare, who is in foal to Unbridled's Song, would next be sent to Galileo.
"There was a lot involved...she's a very good-looking mare," said Aisling Duignan, director of bloodstock for Coolmore. "Her (Smart Strike) yearling was very good-looking at the sales in September. She'll go home to be bred to Galileo in Ireland. A young mare like that...she produced a horse like Bodemeister and then to also produce a very nice yearling like that ... she's young, she's well achieved, she's a great looker, so she suits the program."
The third-highest priced horse was Switch, a grade I-winning daughter of Quiet American who was consigned by Lane's End and purchased for $4.3 million by Moyglare Stud Farm.
"It's a very selective market but when you have one like her, she's a beautiful filly and they love Quiet American as a broodmare sire," said Bill Farish of Lane's End.
A grade I winner at age 2, Cry and Catch Me drew the fourth-highest purchase price at the sale, going to Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation for $3.5 million. Consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent, the 7-year-old Street Cry mare won the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) in her 2-year-old season. Believed to be in foal to Bernardini, Cry and Catch Me is out of the stakes-winning Doc's Leader mare Please Sign In and from the family of Habitat, a champion miler in England and successful sire; and European champion Suave Dancer.
Cry and Catch Me has produced one foal, a weanling filly by Medaglia d'Oro purchased earlier in the sale by Waratah Thoroughbreds for $620,000. Waratah is owned by Australian mining entrepreneur Paul Fudge.
Also surpassing last year's $2.3 million sale-topping price was Grace Hall, a grade I winner at 2 years old. Consigned by Lane's End, agent, the 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker sold for $3.2-million. Reynolds Bell signed the ticket for an undisclosed New York buyer.
"Well we watched her run last year and we watched her run this year and she's just a class act," Bell said. Bell said his New York-based buyer plans to continue racing Grace Hall and possibly will return the 2011 Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) winner to trainer Tony Dutrow, who saddled her for a fourth-place finish in this year's Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) for owners Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and the Elkstone Group.
Teruya Yoshida's Shadai Farm, with Dr. Mitsuru Ikeda signing the tickets, was very active at the high end of the sale. First Shadai purchased Contested, a 3-year-old Ghostzapper filly who posted grade I wins this season in the Test Stakes and TVG Acorn Stakes, for $2.3 million. Minutes later, Shadai went to $1.45 million to land grade I winner C. S. Silk, in foal to Distorted Humor . Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, C. S. Silk, is a 6-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro.