Hip 123 is the sale topper, a colt by Majestic Warrior.

Hip 123 is the sale topper, a colt by Majestic Warrior.

Keeneland Photo

Keeneland Sale: Bullish at Top, But Selective

Top price rises to $700,000 from $625,000 in 2011, but gross and median decline.

The market was bullish at the top during the Keeneland sale of 2-year-olds in training April 9 in Lexington. The most expensive price for an individual horse increased to $700,000 from $625,000 last year while the number of juveniles commanding $500,000 or more apiece rose to three from one.

But the enthusiastic demand for the auction’s most attractive racing prospects wasn’t enough to make the sale a rousing success. The gross and median price both declined while the average price rose less than 1% from 2011 as picky shoppers rejected numerous horses that failed to meet their exacting standards.

“We anticipated it would be selective and it was,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “These buyers tend to light on what they like and they aren’t willing to go down to the next level.”

Only 36.6% of the 161 juveniles cataloged found new homes. Sixty-six (41%) of the juveniles in the book were scratched by their consignors. The buy-back rate was 37.9%, up from 32.7% a year ago.

“It was just like all the other select 2-year-old sales; the good horses brought plenty of money and the other horses were just tough to sell,” said Tom McGreevy, who advises Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm.  “At this level, people want the very best. I tell Rick all the time I would much rather overpay for a horse that we really want than have to compromise on a horse we think is just OK. What we’re looking for is not the ‘just OK’ horse.”

The results for the final auction of the 2012 select juvenile selling season included a gross of $9,754,000 for the 59 horses that were sold. The average was $165,332 and the median was $120,000. Compared to last year, the number sold and gross both fell 15.7% while the median dropped 7.7%.

But, on a more positive note, the number of horses commanding more than $500,000 apiece rose to three from one in 2011.

The $700,000 sale topper was a flashy Majestic Warrior colt, which is a member of his grade-I winning sire’s first crop. Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, representing Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton, purchased the chestnut juvenile from Ciaran and Amy Dunne’s Florida-based Wavertree Stables, agent.  The 2-year-old, whose grandsire is 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, worked an eighth of a mile in :10 during the auction’s under tack show.

“He is a fast horse; he went fast, and he galloped out fast,” Moynihan said. “He kind of looked like a good A.P. Indy (physically). But it’s rare you see an A.P. Indy-line horse go that fast like he did, so we’re excited about him.”

Wayne and Juanita Morris bred the colt in Maryland. He is out of the unraced Hennessy mare Counter Cat and is a half brother to the winner Under Counter (by Stravinsky), who finished third in the 2008 Marguerite Stakes and 2010 Subaru Stakes in Japan. The juvenile’s fourth dam is grade II winner Pine Tree Lane (by Apalachee), who earned $1,150,561.

Ciaran Dunne bought the colt, in the name of Reunion Bloodstock, for $137,000 from Elm Tree Farm, agent, at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction. The previous year, Elm Tree, agent, had bought back the colt for $42,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

“He’s a horse that we’ve loved,” said Dunne, who owned the colt in partnership with John Greathouse Jr. of Glencrest Farm in Kentucky and Dan Tayloe. “He’s just stunning. He was a stunning yearling. At Fasig-Tipton sale, my wife did (looked at horses in) half the barns and I did the other half. When we sat down that night, she said, ‘There is only one horse I want,’ and it was him. He acted like a top horse all winter. He’s just absolutely outstanding. He is gorgeous and then he got on the track and he performed.”

The colt’s sale-topping price at Keeneland “far exceeded our expectations when we led him up here,” Dunne said. “I told some people that I thought he was (going to bring) $300,000 all day long and I said, ‘Someone might get brave and give $400,000.’ Obviously we had two people who really wanted him and that’s what makes a horse sale.”

A Speightstown  colt was the Keeneland juvenile auction’s second-most-expensive horse at $560,000. McGreevy acquired the dark bay or brown juvenile for Porter, who races 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace.

“We liked just about everything about him,” Porter said. “He vetted perfect and he has great balance. He’s just a nice horse all the way around.”

Bred in Kentucky by Frederick Michael Allor, the colt posted the under tack show's fastest time for a quarter mile of :20 2/5. He is a half brother to the winner Corsa Di Cavalli (by After Market). Their winning dam, Five Star Holding (by Five Star Day), finished second in the 2005 Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs. She is a half sister to grade III winner Sindy With an S (by Broken Vow ) and added-money winner Indian Winter (by Indian Charlie), who finished third in the 2010 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).

“He’s just a fast horse,” said McGreevy of the $560,000 colt. “He’s very athletic and hard to fault. He’s probably not the classic-looking, two-turn-type horse, but I think he’s going to be a classic miler. For a small, short horse he has a lot of volume to him. He has depth of girth and width of stifle.”

Kip Elser’s South Carolina-based Kirkwood Stables, agent, consigned the colt to the Keeneland auction. Last year, Kirkwood purchased him for $72,000 from Blackburn Farm, agent, at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale. Earlier in 2011, Blackburn, agent, had bought back the colt for $95,000 at the Keeneland September yearling auction.

“It was fun at the top. The very top end couldn’t have been better and was far better than we had hoped for,” said Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales. “You naturally want to get every horse sold, but it was a pretty selective horse sale. It’s the world we live in right now.”