Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland January Sale Ends With Major Gains

Four-day run ends with a median increase of 100% while the average grows 53.2%.

The equine marketplace took another step on the road to recovery as the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale posted huge gains in Lexington.

“The momentum that began to build during last fall’s September yearling and November breeding stock sales rolled into January, and that’s a very healthy sign,” said Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales. “The (lean) years since the 2008 financial crisis resulted in an ‘economic cabin fever,’ if you will. Now there’s a growing optimism, particularly among domestic buyers. They have weathered the storm and they are ready to get back in the game.”

The first major Thoroughbred auction of 2012 ended its four-day run Jan. 12 with jaw-dropping increases of 53.2% in average price and 100% in median price from a year ago. The gross revenue also grew impressively, rising 50.5% even though the number of horses sold from a smaller catalog declined 1.8%.

In yet another encouraging development, the buy-back rate was down, falling to 19.8% from 27.4% last year.

“It was kind of quiet for a few years and people didn’t really want to own horses, but now they have gotten excited again,” said Kentucky-based horseman Mark Toothaker, who was a buyer and a seller during the January auction. “I had clients who tried to buy short yearlings, and it was very, very difficult. You felt like you were almost paying yearling sale (later in the year) prices on the ones that everyone wanted. I didn’t have many mare buyers (to represent), but from what I saw, the better mares sold well also. It made me feel very good about our business.”

The final results for the January auction included a gross of $37,991,900 for the 1,003 horses that were sold. The average was $37,878 and the median was $15,000. The gross and average rose for the second straight year and reached their highest points since $70,446,000 and $47,184, respectively, in 2008. The median, meanwhile, ended a three-year slump and reached its highest level since 2008's sale record of $17,000..

Thirty-seven horses commanded prices of $200,000 or more apiece compared to 16 in 2011. Topliner, the dam of 2011 Matriarch Stakes (gr. IT) winner Star Billing, was the sale’s most expensive horse, bringing $1.4 million from Katsumi Yoshida of Japan’s Northern Farm. Consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dales Sales Agency, agent, the 10-year-old daughter of Thunder Gulch is in foal to Medaglia d'Oro .

Brad Kelley’s Kentucky-based Bluegrass Hall operation was the biggest spender, paying $1,977,000 for 31 horses. Taylor Made Sales Agency was the top consignor based on gross receipts ($4,264,700) and number of horses sold (96).

During the auction’s final session, 253 horses were sold for a gross of $3,620,700. The average was $14,311 and the median was $8,500. The buy-back rate was 19.2%.

The most expensive horses for the day were two broodmares, La Defense and Rendezvous Point, who each brought $90,000.

La Defense, the dam of stakes winner Quelle Surprise and in foal to Munnings , was purchased by McMahon and Hill. Consigned by Elm Tree Farm, agent, the 14-year-old winning daughter of Wild Again is a half sister to grade III winner and stakes producer Noisette and added-money winner Roi Maudit.

Rendezvous Point was bought by Diamond G Ranch. An 11-year-old winning daughter of Kingmambo, she is in foal to Discreet Cat. Consigned by Mill Ridge Sales, agent, Rendezvous Point is a half sister to grade II winner Five Star Day and grade II producer Margay.