Fueled by well-bred horses owned by the late Edward P. “Ned” Evans, the market at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale burned white-hot during its opening session. The series of sizzling final results included a gross that rose 62.4% from a year ago even though fewer lots were sold. The average price grew 102.1% while the median price increased 64.3%.
Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, summed up the day’s bidding frenzy this way: “Ned Evans developed a broodmare band that the whole world wanted and the whole world showed up here to buy. It was a spectacular tribute to his program. The rest of the horses, I thought, did very well, too.”
Keeneland reported that the 147 lots (horses and stallion shares) that were sold grossed $63,276,500. The average was $430,452 and the median was $230,000. The buy-back rate fell to 16.9% from 19.4% in 2010, when 183 lots were sold.
Evans, who died last Dec. 31 at the age of 68, owned Spring Hill Farm in Virginia. He was the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association’s national breeder of year in 2009 and 2010. The dispersal of horses owned by his estate is being handled by Will Farish’s Lane’s End.
The first-day sale results for the dispersal included a gross for the 63 horses and stallion shares that were sold of $40,684,500, which represented 64.3% of the day’s total take. The average and median were $645,786 and $320,000, respectively.
Included in the Evans group was the opening session’s highest-priced horse, grade I winner Christmas Kid, who commanded $4.2 million, and the November auction’s most expensive ever weanling filly, a $2.6-million daughter of Medaglia d'Oro . Eleven of the day’s 14 horses that brought $1 million or more apiece were from the Evans contingent and so were the session’s three highest-priced lots.
“It exceeded my expectations and I had high expectations,” said Chris Baker, manager of Spring Hill. “I’ll put it this way: I have always felt that Mr. Evans and Spring Hill had put together a spectacular group of mares and to see that the rest of the Thoroughbred world feels the same way is very flattering and very reassuring.”
Aisling Duignan, director of bloodstock for Ashford Stud, signed the sale ticket for Christmas Kid, who is in foal to Bernardini . A 7-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid , Christmas Kid captured the Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland along with the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) and Tropical Park Oaks in 2007. She is a half sister to added-money winner Elusive Gift (by Elusive Quality) and stakes producer Christmas Strike (by Smart Strike). Their dam, Christmas Gift (by Green Desert), was a grade III winner.
Duignan said she bought Christmas Kid for "the guys" of Ireland-based Coolmore Stud. Kentucky-based Ashford is a division of Coolmore. The bay mare aborted a single foal that was scheduled to be born in 2010 and produced an Elusive Quality colt earlier this year.
"She most likely will go home (to Ireland) to (be bred to) Galileo; that's what she was bought for," Duignan said. "Her first foal was really good and she's magnificent-looking. It (the price) was probably a little bit more than we expected, but she was so good-looking. When a mare gets a good first foal like that, you've got to pay attention."
Christmas Kid is the highest-priced horse sold at the Keeneland November sale since 2007.
Benjamin Leon of Besilu Stables bought the opening session’s second- and third-most expensive horse--the $3 million grade II winner Quiet Giant and the $2.6 million Medaglia d’Oro weanling filly. Both are out of the stakes-winning Quiet American mare Quiet Dance and are half sisters to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam (by Saint Ballado) and grade II winner Congressionalhonor (by Forestry).
Offered as a racing or broodmare prospect Quiet Giant has captured this year’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Molly Pitcher Stakes (gr. II) and four other added-money events. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway .
The Medaglia d’Oro weanling filly is an elegant bay. The previous record for a weanling filly at the Keeneland November auction was the $2.4 million brought by Isla Canela (by Gone West) in 2006.
“After analyzing all of them, we felt like she might be the best weanling in the sale overall,” Leon said. “She looked great; she was well-balanced. What I say is a reflection of what the feelings of the experts -- Pletchers (father J.J. and trainer son Todd) -- are. I had seen her a couple of times before (she was on the Keeneland sales grounds) and I saw her yesterday again. She continued to be right at the top.”
Leon, a South Florida healthcare magnate who was a major buyer of sale yearlings in 2010 and this year, was the first session’s biggest spender. He paid $11.4 million for six horses, all from the Evans dispersal.
“I am very happy that we were able to get the quality horses that we’ve been able to obtain in this sale,” Leon said. “I really wish that Mr. Evans would have been here instead of the horses. But, unfortunately, he passed and it became an opportunity of obtaining these kinds of horses that otherwise I don’t think would have been available in the market for anyone else to acquire. I see that as a blessing and an opportunity.”
Leon’s purchases also included the 18-year-old Quiet Dance, who won the 1997 Gala Lil Stakes at Pimlico. She has produced four added-money winners in all, and is in foal to Quality Road. In addition, Leon bought another of Quiet Dance’s daughters, 3-year-old Dance Quietly (by A.P. Indy), who won this year’s Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct and was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect. Leon spent $800,000 for Quiet Dance and $2 million for Dance Quietly.
“I think everybody likes this family; otherwise, I wouldn’t have had to pay so much,” Leon said.
Multiple Eclipse Award-winning breeder and owner Frank Stronach was the second-biggest spender during the November sale’s first session. Buying in the name of his Adena Springs operation, he paid $6.2 million for four lots.
The most expensive horse outside of the Evans dispersal was 2010’s champion 3-year-old filly, Blind Luck, who brought $2.5 million.
Mike Puhich, trainer and director of horse operations for Dr. Mark Dedomenico’s Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center, signed the sale ticket for the Pollard's Vision filly on Dedomenico's behalf.
Dedomenico owned 50% of the Blind Luck during her racing career and campaigned her in partnership with Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, John Carver, and Peter Abruzzo. Blind Luck will be sent to Pegasus, which is in Redmond, Wash., and will be retired from racing. She was offered by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, as a racing or broodmare prospect.
“She had a rough campaign and ran her heart out,” Puhich said. “We just want to let her be a horse for a little bit, let the smoke clear, and then decide who to breed her to.”
Produced from the winning Best of Luck mare Lucky One, Blind Luck captured 12 of her 22 career races and earned $3,279,520.
The Keeneland November sale continues through Nov. 17. Each session will begin at 10 a.m. (EST).
Esther Marr contributed to this story.