During the Sept.15 fifth session of the Keeneland September yearling sale, Mark Roberts signed the ticket for a $1.35 million Awesome Again colt on behalf of Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs Farm.
Eight days later at the penultimate session of the auction in Lexington, Roberts was still active, albeit at a price level considerably below what he gave for the Awesome Again colt. After 12 sessions, Adena Springs was the fifth-leading buyer at Keeneland, acquiring 40 yearlings for a total of $4,508,000.
Roberts, who manages Adena Springs South, said his boss is buying yearlings to replenish his bloodstock holdings that have been diminished due to a selloff by the farm.
“We used to always buy a lot of yearlings and just haven’t over the past several years,” said Roberts, shortly after signing the ticket for a Political Force filly for $8,000 during the Sept. 23 session. “We are bringing in some new blood into the operation. We have sold a lot more horses than we normally have. Any successful breeding operation over time has to bring in new blood, and we are doing that.”
For the eighth consecutive year, Adena Springs was the leading breeder in North America in 2010 with horses bred by the farm earning nearly $13.4 million.
Since winning its fourth Eclipse Award as outstanding owner in 2008, however, Stronach Stables, the Adena owner’s racing stable, has been mired in a slump. In 2009, Stronach Stables campaigned three stakes winners, and had no stakes winners in 2010. This year, the stable has been represented by two stakes winners, one owned in partnership.
Roberts said Stronach would like to reverse that trend, noting, “We have bred and sold a lot of graded stakes winners. But everybody likes to win, particularly Frank. We hope these horses do well and win.”
Roberts said the biggest difference between the seven-figure horse he signed for early in the sale and the four-figure horses bought Sept. 23 were in the strength of the individual’s pedigrees.
“We’re buying individuals that we think are athletes,” Roberts said. “You pay a lot of money for a pedigree and an individual together. But when you’re down to this level, the pedigree is not what’s most important. It’s the individual.”
During the Sept. 23 session, Keeneland reported 197 horses sold for a gross of $1,860,800, 47.4% over last year when the same number of horses brought $1,261,600. The average price rose 47.4% to $9,446 compared to $6,404 in 2010, according to Keeneland, which reported the median price of $7,500 marked a 102.7% increase over last year’s $3,700. The session’s buyback rate was 13.2%.
With one day remaining in the sale, Keeneland has sold 2,736 yearlings for $222,179,400, an increase of 12.6% from last year’s $197,297,700. The average price of $81,206 was up 17.8% from $68,937 in 2010. The median of $35,000 rose 16.6% from last year’s $30,000.
A colt by Fusaichi Pegasus brought the day’s highest price of $52,000 from Tim and Crystal Donohue. Consigned by William B. Harrigan, agent, the colt is out of the Dixieland Band mare Whalah, and is from the family of grade I winner Firm Stance.
It should be noted the daily session-by-session comparisons being reported are not chronological comparisons with last year’s Keeneland September results. Because Book 2 of the sale is only three days this year instead of four days as it was in 2010, the sale company is making its daily comparisons by book instead of by session. This means the statistics for day six Saturday, Sept. 17, (which was the first day of Book 3) were actually compared with Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010, when Book 3 started a year ago. The session-by-session comparisons have been offset by a day since Sept. 17.