Even though the second session wasn’t as strong as the first, the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale in Lexington closed out Book One of its catalog with cumulative increases of 8.9% in gross revenue and 12.8% in average price from a year ago. But the buy-back rate was higher and fewer lots were sold through Jan. 11.
“As we’ve talked before, with the January and November mixed sales, you don’t know where the best horses are going to fall in the first two days,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Last year, the second day was stronger than the first day. This year, the first day was stronger, but overall, the whole Book One is up in gross and average, so that is a very successful start to the January sale. I thought today from start to finish was very good. Yes, it lacked fireworks, but you can’t have a million-dollar mare in every session.”
Keeneland reported 391 horses and one stallion share were sold during the auction’s first two days. They grossed $19,600,200 and averaged $50,001. The median price was $20,000, the same as it was in 2010. Last year, the 405 horses and one stallion share that were sold grossed $17,993,800 and averaged $44,320.
“The top of market is international, there is no mistake,” Russell said. “Without the support of our Japanese buyers, it wouldn’t be where it is. From a historical point of view, it’s a very good thing. When we see the Japanese buyers coming back into our market, it’s usually a positive for our industry.”
The buy-back rate was 30%, up from 26.4% in 2010.
“The market is certainly good if you’ve got the right article,” said Kentucky-based bloodstock agent Lincoln Collins, who is a director of Robert Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm. “But people just don’t want a horse to have a horse at the moment. They want something that has got some quality and some potential. Other people’s castoffs aren’t finding any buyers.”
The results for the second session alone included a gross of $8,912,600 for the 204 horses and one stallion share that were sold. The average was $43,476 and the median was $20,000. Compared to 2010’s figures from the same session, when 228 horses were sold, the gross was down 21.8% from $11,401,200. The average declined 13.1% from $50,005. And the median was the same.
The buy-back rate was 24.6%, an increase from 23% last year.
Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm of Japan purchased the second session’s most expensive horse, grade II winner Secret Gypsy, for $540,000. The 6-year-old chestnut daughter of Sea of Secretswas offered as a broodmare prospect.
“She is very fit. We saw her racing, and she’s so fast,” said Naohiro Hosoda, who signed the sale ticket for Shadai. “She has lots of ability, so she is a nice type for a broodmare.”
On the sale’s Jan. 10 opening day, Shadai bought the grade I-winning racing or broodmare prospect Ave for the session-topping price of $1.4 million.
Secret Gypsy, who is out of the unraced Rahy mare Miss Utada, won five added-money events, including the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) in 2009 and the Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II) and Endine Stakes (gr. III) in 2010.
Eaton Sales, agent, consigned Secret Gypsy.
“I thought she sold very well,” said Eaton’s Reiley McDonald. “I think it probably helped that she was in the second day of the sale because a few other (expensive) horses had gone (through the sale ring), and some American players were trying to get in at a slightly lower level.”
Secret Gypsy notched eight victories during her 18-race career and earned $596,926 while running for Richland Hills Stable and John Kuehl and being trained by Ronny Werner.
“She’s a multiple grade II winner, and she did it the hard way,” McDonald said. “Apparently she had issues throughout her career. She won a lot of money, and she’s an absolutely gorgeous mare. I think those fellows got a great buy. I’m sorry to see so many good fillies leaving this country, but it’s nice to have a good sale.”
Commenting on the market at Keeneland, McDonald said: “I think it’s a very typical January sale. I don’t think there is really much in the sale of ultimate quality. It’s very soft on the bottom, but this is Book One (of the sale catalog) and we’ll see some more people coming in to buy at the lower levels. I think it’s a relatively good January sale all in all.”
Grade II winner Alpha Kitten brought the second session’s second-highest price of $405,000. B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm purchased the 5-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat , with Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey signing the sale ticket.
Alpha Kitten was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect, but she will be retired from competition and bred this year, according to Toffey.
“What’s not to like? She’s a very pretty mare with a lot of ability, and she has plenty of pedigree. She was sort of a no-brainer,” Toffey said. “We had set our number going in and we pretty well stuck to it. We weren’t good for a lot more; we were happy to get her for that. We have a couple of horses in mind (to breed her to), but we’ll make that decision after we get her back to the farm.”
Bred and raced by Jerry and Ann Moss of Zenyatta fame and trained by John Sadler, Alpha Kitten won two of her nine career races and earned $227,010. The gray or roan mare captured the 2009 Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) and finished second or third in four other added-money events, including the 2010 editions of the Rancho Bernardo (gr. III) and Las Flores (gr. III) Handicaps. She is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Alpha Mama, who finished third once in three career races and is a full sister to grade I winner Marylebone.
Toffey, who was shopping for young, athletic mares to breed primarily to Spendthrift stallions, described the market at Keeneland in January as “a continuation of what we’ve been seeing here the last several sales. Everybody is getting on the best horses and it’s spotty for everything else,” he said. “Everybody’s filter is getting finer. You’ve got to bring a really good horse out here, and if you do, there’s plenty of money for them.
“I think the horse business is full of optimists,” he continued. “For the good horses, there’s still plenty of money and there’s still plenty of interest. I think there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic.”
Paramount Sales, agent, consigned Alpha Kitten.
“We’re very much delighted with that price,” said Paramount’s Pat Costello. “She is a lovely mare and that’s what the market said she was worth. For the nice stock like her, the market is strong. It’s spotty other than that. Good foals and other good horses are bringing good money. It’s encouraging. I think we’ve probably bottomed out and hopefully the people who are left standing can be in good shape.”
Ben McElroy, as agent, bought Alpha Kitten for $150,000 at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed sale from Bluewater Sales, agent, so the mare’s price at Keeneland in January provided a big pinhooking score, showing that money still can be made even when times are tough.
A strapping $300,000 Candy Ride colt was the highest-priced yearling sold during the second session and he is the most expensive horse of his age sold so far during the January auction.
Brian Graves, the director of sales for Gainesway Farm, bought the flashy chestnut in the name B G Stables, outlasting WinStar Farm’s former co-owner, Bill Casner, who was sitting in the sale pavilion with former WinStar president and CEO Doug Cauthen.
“I just really liked this horse, and I decided to stick my neck out,” said Graves, who puts together pinhooking partnerships and hopes to resell the colt later this year at a yearling auction. “We’ll see how it goes. I plan on taking him to the farm and taking as good of care of him as possible.”
The yearling is the first foal out of the winning Gentlemen mare Gentlemen’s Crown, who is a half sister to 2009 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner Chocolate Candy (by Candy Ride). Chocolate Candy also captured the 2008 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park and the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields. His other efforts included runner-up finishes in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar in 2009 and a third-place finish in the 2008 CashCall Futurity (gr. I).
Danzing Crown (by Danzig), who is an unraced half sister to Gentlemen's Crown and Chocolate Candy, is the granddam of 2010 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) and Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) winner Twirling Candy (by Candy Ride).
“I thought he was a standout (physically),” said Graves of his $300,000 purchase. “He’s a horse with really good corners. He’s good and square behind and a real leggy horse. He really looks like he could go two turns.
“Candy Ride has already worked in the pedigree,” he continued. “His mother is a half sister to a good Candy Ride (runner). He is the type of horse I truly believe has a chance to bring a half-million dollars or more later this year in a yearling sale because he’s got everything you would want to see. He’s a real gangly, loose-moving horse with a long neck and a big hip. He looks like the right kind of horse.”
Graves, who made his offers from the area near where horses enter the auction ring at Keeneland, came close to dropping out of the bidding because the colt’s price was getting so high.
“I was prepared for $225,000 or $250,000,” he said. “I was walking away at $275,000, and then I went back one more time.”
When asked which yearling sale the colt would be pointed for, Graves replied: “I’m not sure which way we’ll go yet. The horse will tell us later. We’ll see. I think he is the type the highest caliber people in this game like to have. That’s why I took the risk.”
Graves said the colt was the most expensive pinhooking prospect he had purchased so far at public auction for the 2011 yearling sales.
Kitty Taylor’s Warrendale Sales, agent, consigned the colt, which was bred by Taylor, Hargus and Sandra Sexton, and Silver Fern Farm in Kentucky.
“He’s a beautiful horse and he sold very well; everybody is excited and happy,” Taylor said. “He had a great pedigree with Chocolate Candy and Twirling Canada, and he was a great physical that vetted very well.”
Taylor purchased Gentlemen’s Crown, when she was carrying the Candy Ride yearling, for $65,000 at the 2010 Barretts January mixed sale in Southern California.
“She is a big, correct mare and was in foal to a horse that I liked,” Taylor said. “She is in foal to Indian Charlie now and she’ll go to Malibu Moon later this year, so she’ll have every opportunity."
The Keeneland January sale runs through Jan. 14, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. (EST).