The New Year started on a happy note at Keeneland as the January horses of all ages sale finished its opening session in Lexington with huge increases of 62.2% in gross and 53.5% in average price from 2010. A strong buying push by Japan’s Yoshida family Jan. 10 and three young grade I-winning female runners—Ave, Wickedly Perfect, and Negligee—contributed to the bullish beginning for this country’s first major Thoroughbred auction of 2011.
“It’s good to start the year off with a bang,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. But he warned horsemen not to celebrate yet, explaining that Keeneland officials wouldn’t know if a market rebound at the upper end was in progress until the end of Jan. 11’s second session.
“You have to look at all of Book One (of the sale catalog) and add the (results of the) first two sessions together,” Russell said. “Last year, session two had all the high-priced horses, so we’ll see where we are tomorrow.”
Keeneland reported that 187 horses were sold for a gross of $10,687,600, good for an average of $57,153. The median, $20,000, was the same as last year. In 2010, the 177 horses that were sold during the first session grossed $6,589,100 and averaged $37,227. (The Blood-Horse’s figures for last year’s opening session don’t include a stallion share that was sold for $3,500.)
But even though several of the statistics on the first day compared favorably to 2010’s results, many horses still struggled to get sold and some had trouble attracting the minimum bid of $1,000. The buy-back rate of 35.1% was up from 30.6% in 2010.
Ave was the $1.4-million session-topper, selling to Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm. The 5-year-old daughter of Danehill Dancer was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect.
“She is good-looking and has good conformation; she’s a well-balanced mare,” said Dr. Yoshiro Nakaji, a spokesman for Shadai. “She will be a nice broodmare.”
Ave will be retired from racing and sent to Japan to be bred, according to Nakaji, who is a veterinarian. Three Chimneys Sales, the auction division of Robert Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm, consigned the dark bay or brown mare to the January sale.
“I think was a strong price, but at the end of the day it makes sense,” said Three Chimneys Farm president Case Clay. “She has a fabulous European pedigree. She is a group stakes winner in Europe, a grade I stakes winner in America, and she ran in Japan. She is a very international mare.”
Three Chimneys Racing and Lordship Stud owned Ave and campaigned her in 2010 after acquiring her privately. Trained by Roger Attfield, she won the Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) last year, and she also finished second in the Dance Smartly Stakes (Can-IIT) and third in the New York Stakes (gr. IIT) and Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT).
In 2009, while running for her breeder, Plantation Stud and being trained by Michael Stoute, Ave triumphed in the Denny Cordell Lavarack & Lanwades Stud Fillies Stakes (Ire-III) and E.B.F Upavon Fillies’ Stakes in England. She finished second in the E.B.F. Lyric Stakes in England.
Three Chimneys Farm, which owned 50% of Ave, entered the mare in the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, but scratched her and sent her to Japan for the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup (Jpn-I). She finished 16th in the Nov. 14 race.
“We were happy in the end,” Clay said. “She sticks out a bit more in the January sale (than she would have in the November auction). We really wanted to give that race in Japan a shot. It didn’t work out very well, but we can’t kick ourselves for trying.”
Lincoln Collins, a director of Three Chimneys Farm, tried to buy Ave, but Clay said the Kentucky-based bloodstock agent, who had a cell phone pressed against an ear during the bidding, wasn’t representing Three Chimneys.
Ave, who was bred in Great Britain, won five of her 15 career races and earned $556,169. She is out of the winning In the Wings mare Anna Amalia.
Three Chimneys Sales, agent, also consigned Wickedly Perfect, who was sold for $800,000, which was the second-highest price during the January sale’s opening session. Naohiro Hosoda, acting on behalf of Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm in Japan, signed the sale ticket for the 3-year-old daughter of Congrats , who captured the 2010 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Wickedly Perfect was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect. A bone chip in a knee ended her 2010 campaign following her Alcibiades triumph in October and the gray or roan filly had to undergo surgery.
“There are quite a few nice looking fillies here,” Hosoda said. “I think yes (she was our pick of the sale).”
When asked if Wickedly Perfect would be sent to the breeding shed without racing again, Hosoda replied: “I think so, but she seems to be OK.”
Wickedly Perfect’s price “was about what we expected; we were very happy with that,” Case Clay said. “She was a grade I winner at 2 and she has a beautiful profile and a great outlook. She probably would have brought more three years ago, but I think we’ve all got to get to the point where we stop thinking about 2007 and start thinking about 2011 and building it (the auction business) back up.”
Wickedly Perfect won three of her four races last year and earned $404,600. In addition to her victory in the Alcibiades, her efforts included a triumph in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) and a runner-up finish in the Darley Debutante Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar.
Doug O’Neill trained Wickedly Perfect for STD Racing Stable, Peter Moehrke, and Rafter JR Ranch. Produced from the Tactical Cat mare Wickedly Wise, who is a half sister to stakes winner and grade III producer Cayman Sunset (by Wolf Power), Wickedly Perfect was bred in Kentucky by Y-Lo Racing Stables.
Negligee, the winner of Alcibiades in 2009 for Sovereign Stable, was the third-highest-priced horse sold during the January auction’s opening session, bringing $625,000. Fergus Galvin and Adrian Regan of Hunter Valley Farm in Kentucky purchased the 4-year-old daughter of Northern Afleet for a client they declined to identify.
“She’s a lovely filly; it’s very obvious,” Regan said. “Myself and Fergus both recommended her highly. At the moment, the plan is she’ll stay here (in the United States). It was a bit more than we wanted to pay, but it probably was a fair price. Two years ago she would have made more.”
Added Galvin: “She would have been a million-dollar mare two years ago.”
John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent, consigned Negligee as a broodmare prospect.
“We haven’t talked about breeding plans yet,” Regan said.
Produced from the stakes-winning Relaunch mare Naughty Notions, Negligee was the 2009 champion 2-year-old filly in Canada, where she finished second in the Ontario Debutante Stakes at Woodbine In 2010, the bay filly was second in the in Edgewood Stakes at Churchill Downs and third in the Sands Point Stakes (gr. IIT) at Belmont Park.
During her first two career races, Negligee was trained by Mark Casse and owned by Quintessential Racing Florida and Norman Casse Sr. John P. Terranova II trained her after Sovereign Stable acquired her privately.
“These racing fillies are very hard to buy, and she was top-notch,” Regan said. “She’s a mixture of everything you want. She’s the right package.”
Negligee won two of her nine career races and earned $381,379. She had not run since finishing seventh in the Lexus Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) last October at Keeneland.
“Overall, we’re very happy with what she sold for today," said Matt Gatsas of Sovereign Stable in a telephone interview. "The market is what the market is. Do we wish we were back a few years ago (when auction prices were higher)? Sure."
Sovereign sold Negligee because "we're a racing partnership company," Gatsas said. "We like to race horses and leave the breeding to the breeders. We do very, very little breeding. Unfortunately, she injured her left front leg in her last race so it was time to sell her as a broodmare prospect."
A $220,000 Tapit colt was the most expensive yearling sold as the Keeneland January sale kicked off its five-day run. Acorn Equine purchased him for $220,000 from Hartwell Farm, agent for Iron County Farm’s partial dispersal.
The dark bay or brown colt is half brother to the winner Magnification (by Forest Wildcat). They are out of the unraced Deputy Minister mare Blossomed, who is a half sister to grade III winner Cinemine (by Mining).
The Keeneland sale runs through Jan. 14, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. (EST).