Indian Buyers Active Again at Keeneland

Buyers from India returned to the November sale after an importation ban was lifted.

Due to the recent end of a five-year ban that prohibited the importation of horses from the United States to India, breeders and owners from the latter country have had a strong presence this year at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

India's government had forbidden all U.S. equine imports because of the threat of contagious equine metritis. But because of diligent efforts from several of the country’s breeders, the ban was lifted..

For the last three years, Chauncey Morris, sales marketing associate at Keeneland, has traveled with other officials to Indian stud farms in Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, to encourage breeders to engage in conversation with their government about lifting the equine importation ban.

Zavaray Poonawalla, one of the key figures in getting the ban lifted, bought several mares at Keeneland to ship back to his Poonawalla Stud. Poonawalla stands three of India’s leading sires: Placerville, by Mr. Prospector; Alnasr Alwasheek, by Sadler’s Wells; and Diffident, by Nureyev.

“The Indian breeders did the heavy lifting and were able to demonstrate good science and made their government feel good that American and British horses didn’t prove any type of threat to the sanitary health of the rest of their equine population,” Morris said.            

In India, there are very few public auctions, so horses are sold privately by the various stud farms, according to Morris.

“There’s so much choice and variety (at Keeneland),” Morris said. “Indian breeders are professionals, so they’re able to find their own little gem that might add value to their breeding shed.”

“This is my first trip to Lexington, and I’ve really enjoyed myself,” said Indian native Padmanabh Ruia, who bought horses during the first 10 days of the sale ranging from $8,000 to $40,000 under the name Southern Paradise Stud. The two horses Ruia acquired for $40,000 were a Kingmambo mare named Dream Wish in foal to Bluegrass Cat , and a Wild Zone mare named Wild Anzille in foal to Macho Uno .  

“They’re well conformed horses from very good families,” said Ruia. “I think the turf pedigrees in Europe are more expensive because they also only have turf racing (like India). So I think we get a better selection of horses and better pricing as well.”

Ruia owns Ruia Stud Farm, which is located near Shirval, Maharashtra, India. He estimated the farm boarded around 80 broodmares, 60 yearlings, and 60 weanlings. Ruia plans to bring his recently acquired broodmares back to India and race their progeny exclusively in his native country. For the most part, in India, each stud farm breeds its mares exclusively to its own stallions.

“We are only looking at pregnant mares off the track to breed to our stallions and try to improve the quality of bloodstock of broodmares in our country,” said Ruia, whose farm stands Mr. Mellon, a grade II-winning son of Red Ransom; English group III winner Warrshan (by Northern Dancer); and Chatham Strait (by Deputy Minister).  

Adhiraj Singh, whose family owns Jai Govind Stud near Jaipur, India, also bought several mares through bloodstock agent Mark Glyer. The most expensive in the group was a $45,000 Sakhee mare named Alsaabeqa, who was in foal to Henny Hughes.

“We look for younger mares so we can breed them longer,” said Singh. “But if there is something really good that’s older, we don’t mind bidding on that too.

“The prices (at Keeneland) are competitive, but we got them in our budget,” he added. “We got some good mares with grass families. American bloodstock is so huge and so good, so this helps improve the bloodstock back in our country.”

Jai Govind stands two stallions: a full brother to grass champion English Channel  named Sedgefield, and a son of Fairy King named Hymn. Both horses raced in the U.S. during their careers.

“The clients I bought the mares for are really happy with what we bought,” said Singh, adding that one mare he thought would bring at least $20,000 he ended up getting for $12,000. “I came with an order to buy three mares for some clients and they were really happy (with what I bought), so they said buy three more. They said I could keep buying and I didn’t even need to ask because the pedigrees are so good.”

“American pedigrees have done very well (in India). It’s been proven they can still perform at the top end of the sport anywhere in the world,” Morris said. “This is just a start (to having Indian shoppers back at Keeneland); we look forward to what happens in the future.”