Miss Isella brought the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale's highest price of $1,085,000.

Miss Isella brought the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale's highest price of $1,085,000.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Jan. Sale Average Down Less Than 1%

Declines in gross and median are less steep than they were in 2009.

The Keeneland January horses of all ages sale showed some stability when it generated an average price that was down less than 1% from 2009 during its five-day run in Lexington. The auction’s declines in gross revenue and median price also weren’t nearly as severe as they were a year ago when an American recession was worsening and a financial crisis spreading around the world.

Miss Isella, a grade II-winning broodmare prospect, brought the sale’s highest price of $1,085,000, breaking the seven-figure barrier after no horse had succeeded in doing so in 2009, when declines for the key business figures ranged from 44.1% to 53.4%.

“What we can draw from this week is that there is a market for quality, with Miss Isella bringing $1 million plus and another horse (stakes-winning racing or broodmare prospect Bon Jovi Girl) bringing $950,000,” said Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, just before the auction ended Jan. 15. “People still want to buy horses, but they are being careful and discriminating as they make those decisions about how to invest their dollars during a turbulent and still fluid time for our industry and the macro economy.”

The 981 horses that sold grossed $23,891,600 and averaged $24,354. The median was $8,000. The number sold was the lowest total since 936 in 2002, and the gross was the lowest amount since 1995’s comparable figure of $19,377,700. The median had not been as low as $8,000 since 1996.

(A Monarchos stallion share, which brought $3,500, was not included in the figures reported above.)

“The whole world economy is readjusting at the moment, and the Thoroughbred industry is readjusting,” Russell said. “Going into the sale, we weren’t looking at (the performance of) any particular number, we were just looking to get horses sold and moved long, and we have accomplished that.”

The buy-back rate increased to 27% from 21.8% in 2009. That meant a clearance rate of 73%, which was, “on balance, good,” according to Russell.

Another positive development involved the private sales of two prominent broodmares, grade I winners Point Ashley and Spoken Fur, after they had been scratched by their owner, Southern Equine, from Four Star Sales’ consignment to the auction. Both mares are in foal to Ghostzapper  and both were purchased by Japanese interests. Point Ashley sold for $1 million, and Spoken Fur brought $500,000. Because they didn’t go through the sale ring, their prices weren’t included in the auction’s final statistics

Those transactions “were very important,” Russell said. “We recruit and get people from all over the world to come here. When horses are scratched on the sale grounds, it upsets some people, so to be able to facilitate those sales was good.”

Keeneland reported that Taylor Made Sales Agency topped the consignors’ list, based on gross receipts, for the 10th consecutive January auction, selling 89 horses for $3,084,200. Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs was the biggest spender, paying $1,526,200 for 16 horses, including Miss Isella.

The 166 horses sold during the final session grossed $1,095,900. The average was $6,602, and the median was $3,000. The buy-back rate was 33.1%.

Unbridled Empire, a racing or broodmare prospect, brought the last day’s highest price of $55,000. Chromedome Partners purchased the 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker  from Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent. Produced from the 20-year-old winning Alleged mare Cindazanno, Unbridled Empire is a half-sister to grade I winners Fourty Niners Son (by Distorted Humor ) and Cindy’s Hero (by Sea Hero) and stakes producer Viva Skeeanno (by Peteski).

“The market was exactly what I expected,” said consignor Francis Vanlangendonck of the Florida-based Summerfield sales agency. “There wasn’t a whole lot of demand for the lesser horses, but people were still here buying on the last day. Mares were being sold for $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, or $5,000, so there was a little bit of business going on even though the same kind of mares used to bring $10,000 or $12,000 dollars. This is the way the market is going to be for a while. You just have to live with it and move on.”

For complete results from this sale, including Hip-by-Hips and cumulative sale results, click here.