Business picked up during the second session of Keeneland’s horses of all ages auction Jan. 12 in Lexington, with three horses bringing amounts that topped the opening day’s most expensive price of $325,000 and one of that trio selling for seven figures. But the results for the first two days combined still lagged behind last year’s pace because the increase in momentum wasn’t enough to overcome the steep declines of 25.9% to 44.8% in the key business figures during the first session.
“The market’s not strong, but for the right horses, it’s not as bad as everybody thinks it is,” said Kentucky-based horseman David Ingordo, who serves as an adviser to the family of the late Ken Jones, who sold grade II-winning broodmare prospect Miss Isella for $1.085 million.
The second session figures included a gross of $11,401,200 for the 228 horses that sold. The average price was $50,005, and the median price was $20,000. Compared to 2009, the gross rose 24.7% from $9,145,700, and the average increased 15.3% from $43,551. Meanwhile, the median dropped 24.5% from $26,500 and the buy-back rate remained about the same – 23% compared to 23.1% in 2009.
“It completely flip-flopped with last year,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Last year, Monday (the first session) was stronger than Tuesday (the second session), and this year, Tuesday was stronger than Monday.”
Through two sessions, the sale had generated a gross of $17,993,800 for the 405 horses and one stallion share that were sold. The average was $44,320, and the median was $20,000. The gross was down 14.7% from last year’s total of $21,091,600 for the 412 horses that sold. The average was down 13.4% from $51,193, and the median was down 25.9% from $27,000. The buy-back rate increased to 26.4% from 24.8% in 2009.
“The catalog is weaker overall than last year’s catalog, and the market is resetting itself. I would say the change is probably due more to the catalog than the market,” Russell said. “This is a pure cash market. Nobody can borrow money, especially to buy horses. This market is (based on) discretionary income; this is what buyers have in their pockets and are willing to spend.”
Frank Stronach, a multiple Eclipse Award winner as a breeder and an owner, purchased Miss Isella in the name of his Adena Springs operation after a protracted bidding battle with Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm in Florida.
“She’s a nice-looking mare,” said Stronach, who was sitting in the sale pavilion with his son, Andy. “She’s quite correct, she’s got the race record that I like, and she has nice bloodlines, so she’s OK. I thought she might bring maybe a bit less, but on the other hand, if you’ve got something outstanding, there’s always someone there (to compete).”
Miss Isella won six of her 17 career races and earned $648,631. She scored in the Louisville Distaff Stakes (gr. II) and the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in 2009, and she captured the 2008 Falls City Handicap (gr. II) at the same track. Miss Isella’s efforts also included a runner-up finish in the Go for Wand Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga in 2009.
“I thought she would bring $800,000 or maybe a little more, but I didn’t think she would bring that much,” said Pope, who was accompanied by another Florida horsewoman, Kim Heath. “She went way past my price tag, but I just really wanted her, and then I was going to go a little bit more, but it was obvious I wasn’t going to get her. She’s pretty and fairly correct. She has a pretty good mind on her, and she was a hell of a racehorse. She was a very gutsy racehorse.”
Will Farish’s Lane’s End consigned Miss Isella for the Jones family. Produced from the unraced Last Tycoon mare La Cucina, Miss Isella is a half-sister to Sir Cherokee (by Cherokee Run), who scored in the 2003 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park and the 2004 Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
“She is a really beautiful mare with the pedigree and the race record to match,” said Mike Cline, the manager of Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky. “It’s good because it kind of gives this sale a little pop for one like that to jump up and do that. It was obviously a good price.”
Ken Jones died in October 2008 at the age of 90. During the latter part of her career, Miss Isella raced in the name of Jones' widow, Elaine.
“She (Miss Isella) was in training when Mr. Jones died,” Ingordo said. “They (Jones’ family) had a dispersal last January, but they kept two horses (Miss Isella and Guam Typhoon) to race that Mr. Jones had liked. It was kind of neat that this mare became so good because she was one of his last horses, and it’s kind of neat that this (performance in the sale ring) could honor him and what all he had done in the horse business. We knew she was a very nice mare, and she had a reasonable reserve, but she way exceeded that. This was a special horse for the Joneses, and she brought a special price. We were tickled with the price, but I don’t think we were ever really concerned that she wouldn’t bring what we hoped she would bring.”
Ian Wilkes trains Guam Typhoon, and he trained Miss Isella.
“Ian Wilkes did a fantastic job with this mare; he orchestrated every race,” Ingordo said. “If it wasn’t for Ian Wilkes, she wouldn’t be where she’s at.”
Bon Jovi Girl, a racing or broodmare prospect, brought the second session’s second-highest price of $950,000. Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud in Kentucky purchased her for a client he declined to identify but said was not celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who sat near him in the sale pavilion during the bidding. Bandoroff fought off bloodstock agent Tom Ryan of Cherokee Equine International and Australian bloodstock agent Vin Cox, who is Keeneland’s Australasian representative, in the battle for the 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, whose price escalated quickly.
Bandoroff said Bon Jovi Girl will be sent back to the racetrack, where she will be trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
The Beck family’s Kentucky-based sales operation, Gainesway, consigned Bon Jovi Girl for Chuck Zacney and her trainer Tim Ritchey, according to Gainesway's Michael Hernon. Produced from the winning Alydar mare Chipeta Springs, who was stakes-placed, Bon Jovi Girl is a half-sister to Eclipse Award finalist and grade I winner Gio Ponti (by Tale of the Cat ) and added-money winner Fisher Pond (by A.P. Indy). She captured the 2009 Susan’s Girl Stakes and the 2008 Fairway Fun and Blue Hen Stakes at Delaware Park. She also was third in last year’s Gazelle Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct.
The second session's third-highest-priced,horse, recent Busanda Stakes winner Age of Humor, a 3-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor and the unraced Silver Deputy mare Age of Silver, went for $350,000 to Twin Creeks Farm of Kentucky. She was consigned by Indian Creek, agent.