Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Sale Ends on Encouraging Note

Sale was highlighted by the high quality offerings of the Overbrook Farm dispersal.

Edited Keeneland report

A globally diverse group of buyers, robust trade, and the highly prized pedigrees available through the Overbrook Farm dispersal combined to produce promising results at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale, which concluded Nov. 22.

Total receipts for the 13-day auction, held Nov. 10-22, were $159,727,800, down 13.9% from the $185,552,300 grossed during last year’s 15-day sale. The average price of $57,477 decreased 6.5% from the $61,462 reported in 2008. The median of $20,000 remained unchanged from last year. A total of 2,779 horses sold versus 3,019 a year ago. Five horses topped the $1 million mark compared to 19 in 2008. 

The November sale was further boosted by the near-record dispersal of the Young family’s Overbrook Farm. With Eaton Sales serving as agent, Overbrook sold 148 horses for $31,760,000 and an average of $214,595.

When combined with the 48 yearlings Overbrook sold for $6,644,000 in September, the dispersal ranks as the second-largest in Keeneland sales history, selling a total of 196 horses for $38,404,000, for an average of $195,939.

Only the Nelson Bunker Hunt dispersal, which sold 580 horses for $46,912,800 during the 1988 January Horses of All Ages Sale, ranks higher. 

“Entering the 2009 sales season, the forecast was uncertain and market confidence had waned,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Overbrook deserves credit for putting confidence back in the market. The Overbrook dispersal selling without reserve provided a base from which the market could appraise. As a result, there was strong trade and hope that the market has now moved beyond its low point.”

A key factor in market assessment, the not sold rate, declined 22.6% from 2008 to 21.6%.

“The Thoroughbred market is best described as resilient,” Russell added. “The strong clearance rate reflects the fact that horsemen are adjusting to the new reality. Consignors did a good job of appraising their horses. Throughout the industry, changes are taking place–a reduced number of mares bred, reduced stallion fees, and other measures that will insure a return to market profitability in the near future.”

Russell noted the sale completes a cycle that began with last year’s November Sale, the first full sale conducted amid the global economic crisis.

“The financial crisis struck in the middle of last year’s September (yearling) sale, so the 2008 November Sale felt the brunt of the impact,” he explained. “There was still uncertainty about the economy this past September. Since then, certain segments of the global market, such as Australia and South America, have rebounded. We’ve also begun to see positive indicators at home. So, in terms of the yearling market, we may still be in the middle of the recession. But the broodmare market is a little farther along in its recovery.”

Foreign participation, spurred by improving economies and the unique quality of the November sale catalog, increased nearly 10% from 2008. Buyers representing 33 countries throughout Europe, Australia, Asia, Russia, and South America were active from start to finish, accounting for more than a third of total gross sales. 

“It was a very cosmopolitan group,” said Russell. “Many buyers from international markets are now improving their stock and buying earlier in the sale. They admire American pedigrees and want to infuse them into their bloodlines.

“Going into the sale we concentrated on the international market because we thought the lack of capital would limit American buyers. But domestic buyers made their presence known, and that is another positive sign for the industry.”
The Overbrook Farm dispersal produced seven of the sale’s 10 highest-priced horses and encouraged American buyers who sought horses with pedigrees from some of the world’s most desired, but hard to buy families.

Honest Pursuit, a 4-year-old filly by Storm Cat out of multiple graded stakes winner Honest Lady, sold as a broodmare prospect for a sale-topping $3.1 million to France’s Wertheimer et Frere. Dean De Renzo, on behalf of Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable, paid $2.3 million for grade I stakes winner Cotton Blossom, sold in foal to Street Cry. Reynolds Bell, as agent, went to $1.7 million to acquire graded stakes winner Summer Raven, in foal to Unbridled's Song.

Eaton Sales, agent for the Overbrook consignment, among others, was the sale’s leading consignor, selling 249 horses for $38,940,500.

Azeri, 2002 Horse of the Year and three-time champion, in foal to Distorted Humor, brought a final bid of $2.25 million from Shunsuke Yoshida, on behalf of his father, Katsumi Yoshida, owner of Japan’s Northern Farm. John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned Azeri for the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust. 

Edward Evans was the sale’s leading buyer, purchasing five horses for $3,565,000. Evans paid $1.3 million for the 4-year-old Storm Cat filly Dark Sky, and $950,000 for Wild Poppy, (by El Prado) a half-sister to champion Surfside. Both were sold as racing or broodmare prospects by Overbrook Farm. 

A half-sister to Surfside by Bernardini  brought the sale’s highest price for a weanling, selling for $440,000 to Hubert Guy, agent. The filly was consigned as part of the Overbrook Farm dispersal.

“We want to thank our consignors and buyers for their support throughout the year, and wish them a safe and happy holiday,” Russell said.

On Nov. 22, Keeneland sold 131 horses for $803,600, down 64.4% from a year ago when 242 horses brought $2,257,800. The day’s average of $6,134 decreased 34.3% from $9,330 in 2008, while the median was down 48.6 percent to $2,700 from $5,250 last year.

Dr. Lisa Lex paid top price of $100,000 for a half-brother to stakes winner Twin Sparks (by Twining), who established a world-record of 1:06.49 for six furlongs on the dirt in winning the Caballos Del Sol Handicap at Turf Paradise Nov. 21. The weanling colt, by Kitalpha out of the stakes-winning Mr. Sparkle mare Sparklin Lil, was consigned by War Horse Place.