High quality stock from the Overbrook Farm dispersal and stronger participation by American buyers at the top of the market boosted the results for the second session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in Lexington Nov. 11 after big losses on the opening day. The gross revenue and median price for the session were up 8% and 9.4%, respectively, from a year ago while the average price suffered only a small setback, declining 4.2%.
All the Overbrook horses were offered without reserves, which contributed to a very low buy-back rate of 13.3%, which was down from the 34.5% rate for the comparable session a year ago.
“We knew the Overbrook dispersal would be a major attraction at the November sale, and the market has given a fitting response to the 30 years that the Young family has invested in the Thoroughbred industry while collecting a wonderful broodmare band,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “To use the old adage, quality sells. There’s still plenty of money for the right horse, but the other thing I think is even more impressive is the not sold rate. Reserves (for the horses not in the Overbrook dispersal) were being well met and passed.”
The second session’s statistics included a gross of $45,360,000 for the 169 horses that sold. The average was $268,402, and median was $175,000. In 2008, the 150 horses that sold grossed $42,006,000 and averaged $280,040. The median was $160,000.
According to Keeneland, the 38 Overbrook dispersal horses sold by Eaton Sales grossed $20,957,000 and averaged $551,500. All four horses that brought seven-figure amounts during the second session were from the Overbrook dispersal, including the 4-year-old winning Storm Cat filly Honest Pursuit, whose $3.1-million price was the auction’s highest so far for an individual horse. Brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer (in the name of Wertheimer et Frere) were her buyers.
Honest Pursuit, who was offered as broodmare prospect, is the result of a four-year breeding arrangement between Overbrook and Prince Khaled Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms in which Overbrook provided seasons to its great sire Storm Cat (now pensioned) and Juddmonte provided the mares. The two farms split the resulting offspring after they were weaned. A coin flip determined who got the first pick of the first year’s young horses, and the farms alternated going first for each subsequent year’s crop.
Produced from the grade I winner Honest Lady (by Seattle Slew), Honest Pursuit is a half-sister to grade I winner First Defence (by Unbridled's Song), French stakes winner Phantom Rose (by Danzig), and English added-money winner Honest Quality (by Elusive Quality). Honest Lady’s second dam, blue hen producer Toussaud, was the 2002 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year.
Alain Wertheimer, who was sitting with prominent French horseman Alec Head and his daughter, trainer Criquette Head-Maarek, during the bidding, said he was “a little bit” surprised by the Honest Pursuit’s price because he thought “$2.5 million would be the maximum.”
The filly’s fancy pedigree and the rarity with which horses from top Juddmonte bloodlines are offered at public auction, Wertheimer added, were the reasons why he was so eager to buy Honest Pursuit. “Obviously, if you could get into the family every day, you wouldn’t pay that amount of money,” he said.
The Wertheimer brothers are the senior members of the French family that owns the world famous Chanel perfume manufacturing business, which also sells high-end clothing and accessories. They race homebred European champion Goldikova, who captured her second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) Nov. 7.
Wertheimer said Honest Pursuit would remain in this country, but didn’t know yet what her breeding plans would be for 2010.
“I guess that (Honest Pursuit’s price) represents what the top of the market is,” said Chris Young, whose grandfather, the late W.T. Young, founded Overbrook. “I’m just happy she went to some of the best breeders in the world. They’re going to give her every shot to be a successful broodmare. We take no credit for her. She has a Juddmonte family through and through, and it’s one of the best families in the Stud Book.”
The other seven-figure Overbrook horses were grade I winner Cotton Blossom (in foal to Street Cry), purchased by Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable for $2.3 million; grade III winner Summer Raven (in foal to Unbridled’s Song), bought by Kentucky bloodstock agent Reynolds Bell for an undisclosed client for $1.7 million; and racing or broodmare prospect Dark Sky, purchased by Edward Evans for $1.3 million. Dark Sky, a winning 4-year-old daughter of Storm Cat, is a full sister to French group I winner Nebraska Tornado.
“I think we had more positive surprises than negative surprises, so all in all, it’s been a pretty good day,” Chris Young said. “There’s still a lot of money (available) to be paid for these high-valued horses.”
American shoppers acquired four of the second day’s five top-priced horses, which was a big change from the opening session when foreign buyers purchased four of the five most expensive lots.
The cumulative results for the Keeneland auction’s first two sessions included a gross of $71,651,000 for the 295 horses that sold. The average was $242,886, and the median was $160,000. In 2008, the 299 horses that sold grossed $90,027,000 and averaged $301,094. The median was $170,000.
Compared to last year, the gross and average were down 20.4% and 19.3%, respectively. The median was down 5.9%. The buy-back rate dropped from 36.4% in 2008 to 22.4% this year.
Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, who was the biggest spender at the 2007 and 2008 editions of the Keeneland November sale, isn't at the auction this year, and no purchases had been made in his name through the second day. In 2008, Ferguson spent $9,010,000 for seven horses, and he paid $19,450,000 for six head in 2007.