Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, brought $2,250,000 early in the afternoon of Nov. 10 during the opening session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in Lexington. The price was the highest so far during the auction.
Shunsuke Yoshida, signed the sale ticket for his father, Katsumi, who owns Northern Farm in Japan.
“We didn’t expect we could buy this mare,” said Shunsuke Yoshida, who made his offers from behind the auction stand in the rear of Keeneland’s sale pavilion while talking to his father on a cell phone. “We started bidding at $1.7 million, I think. We just kept on bidding within our budget, and finally she came to us. It (the price) was really close to our budget.”
Azeri, who is in foal to Distorted Humor , is an 11-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter out of the Australian stakes-winning mare Zodiac Miss (by Ahonoora). She produced a colt by A.P. Indy (named Take Control) in 2007, a filly by Giant's Causeway in 2008, and a filly by Ghostzapper earlier this year.
“I think we will send her to Japan directly,” Yoshida said. “I like the mare, of course. She’s a beautiful mare, who had really good race results, and she’s a very nice individual.”
Tom Goff of Blandford Bloodstock in England also tried to buy Azeri. He was sitting in the sale pavilion with Simon Marsh, who manages Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's England-based Watership Down Stud in the sale. But when asked if Marsh’s presence was a clue to the identity of the client he was representing, Goff replied, “Not necessarily, actually no.” According to the bloodstock agent, his last bid was at $1.6 million.
“She’s a champion mare, and we probably would have been happy to get her for less than the vendor would have liked, but in this (down) market, you’ve got to be there (and try); it’s as simple as that,” Goff said. “She has an A.P. Indy yet to run for her and a Giant’s Causeway and a Ghostzapper, and she is in foal to Distorted Humor. Good luck to them.”
John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned Azeri for the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust. In January, at Keeneland’s horses all ages sale, Azeri was bought back for $4.4 million when offered by Hill ‘n’ Dale while carrying her Ghostzapper filly. Michael Paulson was in charge of the living trust at the time, but he later was removed as the trustee in a legal proceeding.
Sikura expressed disappointment with Azeri’s price.
“The mare really is a national treasure; she accomplished some really, really unique things,” he said. “I would have liked to have thought that she would have made more in the auction ring, and I would like to have thought that one or more leading North American commercial breeders would have said, ‘We have to have this mare.’ Her sale price is a real reflection on the state of our market today. As horsemen we are usually eternal optimists. We think, ‘What if?’ We create a great scenario in our minds and that’s the way we move forward. Today, most people are saying, ‘What if it doesn’t work? What if her 2-year-old doesn’t run? She has a late (June) cover.’ People are tempering their enthusiasm and their valuations. In anybody’s mind, that mare has to look like an extremely good value. She’s as good as a mare can be, and her 2-year-old has trained very well. It (the price) looks like grand robbery.”
Azeri's 2-year-old son, Take Control (formerly named Vallenzeri), was bought back by Michael Paulson for a world Thoroughbred auction record of $7.7 million at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale when the colt was offered by Hill 'n' Dale. This year, when consigned by Florida pinhooker Eddie Woods, agent, to the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training, Take Control brought $1.9 million from Kaleem Shah, who was represented at the auction by trainer Bob Baffert. The colt is in training with Baffert, who was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame this past summer.