Hip #203; colt; Smart Strike - Private Feeling led session 2 with a final bid of $475,000.

Hip #203; colt; Smart Strike - Private Feeling led session 2 with a final bid of $475,000.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Keeneland Gross, Average, Median Fall

Buy-back rate rises to 43.6%.

Keeneland’s sale of 2-year-olds in training, like just about every other Thoroughbred auction in recent memory, generated results that lagged well behind the previous year’s statistics. The gross revenue for the two-day sale, which ended the evening of April 7 in Lexington, dropped 27.6% while the average price declined 15.5%. The median price fell 21.7%.

The setbacks weren’t as severe as they had been at some of 2009’s earlier select juvenile auctions, where there were downturns of 30% or more. But the market conditions still remained brutal for struggling consignors, who scratched 45.8% (99) of the 216 2-year-olds cataloged for the Keeneland sale and bought back 43.6% (51) of the 117 horses they offered. Of the horses cataloged, 69.4% (150) were scratched or failed to find new homes.
“This is where the Thoroughbred market is at the moment; it’s a totally different world from this time last year,” said Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell.  “America is in a recession, and part of Europe is in a depression, so we all follow suit. But, make no mistake, there is still great interest in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), which is one of the ultimate goals for people in the Thoroughbred industry. The horses that stood out here the last two days were definitely the horses that people saw as classic, two-turn American horses.”

Keeneland reported that 66 horses were sold for a gross of $11,805,000. The average was $178,864, and the median was $117,500. Last year, the 77 horses that sold grossed $16,299,000 and averaged $211,675. The median was $150,000, and the buy-back rate was 38.4%.

During the final session, the 35 horses that sold grossed $4,920,000 and averaged $140,571. The median was $110,000.

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

Trainer Bob Baffert, who paid $1.9-million to acquire sale-topper Vallenzeri for Kaleem Shah in the opening session, purchased the second session’s most expensive horse, a $475,000 son of Smart Strike. According to Baffert, the colt will be owned by Mike Pegram in partnership with Karl Watson and Paul Weitman (Watson & Weitman Performances), the same group that raced 2007’s champion sprinter Midnight Lute . Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, whose clients include wine mogul Jess Jackson, was the immediate underbidder.

“I wasn’t going to leave without him; I like this colt,” said Baffert, who was bidding from behind the auction stand. “He worked well; I liked the way he moved; he’s by Smart Strike; and he looked fantastic. We’re looking for nice horses, and I’m trying to fill all my orders. I didn’t really want to pay that much. I told them I was going to go to $400,000, but I went over my budget a little bit.”

The colt, which is a half-brother to the winner Kensei (by Mr. Greeley), is out of the 10-year-old winning Belong to Me mare Private Feeling. She is a half-sister to 1995 Pucker Up Stakes (gr. III) winner Grand Charmer, who is the granddam of 2006’s champion 3-year-old, Wait a While.

Gulf Coast Farms, whose principals are Florida horseman Jerry Bailey and Utah horseman Lance Robinson, bred the handsome bay colt in Kentucky. They offered him, through Taylor Made Sales Agency, in the 2008 Keeneland September yearling auction, but bought him back for $35,000. Jerry Bailey Sales Agency, as agent, consigned the colt to the Keeneland sale of 2-year-olds in training.

“We really believed in the horse,” Robinson said. “For lack of a better term, he was kind of an ugly duckling when we bought him back. This horse kind of had to prove it the hard way that he was a good horse. He came from a long way back to get here. He grew up physically and he came together a lot better, but he also has a really good mind.”

The colt worked an eighth of a mile in :10 prior to the Keeneland juvenile auction.

A Rock Hard Ten colt, which is a member of his sire’s first crop, sold for the final session’s second-highest price: $440,000. His buyer was Centennial Farms, which puts together racing partnerships.

“He’s a tall, leggy colt that, given his pedigree top and bottom, should be able to stay a distance of ground, and that’s what we’re looking for,” said Dr. Steve Carr, manager of horse operations for Centennial. “The price was a little bit more than we thought it would be. We had him pegged at maybe $300,000 or $350,000, something like that. But, in this market, the better horses outsell, by far, all the rest of them, and that (bidding higher than planned) is what you have to do to get one.”

Produced from the 11-year-old winning Deputy Minister mare Fiddlin Devon, the dark bay or brown colt is a half-brother to three winners, including Bear’s Swan, who finished third in the 2008 Madamoiselle Stakes in Canada. Fiddlin Devon is a half-sister to 1995 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) winner You and I and 1995 Test Stakes (gr. I) and 1996 Ballerina Handicap (gr. I) winner Chaposa Springs.

The colt worked an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5,

“He’ll go to our farm in Middleburg, Va., where Paula Parsons will give him a little rest and then put him back in training,” Carr said.  “Eventually, when she’s happy with him, he’ll go to (trainer) Jimmy Jerkens in New York.”

Said Centennial’s president, Donald V. Little Jr.: “We hope we have another Corinthian,” a grade I winner that Jerkens trained.

Mike and Britt Mulligan’s Leprechaun Racing, as agent, consigned the colt. Trainer Dales Romans, as agent, purchased him for $160,000 last September at Keeneland from Will Farish’s Lane’s End, agent.