On a day when the American stock market plunged 360 points, the Keeneland November breeding stock sale generated strong enough figures during its third session in Lexington to keep the auction's cumulative gross up 13.8% and the cumulative average price up 9.9% from a year ago. The top-selling horse Wednesday was a stakes-winning filly named Stylish Wildcat, who brought $800,000 when offered as a racing or broodmare prospect.
"I have no complaints about today; it's actually been very good," said Wayne Sweezey of Darby Dan Farm. "The foal market seems pretty strong. We're trying to pinhook (buying weanlings to resell), and we've probably spent 20% more than we really wanted to, so we’re just hoping the market for young horses holds up next year. The mares we brought up here to sell, I'm satisfied with what they brought."
The 258 horses sold Wednesday grossed $42,638,000. Their average was $165,264, and their median price was $130,000. Compared to last year's third session, the number sold fell 5.8% while the gross declined only 4.6%. The average grew 1.4%, but the median dropped 13.3%. The buy-back rate rose slightly, from 19.9% to 20.9% this year.
Even though the results were mixed, "I thought today, horse for horse, was as strong as the first two days," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "The comment from the auctioneers was that the interest level on the horses was phenomenal. The gross is down because we sold 16 fewer horses (than in 2006)."
Sweezey, meanwhile, was confident that the sale wouldn't be experiencing any major setbacks during the days to come.
"It's my impression from looking around and talking to people that there are a lot of folks who haven’t been able to buy yet," he said. "They’re going to stay here, and the market is going to remain strong. I think consignors are going to realize a profit on their mares, and they’re going to be happy as a long as they're realistic. There's plenty of money."
Florent Couturier, an owner and breeder from France, purchased Stylish Wildcat. The 4-year-old daughter of Forest Wildcat captured the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland and the Monterey Handicap at Bay Meadows earlier this year. She also finished second in the Daisy Cutter Handicap at Del Mar.
Couturier, who bought Stylish Wildcat through the Kentucky nursery Indian Creek, owns a farm, Haras de Bois Carrouges, in Normandy.
"It is a small farm, and I own approximately 10 mares," Couturier said. "I've come here to improve my broodmare band. She (Stylish Wildcat) looks good for racing again, so I think I'm going to leave her in training here and to try and improve her racing results. Then I'll choose a stallion for her and have her covered here, and then I'll probably send her to Europe."
Meg Levy's Bluewater Sales, as agent, consigned Stylish Wildcat.
Ravish Me, a 9-year-old winning daughter of Wild Again, brought the session's second-highest price of $610,000. The buyer was Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, who was representing Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings. Produced from the grade III-winning Dayjur mare In Conference, Ravish Me is the dam of Foxy Danseur (by Mr. Greeley), who has finished second in the Anoakia Stakes and third in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III) in California this year.
"She's a beautiful, beautiful mare, one of the best physicals today, and her first foal (Foxy Danseur) hopefully is going to be a graded stakes horse," said Moynihan of Ravish Me. "She's gorgeous, absolutely beautiful -- a big juicy mare, with a big, strong body, dead correct, really, really nice. That price was a little bit on the high end of what I expected, but that's what you've got to pay if you want a mare like that. The people who are selling these mares have got to be shaking their heads (in amazement) at the prices. If they’re good, they bring a whole lot of money."
Foxy Danseur sold for $280,000 at this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training, and "I liked her a lot," said Moynihan, who didn't buy the filly. "She worked really, really good."
Richland Hills, as agent, consigned Ravish Me.
Three other mares sold for $600,000 apiece. They were Top of the Class, Golden Silk, and Russian Lullaby. Erik and Pavla Nygaard's Thor-Bred Stables purchased 5-year-old Top of the Class (in foal to Tiznow ) from Pope McLean (Crestwood Farm), agent for the Golden Eagle Farm reduction. Tim McMurry of Lane's End Bloodstock bought 4-year-old Golden Silk (in foal to First Samurai) for an undisclosed client from John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent. And Frankfort Park Farm purchased 4-year-old Russian Lullaby (in foal to Elusive Quality ) from William S. Farish's Lane's End, agent.
Frankfort Park, which is Kentucky-based but foreign-owned, also bought the session's highest-priced weanling, a $550,000 daughter of the late Hennessy out of the Irish group III winner Polar Bird (by Thatching). The weanling is a half-sister to French group II winner Ocean Ridge and English stakes winners Fokine and Polar Circle. Hill 'n' Dale consigned the weanling as agent for the dispersal of the late Robert Sangster's Swettenham Stud.
"I don't know whether we're going to sell her next year or whether we are going to race her," said Brendan Gallagher of Frankfort Park. "She had great action, and it's a really good pedigree. Her half-sister (Polar Circle) was a black-type filly in England this year, so we’re quite happy. I think she stood out today.
The results for the first three days combined of the Keeneland November auction were 638 lots sold, a gross of $221,137,000, an average of $346,610, and a median of $190,000. The buy-back rate of 20.1% is down from last year's rate of 23.8%.
This year's figures include a lifetime stallion breeding right that brought $150,000, and last year's include a stallion season that sold for $45,000.
The Keeneland November auction continues Thursday, with selling beginning at 11 a.m. (EST).