Downthedustyroad tops fourth day of Keeneland sale.

Downthedustyroad tops fourth day of Keeneland sale.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Downthedustyroad Tops Fourth Session of Keeneland January Sale

Grade I winner Downthedustyroad brought $1.5 million to top the fourth session of the 2007 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale Jan. 11. For the session, the Central Kentucky auction house registered across the board gains, while the cumulative numbers took a small dip.

Tim McMurry of Fleetwood Bloodstock signed the ticket for the 4-year-old Arkansas-bred mare. Eaton Sales, agent, consigned Downthedustyroad on behalf of Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables.

The price for Downthedustyroad was the second-highest of the auction. Point Ashley sold for $1.8 million on the sale's opening day, Jan. 8.

For the day, Keeneland reported 247 horses sold to gross $9,203,500, to average $37,261. The median was $16,000

The buy-back rate was 20.1%, down 19% from last year's session rate of 24.8%. On the day, 62 hips failed to meet their reserve.

Last year's comparable session produced a gross of $6,358,100 for 236 lots sold. The average was $26,941 and the median $12,000.

Compared to last year, the number of horses sold increased 4.7%, with the gross increasing 44.8%. The average jumped 38.3%, while the median rose 33.3%.

"Even without the seven-figure horse today, I thought it was a very good sale today," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland director of sales. "The horses are trading and the fact the not sold rate is down is very positive."
For the first four days of the 2007 January sale, 980 lots sold for $60,995,500, to average $62,240. The median is $30,000. The gross is down 2.9% from 2006's comparable figure of $62,641,400 when 979 lots sold. The average fell 2.9% compared to last year's number of $63,985. This year's median of $30,000 is a 6.3% decrease from last year's median of $32,000.

The 2007 buy-back rate is 20.5%, down 6.4% from last year's rate of 21.9%. For the four days, 253 hips have failed to sell.

Even with the decreases in the cumulative numbers, Russell said the sale has met expectations. "The catalogue is not the same strength as it was last year, so the fact that we are close to last year shows the strength of this market," he said. "The fact that we have a very low RNA rate is healthy for the industry."

McMurry said he purchased the daughter of Storm and a Halfon behalf of an undisclosed West Coast client. "I don't know what my client plans to do, whether the horse will continue to race or not," the bloodstock agent said. "But I do expect the horse to go back to the West Coast."

Bred by Tommy Walls, Downthedustyroad was produced from the Crafty Prospector mare Fair Majesty and is a half-sister to stakes winner Princess Jen and from the family of stakes winners Champion Pilot and Joan's Button.

McMurry said his client was attracted to Downthedustyroad based on her race record, most recently winning the La Brea Stakes (gr. I) Dec. 30 at Santa Anita. Downthedustyroad has a career record of 4-3-2 from 10 career starts. She has earned $282,050.

Zayat privately purchased Downthedustyroad in April 2006 from owner Shirley Walls after the filly won a six-furlong allowance race at Oaklawn Park by seven lengths. After the purchase, she was transferred to the barn of Bob Baffert.

"We bought her with the La Canada series in mind," said Sobhy Sonbol, vice-president of Zayat Stables. "We thought, if she wins a grade I, then she will be worth a lot of money. We had a lot of fun with her, and now it is time for somebody else to have fun with her."

Sonbol said the $1.5 million price tag pleased the operation. "We thought it was a very fair price for her. We are very happy," he said.

The decision to sell Downthedustyroad after she won the La Brea was difficult, Sonbol said. "She won very impressively; but we are business people, and we had a business plan to follow," he said.

The sale continues Jan. 12, with the session beginning at 10 a.m.

Hip-by-Hip Results from Keeneland