Point Ashley, brought $1.8 million.

Point Ashley, brought $1.8 million.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Point Ashley Tops Opening Session of Keeneland January Sale

Grade I winner and Eclipse Award 2-year-old filly finalist Point Ashley brought a final bid of $1.8 million to top the opening session of the 2007 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale Jan. 8.

Called the "It Girl" of the January sale in the days prior to the opening session, Point Ashley, purchased by Hill 'n' Dale Farm owner John Sikura, was the only offering to top the seven-figure mark.

Sikura, through his Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, consigned the 3-year-old filly on behalf of Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables.

For the session, Keeneland reported 211 horses sold (a decrease of 15.9% from the number sold last year) for a gross of $18,970,000, a 15.8% decrease from 2006, when the gross was $22,373,100 for 250 head. The average increased 0.2%, from $89,492 to $89,905. The median increased 10%, from $50,000 to $55,000.

"I thought it was very solid, but just a little slow to start" said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland director of sales.  "I think once people got their feet under them it went very well."

The buy-back rate was 27.5% (80 head), up from last year's rate of 21.6%. The session saw 84 head withdrawn from the sale before entering the ring.

Russell said he did not have a specific answer when questioned about the higher than average number of outs from the sale or the increase in the buy-back rate. "I think a couple of things," Russell said.  "This sale closes before the November sale happens. I think after some people enter their horses and see how strong the November sale is they go, 'Well, I won't be able to place it ,so I might as well keep it.'

"I think there is a whole pile of different reasons (for the increase in the number of outs)," Russell continued. "Some people want to take advantage of the market and some people prefer to raise the horse and keep on rolling. It is a factory that they cannot replace at the same value."

This year's opening-session totals include one share in WinStar Farm stallion Victory Gallop, which sold for $35,000 to Normandy Farm. Last year's session numbers did not include a lifetime breeding right to Medaglia d'Oro that sold for $150,000.

"We always want the horses to bring more money, but I think overall the horses sold very well," Russell said. "It is a continuation from November in the sense there is still a great desire for the young horse and a penalty on the older horses and a penalty on the horses not in foal. The buyers want the whole package. Our yearlings sold very well today.

Concerning the purchase of Point Ashley, Sikura said, "She is just a beautiful filly and she was fairly priced."

Sikura said he purchased the bay filly in a continued attempt to increase the quality of his growing broodmare band. "I'm trying to assemble a quality broodmare band and she just fits all of the criteria," he said.  "She's a great physical horse, she was a superior performer on the racetrack, and she is a very good conformed horse and is well-bred."

It is undecided whether 3-year-old Point Ashley (by Point Given) would remain in training or if she will be sent to the breeding shed, Sikura said, adding it is also unknown if he will have partners in the ownership of the filly.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Point Ashley won the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) and was second in the Oak Leaf Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. I). She was not entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) after contracting a virus in the weeks prior to the race at Churchill Downs.

Point Ashley has a career record of 2-1-1 from four starts. She has earned $237,200.

No stranger to the Keeneland sales ring, Zayat purchased Point Ashley for $725,000 at the 2006 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale from the consignment of Randy Miles, agent.

The filly originally sold for $140,000 to Bloodstock Management at the 2005 Keeneland January mixed sale from the consignment of Three Chimneys Sales, agent. The filly then was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, to the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale, where she failed to meet her reserve and was bought back for $115,000.

The partnership of Mr. and Mrs. David Shashura and The Thoroughbred Corp. bred Point Ashley in Kentucky from the Slew o' Gold mare Golden Tatch. Point Ashley is a half-sister to grade II winner Raw Gold and is from the family of stakes winners Dixie Pearl and Cornish Snow.

The top-priced yearling offering went to Stonestreet Farm owner Jess Jackson, who paid $500,000 for a yearling son of Distorted Humor . The colt was consigned by Legacy Bloodstock, agent.

"He was just a beautiful little foal," Jackson said. "He is by a great sire and was a good purchase at this age. We expect him to double in value as a yearling, but we want to race him."

Jackson said he was attracted to the colt based on his conformation and balance. "If he turns out to be as good of a runner as he looks then we will have something special."

Bred in Kentucky by Silverleaf Farms, the chestnut colt was produced from the Storm Bird mare Andrea Gail and is a half-brother to grade III winner Areyoutalkintome.

The sale continues through Jan. 15, with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m.

Hip-by-hip results from Keeneland

Leading Buyers, Consignors, Sires: Session One