The fireworks sparked by seven-figure prices ended Wednesday at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in Lexington. But the third session increased in gross revenue and median price from a year ago while maintaining the average price and decreasing the buy-back rate.
The market "was very strong, and the clearance rate (percentage of horses sold) was excellent," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "There was a very strong European feel to it. The exchange rate, basically, for a European buyer is two to one, and as I have jested with some Europeans, they're getting twice the quality for half the price. I think it's very true, and they were very busy today and very aggressive, particularly on foals. We are starting to see buyers from other countries coming in, Chileans and Australians."
The 274 horses sold grossed $44,677,000 and averaged $163,055. The median price was $150,000. Compared to the same session in 2005, when 261 horses were sold, the gross increased 5% and the median advanced 25%. The average was down by only $25. Last year's figures were a gross of $42,564,000, an average of $163,080, and a median of $120,000.
The buy-back rate fell from 22.1% in 2005 to 19.9% this year.
Even though the third session's numbers were solid, selling horses wasn't always easy, according to consignor Francis Vanlangendonck of Summerfield.
"I think the market is a little spotty on these mares and babies," he said. "They (shoppers) are buying the best of the best, and that's what it's been like every sale that I've gone to this year. You've got to learn how to roll with it and adjust to your market. It's a little tough. You have to watch what you're doing. We've bought a couple back, but we've managed to get them sold after the fact. It's a working market; it's not just walking in here with them and they sell. A lot of these buyers are going 'It's been unbelievable, it's so strong," but that's because they've been following up every really good horse in here and they can't get their hands up. The average horse, they're not following up (to the sale ring), and those are the ones we're having trouble selling."
Summerfield, operated by Vanlangendonck and his wife, Barbara, sold Wednesday's top-priced horse, as agent. Friel's for Real, a 6-year-old grade III winning daughter of Sword Dance, brought $550,000. The Young family's Kentucky-based Overbrook Farm purchased the sleek dark bay or brown mare, with the plan to continue racing her before breeding her to the nursery's star stallion, Storm Cat
"She's a good phenotype for him, and the pedigree will cross real well," said Ric Waldman, an Overbrook representative who manages Storm Cat's breeding career. "She just won a stakes race and she's sound, so we'll run her a little bit before we breed her. We haven't decided who will train her. We may keep her here at Keeneland with someone until we go over her and then decide where to ship her."
Of the price, Waldman said: "It's always too much."
Raced by her breeder, Gilbert Campbell, before being offered at Keeneland, Friel's for Real has won 13 of her 32 career races and has earned $674,544. Six of her victories have been in added-money events, including the 2004 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff Handicap (gr. III) and the 2005 and 2006 editions of the Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park. In her most recent outing, she scored by a head over Silmaril in the Sept. 16 Gala Lil Stakes at Laurel Park. Friel's for Real also captured the Gala Lil in 2004.
The mare is a full sister to stakes winner Little Thunder. Their dam is the 11-year-old winning Unreal Zeal mare Beaties for Real, who is a half-sister to grade II winner Ivanavinalot. Beaties for Real finished second in the Gasparilla Stakes and third in the Sandpiper Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in 1998.
"She was a lovely mare; she was just beautiful," said Francis Vanlangendonck of Friel's for Real. "When we unloaded her off the van and put her in the stall, she made two laps around, got down and rolled both ways, ate some hay, drank some water, and then went to sleep. She's such a quality mare with a lot of sense about her. She's the kind of mare that if you mess with her for five minutes, you're going to fall in love with her. This is the kind of mare you try to start your broodmare band with. She vetted perfectly clean, even at this point, and she scoped perfectly. She's a wonderful, wonderful mare. The price was fine."
The combined results for the Keeneland auction's first three sessions are 616 horses sold, a gross of $194,352,000, an average of $315,506, and a median of $190,000. Last year, 633 horses were sold during the first three sessions for a gross of $200,002,000, an average of $315,959, and a median of $200,000. The buy-back rate this year is 23.8% compared to 23.7% in 2005.
The sale continues Thursday, with the session beginning at 10 a.m. (EST). The auction runs through Nov. 19.Hip by hip results from Keeneland
Leading Sires: Session Three