Bid tops out at $9 million for  champion mare Ashado.

Bid tops out at $9 million for champion mare Ashado.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Ashado Brings Record Price of $9 Million; First Session Figures Soar

When champion filly Ashado was led into the Keeneland sales ring Monday, there was an air of anticipation that big things were about to happen.

In the end, the result was a bidding war between agent John Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed, and the Coolmore group; Ferguson came out on top, paying a world-record price for a racing or broodmare prospect of $9 million.

The sale of Ashado highlighted a strong first session for the auction that continues through Nov. 18. Keeneland reported:

--The gross of $98,121,000 for 180 horses sold was up 21.2% over the $80,976,500 for 213 horses reported sold during the first session of 2004. The session gross was third-highest for the November sale.
--The average of $545,117 was the highest in November sale history and represented a 43.4% increase over the $380,171 session average last year.
--The median price was up 70.2% to $315,000 from $185,000. --The 66 horses which did not meet their reserve prices represented 26.8% of the total through the ring, compared with an RNA rate of 19.3% last year.
--There were 20 horses that brought final bids in excess of seven figures this year, compared with 15 in 2004.

Bidding on Ashado began at $1 million and quickly escalated to $3 million before stalling. It stalled again at $4 million, but then gained momentum, with Ferguson bidding in the rear of the pavilion and Irish agent Demi O'Byrne, representing John Magnier and Michael Tabor, bidding inside the pavilion.

The previous world record for a racing or broodmare prospect was the $7.1 million paid by Magnier for Cash Run, in foal to Storm Cat, at the 2003 Keeneland November sale.

"Sheikh Mohammed is a man who loves to have the very, very best," Ferguson said, noting that the filly would be sent to the Darley at Jonabell Farm near Lexington, Ky. "He decided some time ago this was a very, very special offering. He was very keen to secure her for the paddocks here in America...She's quite frankly an absolutely outstanding broodmare prospect. In the time we have been here (at Keeneland) there has never been a mare with such a great race record and quality as well."

The champion 3-year-old filly of 2004, Ashado won or placed in 19 of 21 career starts, and her career earnings of $3,931,440 were just short of Azeri's $4,079,820 all-time record for a female in North Amercia. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Saint Ballado raced for the partnership of Jack and Laurie Wolf's Starlight Stables, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin. She was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, which had also consigned her when she brought $170,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Her record price Nov. 7 exceeded the previous world record for a broodmare or broodmare prospect of $7.1 million paid by Coolmore's John Magnier for Cash Run, in foal to Storm Cat at the 2003 Keeneland November sale.

"She was very special," said Taylor Made's Duncan Taylor. "I thought she had a good chance to break the record, but I thought it would be closer to $7 million rather than $9 million"

Jack Wolf, who along with the other partners credited Pletcher with his management of Ashado's career that ended with a third-place finish in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), said Ashado was sent through the ring without a reserve price.

"It was very emotional for us to sell her because it was so satisfying to own her," said Wolf. "She stayed so sound throughout her career. It is nice, though, that she was bought by a team that will continue to give her nothing but the best, which is what we gave her for the entire time we had her."

"You are sad any time a horse like this goes out of your barn," Pletcher said. "But this is what we are all trying to do. As a trainer, I know I am not going to keep them forever, so this is the very best I could possibly do with her."

Labeling the sale of a horse like Ashado a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity, Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said the sales company anticipated a strong opening session.

"She (Ashado) was a special filly who enjoyed her moment in the ring," Russell said. "How the median increased was rewarding."

Monday's second-highest price of $3.7 million was paid by Courtlandt Farm for A. P. Adventure, a grade I winning daughter of A.P. Indy in foal to Storm Cat. She was also consigned by Taylor Made.

Courtlandt was among the most active buyers during the opening session, also acquiring Saudi Poetry, a Storm Cat mare consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, for $2 million, and paying $1,250,000 for New Dice, a Capote mare consigned by Lane's End.

The session's third-highest price of $3.6 million was paid by Buzz Chace, agent for Aaron and Marie Jones, for Zing, the dam of stakes winner Half Ours. The 8-year-old Storm Cat mare in foal to Unbridled's Song was consigned by Taylor Made. Chace and the Joneses also bought Zing's weanling colt by Unbridled's Song for $1.7 million, the session's co-highest price for a weanling.

Hip-by-hip results from Keeneland

Leading Weanling Sires, Buyers, and Consignors