Native Roots, brought $1.1 million at Keeneland January sale.

Native Roots, brought $1.1 million at Keeneland January sale.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Gross, Median Rise at Keeneland; Wilko's Dam Brings $1.1 Million

Keeneland's January horses of all ages auction kicked off its six-day run Monday with increases in gross revenue and median price while selling its first seven-figure horse since 2002.

Native Roots, the dam of Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner and Eclipse Award finalist Wilko, topped the session, bringing $1.1 million.

"It's a continuation of our November market," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "It (business) was very buoyant, and people were active all day today. The January sale is more aimed at the middle market, I would think. Yes, to have the dam of Wilko is a special thing and the market reacted to it, but the January sale tends to be a middle market sale, so to have the median up and the not sold rate down is what pleases us the most."

Keeneland reported that 251 horses were sold for a gross of $15,831,100, an average price of $63,072, and a median of $35,000. Compared to last year's first session, the number sold and gross rose 11.1% and 6.5%, respectively, while the median soared 16.7%. The average fell 4.1%. The buy-back rate dropped from 29.8% last year to 22.0% this year. In 2004, the 226 horses sold grossed $14,861,100 and averaged $65,757. The median was $30,000.

Lane's End Farm owner William S. Farish, purchased the session-topping Native Roots. His opponents in the bidding battle for the chestnut mare included Frank Justice of Dell Ridge Farm.

Consigned by the Stilz family's Crescent Hill Farm, agent for Hatta Bloodstock International Ltd., Native Roots is an 8-year-old winning daughter of Indian Ridge -- Phazania, by Tap On Wood. In foal to Street Cry, she is believed to be carrying a colt.

"I bought her for the farm, for Lane's End," Farish said. "She has lovely conformation, and she's the dam of what could well be a champion. She's a young mare just getting started, and she's in foal to a very good horse"

Native Roots' price surpassed last year's January sale-topping amount of $850,000 for Beckys Shirt (in foal to Woodman).

"I thought she would bring more," Farish said. "I thought she would bring more like $1.5 million. But any time you give over million dollars for a horse, it's a lot of money."

Farish said he hadn't decided what stallion he would breed Native Roots to after she foals later this year. He also didn't know if he would keep her offspring to race or sell him at public auction.

"We're happy with the price; whenever it's more than a million you're happy, said Stephen Hillen, a Hatta Bloodstock representative.

Nikolaus Bock, a soybean trader based in Illinois, purchased Native Roots for $22,000 last January at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. winter mixed sale. Consigned by Millennium Farms Kentucky, agent, Native Roots was in foal to Talk Is Money at the time, and she later produced a filly. Last August, Bock sold Native Roots privately to Hatta Bloodstock.

Hillen declined to reveal what Hatta Bloodstock paid for Native Roots, but "it was a lot less than what she made (at Keeneland)," he said. Hillen described Hatta as a small syndicate that is "an investment vehicle for horses" and has ties to Asia.

Bock still owns Native Roots' Talk Is Money filly and said he has received a number of inquiries from "important people in the business" about purchasing her privately. He hasn't decided whether or not to sell the filly.

Also in Keeneland's opening session, Larry O'Byrne, son of prominent Irish agent Demi O'Byrne, spent $600,000 for a Fusaichi Pegasus  yearling filly out of the 7-year-old unraced Storm Cat mare User Cat. The chestnut filly's second dam is User Friendly, a champion in Europe. O'Byrne said he was acting on the behalf of some breeders in England.

"They haven't decided whether or not yet they're going to resell her; it was a case of getting her bought first," said O'Byrne, who is working at John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Kentucky. "More than likely, she's going to be for racing. She's got lovely quality, and she moves real well."

Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned the filly for breeder Kazuo Nakamura of Japan.

Results From Keeneland's First Session