The stars aligned at the Fasig-Tipton November sale in Lexington Nov. 7 as an international buying bench lured by a catalog deep in quality produced numbers that exceeded all expectations.
On another unseasonably warm night in the Bluegrass, the sales pavilion was crowded as a group of top-class broodmares and fillies that had enjoyed recent success on the track were offered to the public.
Led by the $3.5 million bid of John Malone's Bridlewood Farm and Don Alberto Corp. for Baffled, a daughter of Distorted Humor in foal to North America's leading sire Tapit , the auction grossed $54,152,000 for the 88 horses sold, compared with 92 horses that brought a total $43,666,000 a year ago. The average spiked to $615,364 from the 2015 figure of $474,630 and the median of $377,500 was well above the $235,000 last year.
The 34 horses that did not sell represented a 27.9% RNA rate, compared with 34.3% last year.
Fasig-Tipton president and CEO Boyd Browning Jr. said the results exceeded the sales company's expectations.
"Tonight it was exceptionally strong for quality horses," he said. "It was a tremendously strong sale. When you have special horses for sale like we did tonight you have pretty special results."
Browning said a frequent comment from consignors was that many of their top horses were bringing well in excess of the reserves.
The sale-topper, who is the dam of grade I winner Constitution , British group II winner Boynton, and grade III winner Jacaranda is a half sister to three stakes winners, including grade I winner Emcee.
She was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency.
Bridlewood general manager George Isaacs, accompanied by Malone at the auction, said the mare's attraction was obvious.
"She's got it all, looks, triple graded stakes producer, in foal to the best stallion in America," Isaacs said. "Say no more. We're trying to develop a serious breeding program and she's the goods. Hopefully we get a good colt. A little more than I wanted to pay, but the good ones cost."
Isaacs acknowledged that the presence of Malone, the international businessman who is the chairman and CEO of Liberty Media Corp., made a difference in how high he was willing to go to secure the 11-year-old mare.
"Can we bid one more time?" Isaacs said he asked the boss as the bidding progressed. "Ultimately, he gave me the go ahead. It's more money than I'd like to spend but the mare is what we're looking for, she's everything that a breeder would want. He didn't make the money he made by being silly with his money, and I didn't get where I am in my career by being silly with my boss' money. I did feel a little stronger with him sitting next to me."
Isaacs was non-committal on 2017 mating plans for the mare. "We'll see what this Tapit looks like, the choices are kind of thin here in America, but we'll see where we go."
Following Bridlewood's purchase of the sale-topper, Don Alberto Corp., with which Bridlewood has a business relationship and had been among the bidders on Baffled, was brought in as a partner.
Taylor Made's Mark Taylor said the price was well above the mare's reserve but around what he thought she would bring.
"I thought she would be in the $3 million range," Taylor said. "We don't know if the foal she is carrying is a colt or a filly. If it's a filly, it could put a big dent in the purchase price and if it's a colt, it could pay for the mare."
Later in the session, Baffled's daughter Jacaranda, in foal to Candy Ride , was purchased by Alpha Delta, represented by Reynolds Bell, for $2 million.
The day's second-highest price of $3 million was paid by Japan's Shadai Farm for three-time grade I winner Curalina, a daughter of Curlin consigned as a broodmare prospect by Meg and Mike Levy's Bluewater Sales.
"What can I say?" said Shadai's representative Naohiro Hosoda. "Anybody knows this filly is high class."
Bred by CASA Farms in Kentucky, Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Dogwood Stable bought Curalina for $125,000 out of the 2013 Keeneland September sale. She went on to compile a 6-3-2 record out of 13 starts and earn $1,535,940. She won the Acorn Stakes, Coaching Club American Oaks, and the La Troienne Stakes (all gr. I).
Multiple grade I winner Stopchargingmaria was the third-highest priced horse of the day, purchased by Three Chimneys Farm for $2.8 million from Taylor Made.
Stopchargingmaria, a daughter of Tale of the Cat , was offered by her previous owner, Mike Repole, at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton November sale, where she was bought back at $3.15 million. Bought privately by Louise and Kiki Courtelis' Town & Country, she went on to win three grade I stakes, including the 2015 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Among other prominent offerings Monday, Love the Chase, dam of dual classic winner and 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome , brought a winning bid of $1.95 million from bloodstock agent John McCormack.
"She was a nice mare, physically, she had a lovely quality," said McCormack, who did not identify his client. "It's right there for everyone to see that she's the dam of a Horse of the Year and in foal to Tapit. You can hope and believe that the story will get better and not stay static just where it is. California Chrome is a lovely looking horse; he's a very good horse, he's a very honest horse, and he's a deserved champion. And when a mare like this comes into the ring producing the horse of the caliber that she has, you have to pay the market price and I thought this was the market price."
A filly with an internationally acclaimed pedigree was the top-priced weanling, going to Ghislain Bozo of French-based Meridian International for $550,000. The April 17, 2016 daughter of Coolmore's top stallion Galileo, consigned as Hip 25 by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, was produced from Better Not Cry, a daughter of Street Cry.
One of the most highly-touted mares in the sale, Bubbler, whose 3-year-old son Arrogate energized the crowd at this year’s Breeders’ Cup when he rallied to upset California Chrome in the Classic (gr. I), was bought back by Clearsky Farm for $4.7 million.
Erin Shea contributed to this artilce.