The depth of the bloodstock market will be put to the test when the Keeneland November breeding stock sale kicks off Nov. 7 and continues daily through Nov. 18.
There is a consensus that the top of the market will follow the trends seen throughout the juvenile and yearling sales this year, with nearly unfettered demand and buyers willing to pay a premium for the individuals perceived as being the best on offer.
Keeneland has cataloged 4,147 horses for its sale that consists of 2,037 broodmares and broodmare prospects, 425 horses of racing age, two stallions, and 1,682 weanlings. The Nov. 7-8 sessions begin at 11 a.m. ET, and the sale will have a daily start time of 10 a.m. from Nov. 9 through Nov. 18.
The sale lost one of its potential stars when grade 1 winner Lady Eli was withdrawn Nov. 5 after sustaining cuts on her hind legs in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T), but still has plenty of star power.
Headlining the offerings are graded stakes winners and graded stakes producers, led by 2015 champion 3-year-old filly Stellar Wind and grade 1 stakes winners Cathryn Sophia (in foal to Pioneerof the Nile ), Her Emmynency (in foal to Pioneerof the Nile), Al's Gal (in foal to Medaglia d'Oro ), Street Fancy (in foal to Medaglia d'Oro), and Paola Queen, cataloged as a broodmare prospect.
Two dispersals—Pauls Mill (Ben and Elaine Walden et al) and McCauley Farms, for which Paramount Sales will serve as agent—are also on offer at Keeneland.
Headed by the dispersal of Conquest Stables and the $3.8 million bid of Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (G1) winner Unrivaled Belle, in foal to leading sire Tapit , the 2016 Keeneland November sale realized gross receipts of $215,213,000 for 2,653 horses sold for an average of $81,121 and a median of $25,000.
In addition to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah , who has 22 sons or daughters from his first crop cataloged at Keeneland, sires with their first weanlings this year include 2015 champion older dirt male Honor Code , multiple grade 1 winner Carpe Diem , Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Bayern , Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Tonalist and Palace Malice , Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) winner Karakontie , and Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam's Map .
"The November sale's myriad of offerings that includes proven producers and exciting young mares, well-bred weanlings, and talented horses of racing age make it an important destination for buyers from across North America and internationally," said Bob Elliston, Keeneland vice president of racing and sales.
This year's sale comes on the heels of a yearling sale season that saw increases in nearly every auction, a similar result seen in the earlier 2-year-olds in training sales. Positive numbers in those sectors of the market indicate a healthy equine auction marketplace and could provide an additional boost for Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton November consignors.
"When we have a good September sale it generally helps November," said Geoffrey Russell, director of sales operations at Keeneland, in reference to the sale's company's successful fall yearling sale. "Pinhookers will come back and re-invest and breeders that had good sales come back to upgrade and buy some mares."
"The market is strong and there is money to be made," Glencrest Farm's John Greathouse said during the Fasig-Tipton October sale. "It's stronger than it was last year. The whole yearling sales season and even the 2-year-old sales season were strong. It's been consistent, which is nice. You can count on the market staying that way for the next six months. I think it's going to be very difficult to buy in November and January, whether it be mares or weanlings or racehorses."
"A really strong yearling market helps you with (selling) broodmares," said Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud. "Rich people are going to buy the big mares; they are going to play regardless ... but there still is a level of confidence in the global economy and people feel good about things. All of us who need inventory—who buy $200,000 or $50,000 mares—it gives us confidence to go out there and buy. A rising tide lifts all boats."
Bandoroff said he expects the November market to be strong, especially at the top end, with a noticeable tail-off especially during the late stages of the Keeneland sale.
"I think it's going to be really good," Bandoroff said. "But when you get to (Keeneland) Books 3 and 4, you're going to see it change and it's going to be as selective as it always is. I think it is going to be very selective. These guys aren't stupid. They know they can do well with the really good ones and they are going to give good money for the best."
Consignor Mark Taylor, of Taylor Made Sales Agency, concurred.
"I think the market on the upper end is still going to be really good. I think it will get off to a really good start. I think you are going to see a robust market, similar to what you saw in the yearling sales, until you get to the end of the second week of Keeneland. You are going to see it tail off earlier than that on some middle-age mares that haven't thrown a runner."
Taylor said although the quality of horses and prices paid for them during the second week will pale in comparison with the early portion of the sale, some buyers will still want the best of those on offer.
"I think everybody in the horse business is just trying to upgrade from wherever they are," Taylor said. "If you're on the bottom, you're trying to get to the middle, and if you're in the middle, you're trying to get as close to the top as you can."