Fierce competition for quality horses among an exceptionally deep buying bench generated healthy results as Keeneland's November sale concluded Nov. 18.
Buyer confidence carried forward from the September yearling sale, spurring premium prices, increases in average and median, and the sale of 18 horses for $1 million or more—led by the $6 million paid by Coolmore's M.V. Magnier for champion Stellar Wind, the co-second-highest price ever paid for a broodmare prospect at Keeneland.
Cumulative sales for the 12-day auction, held Nov. 7-18, grossed $202,021,700 for 2,424 horses, dipping 6.13% compared with last year's 13-day total of $215,213,000 for 2,653 horses. The average price of $83,342 rose 2.74% from $81,121 in 2016. The median increased 22%, from $25,000 last year to $30,500. The 2016 November sale included the complete dispersal of Conquest Stables, which sold 100 horses for $11,207,500.
"The buoyant market we experienced in September flowed throughout this November Sale," said Bob Elliston, Keeneland's vice president of racing and sales. "Buyers are positive about the economy and the horse industry, and they are enthusiastic to invest, often more than originally budgeted, in that outstanding individual. Consignors set reasonable reserves and final prices blew past those reserves in many cases. The strong showing from Book 1 and the middle market gives us reason to be optimistic that this trend will continue."
Donato Lanni, director of bloodstock services for Hill 'n' Dale Farm, agreed.
"November was a continuation of September; it was electric," Lanni said. "There was a big appetite for quality horses. Anything with quality brought a lot more than what we thought they were worth. So that's a good sign—a good indicator.
"Our horses are competing with the rest of the world and winning. We have a lot of speed in this country and people know that. (It) keeps them coming back to Keeneland. It's been a very good market."
"The market was so strong," echoed Liz Crow of first-time November sale consignor ELiTE Sales. "A lot of people showed up, and there was a lot of demand for good quality horses. If you're buying, it's hard to buy at the top end of the market. It's good for us as a consigner. If you put good horses on the market now, you get rewarded."
A number of positive indicators evidenced the depth and strength of the market throughout the two-week auction. The premier Book 1, held during the first two days of the sale, produced 17 of the sale's seven-figure horses, and increases in average and median prices, despite cataloging 115 fewer horses than last year. Those gains created momentum that rippled through the sale. The largest single-session gains occurred on the fourth day (Book 2) and sixth day (Book 3), when gross sales rose 33% and 46%, respectively, and fueled double-digit increases in average and median. The clearance rate for the entire sale improved significantly over 2016, as the total number of horses not meeting their reserve fell by 18.46%.
Purchases at the top of the market were spread among a diverse clientele. Fourteen different buyers representing interests in the U.S., South America, Ireland, England, and Japan accounted for the 18 horses sold for $1 million or more. Major domestic and foreign buyers from 20 countries—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Chile, China, France, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom—bought horses at the November sale.
"This sale has such an international appeal. There was an abundance of top-level buyers who were active deep into the second week," Elliston said. "Our sales staff—in concert with our representatives in Europe, Australasia, China, and Japan—travel across the U.S. and around the world to recruit buyers and continually strengthen our buying bench. It's a hallmark of what we do at Keeneland."
Lane's End consigned sale-topping multi-millionaire Stellar Wind, who will be retired and bred to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah .
The $6 million paid by Magnier for Stellar Wind made him the sale's leading buyer by gross.
The partnership of Bridlewood Farm of Florida and Chilean-based Don Alberto teamed to acquire Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Cathryn Sophia, in foal to Pioneerof the Nile , for $2.3 million. Don Alberto also purchased Royal Obsession, in foal to Curlin , for $1.8 million; grade 1 winner Paola Queen for $1.7 million; and Chilean champion Wapi, in foal to Curlin, in partnership with Three Chimneys for $1.05 million.
"A lot of people are looking for the same thing," said Don Alberto executive director Fabricio Buffolo. "They want the top mares—the best mares. It's very competitive at that level and you end up sometimes paying more than what you wish to pay. That's the nature of the business. We believe that, if the economy keeps going like it is, next year it's probably going to be even more competitive on that level."
Other high-priced mares in the November sale were For Royalty, dam of grade 1 winner Constellation, sold in foal to Bernardini to Summer Wind Equine for $2.1 million; and Enchanted Rock, carrying a full sibling to grade 1 winner and sire Verrazano , sold to Peter Brant's White Birch Farm for $2 million.
The auction's 18th seven-figure horse was recorded on the first day of Book 2, when England's Cheveley Park Stud paid $1 million for Fools in Love, dam of 2017 Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne (G2) winner Seahenge.
Medaglia d'Oro was the leading covering sire, with nine in-foal mares sold for $7.91 million.
"The weanling market was very strong, and first-crop sires created a lot of buzz," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "Both pinhookers and end users were buying. Pinhookers have done well, so they were back in force. End users, many of whom breed their own horses, have decided that the November sale is a good place to buy. That dynamic created added competition."
American Pharoah ranked third among all sires of weanlings by both gross and average. His five weanlings sold for a total of $2.08 million and an average of $416,000. American Pharoah's sire, Pioneerof the Nile, was the leading sire of weanlings, represented by 10 foals that sold for a total of $2.955 million.
A colt by Curlin who is a half-brother to grade 1 winner and sire Violence sold to Andre Lynch, agent, for $1 million to be the sale's top-priced weanling. He was consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency.
"It was a very strong market for weanlings the whole way through (the sale)," said Adrian Regan, manager of Hunter Valley Farm. "We were expecting as much coming into the sale, because (the) September (sale) was so good. It was stronger than I expected, to be honest."
Horses of racing age were featured Nov. 13-14, led by the $440,000 paid by agent Steve Young for You're to Blame, third in the Bay Shore (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack in April. The 3-year-old colt by Distorted Humor , out of the stakes-winning Malibu Moon mare Bon Jovi Girl (a half sister to multiple champion Gio Ponti ), will continue his racing career with trainer Todd Pletcher. He was consigned by Lane's End.
Taylor Made Sales Agency ranked as the sale's leading consignor, selling 224 horses for $23,652,500. Taylor Made sold four of the sale's top-priced horses: stakes winner Oscar Party, in foal to Tapit , for $1.9 million; grade 1 winner Street Fancy, in foal to Medaglia d'Oro, for $1.5 million; Weekend Whim, carrying a full sibling to multiple grade 1 winner New Money Honey, for $1.4 million; and Life Well Lived, dam of grade 1 winner American Patriot, in foal to American Pharoah, for $1.25 million.
Korea's K.O.I.D. was the sale's leading buyer by number of horses, acquiring 59 horses for $1,564,000.
On Saturday, Keeneland sold 115 horses for $687,100, down 25.23% from the comparable session in 2016, when 149 horses brought $918,900. The average of $5,975 dipped 3.11% from last year's 6,167. The median was down 5.41%, from $3,700 to $3,500.
Two horses sold for $35,000 each to top the final session. Gold Indy, in foal to Tourist , sold to Adel Alatawy. Consigned by Gainesway, Gold Indy is an 11-year-old mare by A.P. Indy out of the Seeking the Gold mare Girl of Gold. A colt from the first crop of Tapiture , out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Pegastorm, brought $35,000 from Clarmont Bloodstock Club. The colt was consigned by Brookdale Sales, agent for Copper Penny Stables.
The next Keeneland sale is the 2018 January horses of all ages sale, to be held Jan 8-12.