At this time last year, a group of racing and broodmare prospects entered in the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale were precluded from being offered, because they were caught up in an embargo on horses that had been stabled at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
The Office of the Kentucky State Veterinarian imposed the embargo on any horses that had been at a Louisiana track or training facility since Dec. 10, 2016, preventing them from shipping to any track or training facility in Kentucky after five horses at the Louisiana track test positive for EHV-1.
One of the most significant impacts of the embargo was felt by Meg Levy's Bluewater Sales, which had six or seven racing and broodmare prospects at Fair Grounds during that time, and although they were not exposed to EHV-1, they nonetheless, could not be offered at 2017 Keeneland sale.
Bluewater is back this year with another solid consignment that includes some quality racing and broodmare prospects. While Levy isn't impacted by an incident like the embargo, she and other consignors endured a prolonged arctic-like cold snap that could have affected the ability of buyers to inspect horses.
But on the penultimate day of the sale that begins Jan. 8 and runs through Jan. 11, Levy was pleasantly surprised with the level of activity in the Keeneland barn area.
"I was thinking yesterday (Jan. 7) about how hardy horsemen are, standing here and looking at horses when the wind chill was a negative 12 degrees. They are resilient. I didn't think we were going to be that busy, but it ended up great. I was very surprised to see all the looks the broodmare prospects were getting."
Although several of the high-profile fillies in the consignment were scratched, Bluewater's group includes Desert Duchess (Hip 6), a stakes-winning daughter of Hard Spun who has the potential to continue training, and Happy Mesa, a multiple stakes-winning Sky Mesa filly to be offered as a broodmare prospect only.
A 4-year-old who won or placed in 10 of 15 starts and earned $240,005, Desert Duchess reeled off three consecutive wins, highlighted by the 2017 Cellars Shiraz Stakes at Gulfstream Park West for owner Jordan Wycoff.
"She has plenty of run left and she is very pretty," Levy said of Desert Duchess, who is out of the Dynaformer mare Aventina, a half sister to grade 3 winner Desert Air and to stakes winners Desert Demon and Sand Saint.
"She is Hip 6, which is a little bit against her," Levy said of the filly's early placement. "I'm hoping someone will be here wanting a nice race filly. It's not often you can present them so sound and healthy this time of the year."
Also a 4-year-old, Happy Mesa (Hip 64) earned $237,555, with three victories, including the Selima and Hilltop stakes. Produced from the stakes-placed Broken Vow mare Happy Choice, Happy Mesa descends from the extended female family of champion Chris Evert, among others.
"She is a beautiful mare and a lot of people are looking at her," the consignor said of Happy Mesa.
Also scheduled to go through the ring Jan. 8 for Bluewater is Rum Go, (Hip 197) a 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast who finished third in the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G3T). "She is also a filly with black type and she has been very popular as well," said Levy.
Levy said she is also optimistic about the prospects for the "short yearlings" in her group.
"Demand for foals has been huge," Levy said of the 2017 weanling sales. "There is so much short-term money out there. The foals by the same commercial stallions do seem to stick out and bring more money in January than in November. Buyers know they don't have many more opportunities and when prices are like this, a lot of people hold onto their yearlings."