Buyer Confidence Drives Competitive Market As Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale Closes

by | 11.16.2018 | 3:55pm
Hip 111, champion Lady Eli, sold to Hill 'n' Dale Farm for $4.2 million at the 2018 Keeneland November Sale.

Confidence in the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry translated into healthy returns for Keeneland's 2018 November Breeding Stock Sale, which ended today following 12 days of robust trade. The trend of spirited competition among domestic and foreign buyers for quality individuals continued from the September Yearling Sale, resulting in eight horses sold for $1 million or more, among them champion Lady Eli for $4.2 million and Grade 2 winner My Miss Sophia for $4 million, and strong demand for weanlings and horses of racing age.

Total sales for the auction, held Nov. 5-16, grossed $188,508,300 for 2,538 horses, a dip of 6.69 percent from last year's 12-day auction total of $202,021,700 when 2,424 horses sold. Cumulative average of $74,274 was down 10.88 percent from last year's $83,342. The median declined 18.03 percent from $30,500 to $25,000. Eight horses brought $1 million or more versus 18 in 2017.

“The desire to own top-quality horses that we saw in September was fully evident throughout November,” Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said. “The positive indicators continue: competitive bidding at all levels of the market, strong participation by domestic and foreign buyers and a willingness to stretch budgets to acquire the exceptional individuals.”

The strength of Keeneland's recent September Sale, which grossed more than $377 million to be the fourth-highest in sale history, is credited with prompting more commercial breeders to reinvest in broodmares and with encouraging end users (buyers who intend to race their purchases) and pinhookers (buyers who intend to resell their purchases) to reinvest in weanlings this November.

“The purchase of broodmares signal a buyer's willingness to make a long-term investment,” Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said. “Commercial breeders are buying broodmares to replenish their stock. People also are buying weanlings to race or sell in a strong yearling market. All of this is encouraging for those who try to determine the temperature of the horse industry, the breeding community: It's strong for quality stock.”

In a format change this year, the November Sale opened with an exclusive one-day Book 1 catalog aimed at showcasing graded stakes-winning fillies and mares and outstanding weanlings.

Purchases at the top of the market extended across a diverse clientele. Book 1 produced the eight seven-figure broodmares, led by Lady Eli and My Miss Sophia, bought by eight different individual buyers representing major U.S. and Japanese commercial breeders.

John G. Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale spent $4.2 million for champion Lady Eli, a 6-year-old daughter of Divine Park regarded as one of the all-time leading turf distaffers in North America. Lady Eli has resided at Hill 'n' Dale since her last start, the 2017 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar. Hill 'n' Dale consigned the mare for owner Sheep Pond Partners.

My Miss Sophia sold for $4 million to Steven W. Young, agent, who was the November Sale's leading buyer, spending a total of $4,985,000 for six horses. She was consigned by Lane's End, agent.

Both Lady Eli and My Miss Sophia sold in foal to top sire War Front, the sale's leading covering sire with six in-foal mares bringing $13,025,000 for an average of $2,170,833. Five of those mares bought more than $1 million each. Other leading covering sires by average were Medaglia d'Oro ($795,000), Curlin ($613,333) and Quality Road ($430,500).

Forty-three individual buyers spent $1 million or more during the November Sale. Buyers represented top domestic interests and 23 different countries, prominent among them the Yoshida brothers, Katsumi and Teruya, and Yukio Shimokobe of Japan and a large contingent of Australian horsemen.

“We are very pleased with the demand for American-bred horses we saw here in November,” Elliston said.

Northern Farm's Katsumi Yoshida, the sale's second-leading buyer, acquired four mares for $4,475,000, led by $2.2 million for Tiffany's Honour, a Street Cry (IRE) half-sister to Hall of Famer Rags to Riches and Belmont winner Jazil, sold in foal to Medaglia d'Oro. He also spent $925,000 for Grade 1 stakes-placed Alluring Star, in foal to Curlin; $725,000 for Grade 1 winner Lady Ivanka; and $625,000 for G3 winner Money'soncharlotte, in foal to Arrogate.

Teruya Yoshida's Shadai Farm paid $1.25 million for Grade 1 winner Zipessa, in foal to Medaglia d'Oro, and $750,000 for Grade 2 winner Lovely Bernadette.

Yukio Shimokobe went to $1 million for Galileo's Song (IRE), a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Magnificent Song by leading sire Galileo (IRE), in foal to Curlin.

Top U.S. commercial breeders also made key additions to their breeding operations. Jane Lyon's Summer Wind Equine paid $1.75 million for Key To My Heart (IRE), a daughter of Galileo in foal to War Front. Claiborne Farm, agent, acquired Stays in Vegas, a G3-winning daughter of City Zip in foal to War Front, for $1.5 million. Town & Country Horse Farms bought G3 winner Pretty Perfect (IRE), by Galileo in foal to War Front, for $1.125 million.

Australian horsemen bought 42 horses at the November Sale. Those attending were Julien Blaxland of Blue Sky Bloodstock and Craig Rounsefell of Boomer Bloodstock; John Muir, owner of Milburn Creek; and officials from such leading Australian breeding operations as John Messara's Arrowfield and Nasser Lootah's Emirates Park.

“You look through the stakes results in Australia and American mares have produced a lot of stakes winners,” Emirates Park general manager Bryan Carlson said. “We have a great broodmare band in Australia and to add to that we thought we'd try to get a couple of stakes-winning mares.”

Emirates Park paid $500,000 for Red Lodge, a daughter of Midshipman in foal to Kitten's Joy. In 2016, Red Lodge ran in the G2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot, won the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park and set a five-furlong course record at Belmont Park.

“(American mares are) a great outcross,” Arrowfield bloodstock manager John Freyer said. “We've got a lot of Danehill blood. They complement our stallions because they're built for speed and that's what we like in our country. We like horses bred for precocity and speed. They produce the type of individuals that our market wants as well. They want horses with good bone, muscle, substance.

“We just like coming (to Keeneland),” Freyer added. “It's great to catch up with people. It's a global meeting place.”

In-foal mares purchased by Australians generally foal in Central Kentucky before traveling to their new homes in Australia. The resulting offspring are offered at sales as weanlings or yearlings.

Weanlings consigned to the November Sale appealed to pinhookers and end users, who are typically active in the yearling market during the September Sale.

“Consignors should be commended for bringing a very good group of weanlings to market,” Keeneland director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said. “The horses they brought ticked all the boxes, they were strong quality and vetted well. A number of end users were competing with pinhookers this year. The yearling market has been so strong they decided to short-circuit it, realizing that it might be less expensive to buy horses as weanlings than yearlings.”

Whisper Hill Farm and Three Chimneys Farm teamed to spend $800,000 on the sale's top-priced weanling, a filly by Tapit who is the second foal of champion female sprinter La Verdad. Eaton Sales, agent, consigned the filly, one of six supplemental entries to the sale.

Other weanling buyers included Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum's Shadwell Estate Co. Ltd., which purchased four horses for $1,685,000, led by a $500,000 Speightstown filly whose dam, Lemon Gin, is a half-sister to Shadwell's 2016 Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner and sire, Tamarkuz. Larry Best's OXO Equine purchased two weanlings for $1,125,000, including a $600,000 colt from the first crop of champion and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and from the family of Lady Eli.

“I have seen plenty of trainers looking at weanlings,” said Neal Clarke of Bedouin Bloodstock, which sold a weanling colt by Quality Road to OXO Equine for $525,000. “Todd Pletcher is one who came and looked at ours. That is something that has started here recently – not necessarily just this year. It has gotten to be noticeable.”

“Definitely in Books 1 and 2, the demand (for weanlings) paralleled the yearling market,” said James B. Keogh of Grovendale, which ranked among the sale's leading consignors, selling 51 horses for $5,555,200, topped by the aforementioned Stays in Vegas.

The horses of racing age segment of the November Sale continues to grow in popularity among horsemen. This year, horses of racing age were featured in Book 5 on Monday, Nov. 12 and Tuesday, Nov. 13. On the latter day, gross sales reached $6,337,000 for 244 horses to mark a 60.33 percent increase from the total of the corresponding session last year.

Top price given for a horse of racing age was the $650,000 paid by West Bloodstock, agent for Robert and Lawana Low, for Federal Case, a 2-year-old colt by Gemologist who won his first start in October at Keeneland. WinStar Racing, agent, which sold 12 horses for $1,115,000, consigned Federal Case.

Jacob West credited WinStar for offering Federal Case at public auction.

“On the private market (shopping for horses of racing age) is so hard because historically speaking everybody wants these astronomical numbers,” West said. “When (these horses) show up here, (sellers) expose (the horse) to the world. To be honest, more people should do it. To me, you get paid when you show up here.

“I've been a big proponent of people bringing their horses to public auction because the public will tell you what (the horse) is worth,” West added. “It's a lot better because you get to see them. You get to vet them. There's not the hustle and bustle of trying to beat everybody to the punch. It's easier for us as agents to buy them when they're at a public auction like this.”

“It was remarkable,” said Keogh, who handled the WinStar Racing consignment, about the interest in racehorses. “Every racehorse that we came up here with – whether we sold it for $7,500 or $650,000 – there were three people there to buy every single one of those horses. That's not always what you also see at yearling sales.”

Among the horses of racing age sold at the 2017 November Sale are this year's G1 winners Diversify, Liam the Charmer, Long On Value and Next Shares. Winner of Keeneland's $1 million G1 Shadwell Turf Mile in October, Next Shares sold to David Meah, agent, for $190,000 last year.

Meah was back at this year's November Sale.

“There's lots of options available to buyers – not just broodmares and foals and stallion prospects, which we're looking for too – but tons of racehorses, everything from stakes horses to maidens,” Meah said. Meah-Lloyd Bloodstock bought nine weanlings, broodmares and horses of racing age for $661,200. His purchases included two 3-year-olds: Dulce Ride, a winning daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) for $180,000, and War Chest, a War Front colt out of Azeri's Grade 2-winning daughter Wine Princess, for $110,000.

The November Sale was a success for ELiTE, which concentrates on offering stakes fillies as racing or broodmare prospects. ELiTE sold 14 horses for $3,455,000, led by Grade 1 winner Lady Ivanka at $725,000, and sold two additional mares privately after they did not meet their reserves in the sale ring.

“From Book 1 through the (horses of racing age) day, we were very excited about how everything sold,” said ELiTE Founder and President Bradley Weisbord. ELiTE ranked as leading consignor by average during the Nov. 13 session that featured horses of racing age with four horses bringing an average of $137,500.

“We thank consignors such as WinStar and ELiTE for their strong support and their commitment to the market,” Russell said. “The horses of racing age segment gives a nice boost to the second week of the November Sale, and we encourage more sellers to take advantage of the opportunity it provides.”

Other buyers at the November Sale acquired mares to support new stallions of 2019. Seventeen mares for $1,437,000 were purchased for 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit, who enters stud next year at Gainesway, in the name of Gainesway/Bridlewood/Tapwrit. Brad and Misty Grady spent $1,256,000 on 13 mares to support their G1 winner Girvin, who begins stud duty next year at Ocala Stud in Florida. Army Mule Partnership purchased four mares for $249,000, highlighted by session-topper Stormy's Song for $102,000, to send to the undefeated G1 winner who enters stud at Hill 'n' Dale Farms in 2019.

The November Sale also included the final offerings from the Edward A. Cox Dispersal. Claiborne Farm acted as agent for the dispersal, which sold a total of 20 horses for $3,669,000. They were led by Treasure Trail, a half-sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta in foal to Uncle Mo who sold to Northshore Bloodstock, agent, for $725,000 on opening day of the sale.

On Friday, Keeneland sold 118 horses for $541,400 for an average of $4,588 and a median of $2,500. There are no comparable figures from 2017.

Nursery Place paid $45,000 for the session-topper, the 8-year-old Kitten's Joy mare Carnival Kitten, in foal to Red Rocks (IRE). Consigned by Select Sales, agent, she is a half-sister to Irish G1-placed Red Molony.

For the 23rd time since 1987, Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, led all consignors at the November Sale. Taylor Made sold 258 horses for a total of $23,958,400.

Keeneland's next sale is the 2019 January Horses of All Ages Sale, which runs Jan. 7-11.

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