The first session of the 12-day Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale got the auction started on a solid note, with an octet of seven-figure horses leading the trade, including the $4.2-million champion Lady Eli.
At the end of Monday's session, a total of 120 horses sold for revenues of $56,429,000. The average sale price finished at $470,242, the median closed at $350,000, and the buyback rate settled at 29 percent.
Because last year's Book 1 comprised a pair of sessions instead of an ultra-select single day, the figures are not directly comparable between opening sessions, but gross, average, and median were all higher than the leadoff day in 2017.
“I think it's as we forecasted,” said Bob Elliston, Keeneland's vice president of racing and sales. “There's just continued strength in the domestic market for high-quality offerings. Even at the top end, it was the Japanese and the domestic buyers. The Yoshida family – both Shadai and Northern Farms – came in a big way, and we appreciate very much how they supported us. Across the board, there was real strength that I think is going to foreshadow a solid sale here going forward.”
The eight horses sold for $1 million or more on Monday tied last year's opening session. However, the 32 offerings that sold for $500,000 or more eclipsed the 22 that hit the mark during the same session a year ago.
John G. Sikura had gotten used to seeing champion turf mare Lady Eli at his Hill 'n' Dale Farm in the year she boarded there, and for $4.2 million, the 5-year-old daughter of Divine Park gets to stay there.
Lady Eli (Hip 111) was slated to be one of the high-profile offerings in last year's Keeneland November Sale, but she was scratched after coming out of her rough final start in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar with lacerations and a puncture wound that required stall rest. Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency was to consign the mare at that sale, and when she was given the all-clear to travel, she went to Sikura's Lexington, Ky., farm for the first year of her retirement. In the meantime, Lady Eli was bred to War Front.
“It's a lot of money for a horse, but I thought she was an extremely good value,” Sikura said. “I'm going to get her home first, focus on this foal (the one she is currently carrying), and worry about who to breed her back. I'm sure we could get to most stallions in the world, so we'll just wait a little bit.
“She is indomitable,” he continued. “She has a no-nonsense approach. She tolerates people. She knows she's special and she commands your respect. She's an elite mare, and we'll try to keep accumulating elite mares and sell an elite bunch of yearlings. It's a good place to start when you buy champions.”
Lady Eli was trained by Chad Brown for Sheep Pond Partners, a group that includes Sol Kumin and Jay Hanley. The mare won 10 of 14 starts for earnings of $2,959,800, highlighted by wins in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, as well as the G1 Belmont Oaks Invitational Stakes, Flower Bowl Stakes, Gamely Stakes, and Diana Stakes, among other graded wins.
However, Lady Eli's biggest win came in her battle against laminits, which brought her 2015 campaign to an abrupt end after she stepped on a nail. The condition became potential life-threatening after she showed signs of laminitis in both front feet, but she recovered to win multiple Grade 1 races.
Lady Eli is out of the winning Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur, whose four winners from seven runners also includes G3 winner Bizzy Caroline.
Hanley bought Lady Eli on behalf of Sheep Pond Partners for $160,000 at the 2014 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale. Because the partnership does not maintain a breeding program, putting the champion through the auction ring was always the endgame, even after scratching from last year's sale.
“It was kind of a long year, but we knew she was in very capable hands with John and his crew at Hill 'n' Dale,” Hanley said. “We made the big decision last year when she came out of the Breeders' Cup race, I talked with Sol and Chad the next morning and she was pretty banged up. A lot of the cuts ended up being superficial, but it was to the point where we didn't want to put her through the sale experience. It feels like the last chapter in what's been a really amazing sort of novel.”
The end result took longer than expected after Lady Eli's scratch from last year's sale, but Hanley said it was worth the wait.
“The last couple weeks have been very bittersweet, thinking of her leaving our stewardship, but she owes us nothing at all,” he said. “She's been the best ride we could have ever hoped for. We're really happy that she's going to stay home here and be in Kentucky, and we can come here and visit her with our kids. That was really one of our underlying goals, to try to achieve that. You can't always do that when you run them through the ring, but we're really happy she's staying home.”
Steven Young Lands My Miss Sophia For $4 Million
Bloodstock agent Steven Young was the winning bidder on Hip 147, the G2-winning broodmare My Miss Sophia, for $4 million on behalf of an unnamed client.
The chestnut mare went through the ring pregnant to War Front, after her first foal was a filly by the same sire born this year.
My Miss Sophia is a 7-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song out of the G2-placed stakes-winning Langfuhr mare Wildwood Flower. G1 winners Afleet Express and Embellish the Lace are in the extended family.
Over three seasons of racing, My Miss Sophia won three of 13 starts for earnings of $605,040, highlighted by a victory in the G2 Gazelle Stakes and a runner-up finish in the 2014 Kentucky Oaks.
“She's a great mare,” Young said. “The term 'great' is overused, I think, but she is a great mare. I was around her for most of her career. She ran second second in the Kentucky Oaks, and two weeks later, I bought Materiality in Maryland [for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale]. I didn't buy him because of her, but she emboldened us to buy that horse. We thought she was the best horse selling in November.”
This is My Miss Sophia's second time as a seven-figure auction horse, after selling at the conclusion of her 3-year-old season for $2.15 million at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.
Lane's End consigned My Miss Sophia, as agent.
Pope Purchases Weanling Tapit Filly For $800,000
Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm bought the most expensive weanling of yesterday's Fasig-Tipton November sale, and she put her in position to do the same at the Keeneland November sale after buying Hip 116A, a Tapit filly out of champion sprinter La Verdad, for $800,000.
The gray or roan filly is the second foal out of La Verdad, herself a multiple G2-winning Yes It's True mare. The New York-bred weanling's family includes G3 winner Hot City Girl.
Eaton Sales consigned the filly, as agent.
Clearsky Farm Buys Out Partner For $750,000 Weanling Half-Sister To Arrogate
The weanling portion of the Keeneland November sale catalog saw one of its highlights early in Monday's trade, with Clearsky Farms buying out partner Hill 'n' Dale Farms to secure Hip 29, a half-sister to champion Arrogate by Tapit for $750,000.
Much like Lady Aurelia's sale-topping $7.5-million offering during last night's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Selected Mixed Sale, the Tapit filly was put through the ring to dissolve a partnership, with the market potentially deciding the buyout price for the exiting party.
Clearsky Farms initially owned the dam, the Grade 3-placed stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Bubbler, and Hill 'n' Dale bought in for half while she was pregnant with the Tapit filly. In addition to Arrogate, North America's all-time leading earner, Bubbler is also the dam of stakes winner Osare. The filly's third dam is the champion juvenile Meadow Star.
“We liked the filly and obviously, we're familiar with the family,” said Clearsky Farms' Bernard Cleary. “We have a yearling filly by Into Mischief and a Giant's Causeway 2-year-old that we have high hopes for, so maybe they'll add to the family in the future.”
Cleary said the decision on whether to keep the May 1 filly to race or sell her as a yearling would be made at a later time.
Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency consigned the filly, as agent.
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