Keeneland's January Horses of All Ages Sale closed Thursday with robust results – the highest gross since 2008, a record average and a record-equaling median – produced by vibrant trade that reflected the continued buyer confidence and demand for quality Thoroughbreds seen during last fall's September Yearling Sale and November Breeding Stock Sale. Highlighting the auction was the sale of champion Abel Tasman to Coolmore's M.V. Magnier for $5 million, which established a record price for a broodmare prospect at the January Sale and equaled the highest price paid for a horse at the auction.
Total sales of $46,759,600 for the four-day auction, held Jan. 7-10, were the highest since the 2008 January sale and increased 33.61 percent when compared with $34,996,000 recorded for last year's four-day sale. In all, 916 horses sold versus 909 in 2018.
Cumulative average established a January sale record. Average price of $51,048 exceeded the previous record of $50,182 set in 1988, and rose 32.60 percent over $38,499 in 2018. The median of $20,000 equaled the record of $20,000 established in 2014 and was up 66.67 percent from $12,000 in 2018.
“This sale exceeded our expectations,” Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason said. “The desire of buyers to compete at the highest levels and their commitment to invest in breeding and racing stock continue to create the momentum that flows through these sales. It's exciting for the entire industry.”
In addition to the healthy sale returns, other positive indicators include the steady increase in the number of horses sold for $200,000 or more, which grew from 17 in 2017 to 28 last year and 47 in 2019. Additionally, the clearance rate for the January sale improved from 74 percent last year to 78 percent this year.
“It's a very good market at the moment, and the depth of quality in this January sale catalog generated brisk trade well into the final day of the sale,” Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said. “In particular, we saw an exceptional group of yearlings and fillies off the track, led by Abel Tasman, whose sale created early energy. Credit goes to our consignors for bringing these outstanding individuals to market and for setting realistic reserves on their offerings.”
Mark Taylor, vice president of marketing and sales operations for Taylor Made Sales Agency, the January sale's leading consignor for the 17th time since 2000 and consignor of sale topper Abel Tasman, echoed those sentiments. Taylor Made sold 116 horses for $10,832,400.
“We continue to see a trend where the very top of the market is healthy, and anything with quality – if there's blue sky on the horizon that a mare or the foal she's carrying can even have the possibility of being a six-figure horse – people really embrace that,” Taylor said. “When you get down to the ones in the bottom quarter to third of the market, you have to be very conservative with your reserves and you've got to know your product. Today (at this point on Wednesday) we've put through roughly 50 horses and only bought five back. We're being realistic.”
Taylor Made consigned the sale-topping Abel Tasman, a 5-year-old daughter of Quality Road, for owners China Horse Club International and Clearsky Farms. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Abel Tasman proved herself one of the best distaffers of her generation, recording six Grade 1 wins and earnings of nearly $2.8 million during her racing career. She was the 2017 champion 3-year-old filly and is a finalist for the 2018 Eclipse as champion older mare.
Abel Tasman's $5 million purchase price made her the most expensive broodmare prospect in January Sale history, while the figure tied her with Mackie as the most expensive horse ever sold at the auction. In 2000, Britton House Stud paid $5 million for Mackie, a Grade 3-winning Summer Squall mare out of Broodmare of the Year Glowing Tribute, sold in foal to Mr. Prospector and consigned by Eaton Sales, agent.
Buyers of top-priced broodmares and broodmare prospects at this year's January Sale represented the world's major breeding operations, led by Ireland's Coolmore and Shadai Farm of Japan, and Summer Wind Farm, WinStar Farm, Three Chimneys Farm, Springhouse Farm and Eaton Sales, all based in Kentucky.
With the purchase of Abel Tasman, Coolmore's Magnier was the January sale's leading buyer. Other buyers spending seven figures were Calumet Farm, which acquired 12 horses for $1,162,000, and WinStar Farm, which purchased two horses for $1,085,000, led by multiple Grade 3 winner House Rules in foal to Quality Road for $750,000.
Also bringing $750,000 from buyer Summer Wind Equine was the Galileo (IRE) mare A Star Is Born (IRE), sold in foal to leading sire War Front.
Two of the sale's top-priced horses were cataloged as part of a 20-horse supplemental catalog that spanned the opening two days of the January Sale.
Commanding $700,000 from Shadai Farm was Fatale Bere (FR), winner of the 2018 Del Mar Oaks Presented by The Jockey Club (G1). ELiTE consigned Fatale Bere, a 4-year-old filly by Pedro the Great.
“Her owners are delighted that they were able to turn their horse into serious money,” ELiTE founder and president Bradley Weisbord said. “We found out about two weeks ago that (they) were thinking of selling her with us, and about 10 days ago we found out she would be a supplement. We got lucky a few years ago when we sold (future Grade 1 winner) Long On Value (as a supplement to Keeneland's 2017 November Breeding Stock Sale for $100,000).”
Best Performance, runner-up in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), brought a final bid of $560,000 from Three Chimneys Farm. The 4-year-old daughter of Broken Vow was consigned by Lane's End, agent.
“We've always been happy to accept supplemental entries to our breeding stock sales, and we look forward to expanding this aspect of the sale in the future,” Keeneland director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said. “This offers flexibility and opportunity to owners and consignors.”
A colt by Union Rags sold to Albert Racing for $390,000 to be the January Sale's top-priced yearling. Consigned by Indian Creek, agent, he is the first foal out of the Bernardini mare Zondaq, a half-sister to Grade 2 winners Discreet Dancer and Travelin Man and stakes winner Sweet N Discreet.
“Everyone is looking for a 'Saturday horse,' which spurred the strong demand for yearlings,” Russell said. “Pinhookers were especially active during the January Sale, having been outbid on weanlings at the November Sale.”
“The yearling market is crazy. I mean it's incredible,” Mark Taylor said. “We sold a Midnight Lute for ($120,000) and a Mshawish for ($100,000). It was twice my appraisals for those horses. That's what the market says those horses are worth, so I think those buyers probably will make money (if they resell their purchases later this year). They were really good horses, but I thought, Book 2, January, maybe we won't get anywhere close to six figures, but we got there.”
“The yearling market through this whole sale has been very strong,” Hunter Valley farm manager Adrian Regan said. “We tried to buy plenty and got outbid a lot. When you bring up a nice foal, there is plenty of competition.”
On Thursday, Douglas Scharbauer bought the session's highest-priced horse to add to his Valor Farm broodmare band. He paid $230,000 for Classy Tune, a 5-year-old winning daughter of Maclean's Music consigned by Eaton Sales, agent. Out of Southern Swing, by Dixieland Band, she is a half-sister to stakes winner Mr. Pee Vee and Grade 1-placed Erinsouthernman.
Keeneland sold 213 horses for $3,828,000 during the final session, for an average of $17,972 and a median of $8,000. At the concluding session in 2018, 258 horses grossed $3,251,300, for an average of $12,602 and a median of $6,000.
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