As soon as champion Abel Tasman was announced to be offered at the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, it was clear the catalog had its tentpole offering. The only question was how high the price would go.
The Coolmore partnership had the final answer for that query, landing the winning bid for $5 million, which tied the all-time highest price for a horse at the Keeneland January sale. Dermot Ryan, manager of Coolmore's North American base in Versailles, Ky.,signed the ticket on behalf of the international operation.
“She's a queen, isn't she?” Ryan said. “They're very rare, when they come across like that. She had everything. She'd be anybody's dream filly to own. She'll go to one of the Coolmore sires, it's undecided. M.V. [Magnier] will talk to his dad and partners, and they'll make a decision from there. Regardless, they're absolutely thrilled to have her.”
Ryan listed Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify, as well as top sire Uncle Mo and European powerhouse Galileo as possible partners for Abel Tasman's first mating.
The $5-million hammer price put Abel Tasman on even footing with the Summer Squall mare Mackie as the most expensive Keeneland January graduate of all-time. Mackie, a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, offered in-foal to Mr. Prospector, went to Britton House Stud during the 2000 sale.
“Tom VanMeter [co-owner of Mackie prior to the 2000 sale] and I were joking around and said we'll agree that a tie is good,” said Mark Taylor of consignor Taylor Made Sales Agency.
The transaction marked the beginning of a potentially big month for Abel Tasman, who is an Eclipse Award finalist for champion older mare.
Abel Tasman retired following a start in last year's Breeders' Cup distaff, capping off a career that included eight wins in 16 starts for earnings of $2,793,385. She was campaigned by China Horse Club and breeder Clearsky Farms, trained by Bob Baffert.
A victory in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes during Abel Tasman's juvenile campaign served as a precursor to her Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old season, which features wins in the G1 Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes, and Coaching Club American Oaks. She also finished second in that season's Breeders' Cup Distaff at Del Mar.
Abel Tasman returned at four to win the G1 Ogden Phipps Stakes and Personal Ensign Stakes.
Abel Tasman is out of the unplaced Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl, whose five winners from six foals to race also includes G3 winner Sky Girl and stakes-placed Moonlight Sky. The extended family includes G1 winner Bevo, G2 winners Moonlight Sonata, Wilburn, and Beethoven, as well as G3 winner Moonlight Sonata.
“I think she's the kind of mare that could produce a stallion, and you could be sitting here 20 years from now, like the case was when Coolmore bought Mariah's Storm from us, where she's produced two stallions (Giant's Causeway and Freud) and the whole legacy,” Taylor said. “She could be a mare that makes you $300 million or $400 million. It's a lot of money, but she's worth a lot of money and she's got tons of potential going down the road.”
As the auction's marquee offering, Abel Tasman drew a crowd from the back ring to the pavilion, as she waited her turn to sell. China Horse Club chairman Teo Ah Khing, who came to Keeneland to watch the mare sell, referred to Abel Tasman as “the lady in red” as she paraded under a cherry-red blanket listing her myriad accomplishments.
The sale pavilion filled quickly as Abel Tasman's time in the ring approached. She entered to a custom video displaying some of her biggest victories, and a bidder quickly opened up the proceedings at $3 million.
The crowd often maintains some volume of an audible hum when a marquee offering goes through the ring, but it was nearly silent as Abel Tasman's price gradually climbed up to its final destination.
“I thought it was interesting that somebody opened her up at $3 million,” Taylor said. “I think it was indicative of the fact that you don't have a huge pool of people willing to play at that level. There's a handful of them and they're all pros, so there's no reason to screw around from zero to $3 million.
“I don't think Coolmore actually got engaged until about $4.5 million,” he continued. “They waited and waited, and then got engaged. They were well north of the reserve. There were lots of live bids between the reserve and $5 million.”
As the unquestioned hype horse of the Keeneland January sale, Abel Tasman was frequently out of her stall to show for both potential buyers and fans in the day leading up to the sale. Taylor marveled at how the mare handled the process, which can be grueling for some horses.
“A lot of people go look at hundreds and thousands of yearlings trying to learn what they should be looking for, but really, if you just come and study horses like that, that's how you learn what separates great horses from average horses,” he said. “Everything she did was just different from average horses. The way she cleaned up her tub at night, the way she comes out there and just did her job, the way she just looks up and analyzes what's going on every time she comes out. It's like she's a totally different breed of animal.
“That's what's fun about selling these type of horses,” Taylor continued. “You get there, and you get to study one of the best horses that we've had in a long time for three or four days, and really just pick them apart and see what makes them different. There's other horses that probably have the biomechanics that she does, but they don't have that x-factor that she has.”
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2019 Paulick Report.