Updated on 11/09/2011 10:23PM

$1.85 million bid for Quiet Now highlights late flurry of activity at Keeneland November sale

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Seth Hancock paid $1.85 million for the mare Quiet Now, in foal to City Zip.

LEXINGTON – With a string of sensational late purchases, the Keeneland November sale continued to churn out impressive gains on Wednesday, the sale’s third session.

Bidding throughout the brunt of the nine-hour session was workmanlike but brisk until the last hour, when Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm went to $1.85 million to buy Quiet Now, a 6-year-old half-sister of Horse of the Year Saint Liam, and Coolmore shelled out $700,000 for a 9-month-old Tapit filly who is a half-sister to a filly Coolmore raced.

Quiet Now was the only horse to break the $1 million barrier during the entire session, and the purchase helped reverse the momentum for the sale’s average price, which had been trending lower throughout the last half of the sale, though still above last year’s comparable session. The last hour also featured several other sales that were triple or quadruple the running average, providing a punctuation mark to what had been a solid, if featureless, sale up until then.

For the session, average for 257 horses sold was $125,864, up 50.4 percent when compared with the average of $83,658 for the entire third session last year. The median, $90,000, was up 38.5 percent compared with the $65,000 median for the third session last year. Gross sales of $32,347,000 was up 52 percent, even with three fewer horses sold.

Though impressive, the improvements in the figures were not as stellar as the results of the first two sessions on Monday and Tuesday, when average soared 102 percent and 64 percent, respectively, as buyers sought to snap up horses offered through two high-end dispersals, that of the late Edward P. Evans on Monday and, on Tuesday, that of the late Saud bin Khaled’s Palides Investments.

Still, the Wednesday figures built on the success of the first two days, and indicated that the dispersals were not the only factors underlying the newly resurgent bloodstock market. Cumulatively through the first three days, Keeneland has sold 542 horses for gross receipts of $147,028,500, up 60.5 percent. Average has been $271,270, up 71.8 percent, and median has been $140,000, up 40 percent.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, said the third session drew much of its strength from the high prices on Monday and Tuesday, which served to shut out many buyers until Wednesday.

“The comments we received after book one from a lot of people was that they didn’t get to buy anything,” Russell said. “So they just got pushed back to book two.”

“They didn’t get their money spent,” added Walt Robertson, the vice president of sales. 

Quiet Now, who is out of the Quiet American mare Quiet Dance and is carrying a foal by City Zip, was one of the holdovers from the Evans horses selected for the Monday session, and Hancock said that he had been frustrated when attempting to purchase other mares from the family at the sale. The mare will be sent to Claiborne, and longtime Claiborne client Adele Dilschneider will be a partner.

“I’ve wanted something from that family for a long time,” Hancock said. “This was the last gasp. Our backs were against the wall. It was way too much money, but we wanted her.”

One hip later, Quiet Now’s Tale of the Cat weanling colt, also from the Evans dispersal, sold for $425,000 to Bluegrass Hall, which has purchased 18 horses so far at the Keeneland November sale.

The Tapit weanling filly that sold for $700,000 is out of the mare Piedras Niegras, and was consigned by Three Chimneys Farm, agent for John and Marsha Antonelli. The ticket for the filly was signed by M. V. Magnier on behalf of Coolmore, the international breeding and racing operation.

Magnier said after signing the ticket that Coolmore’s principals loved the filly’s sister, the Grade 3 stakes winner La Traviata, who was bred by the Antonellis and is by Coolmore’s stallion Johannesburg. In addition, Magnier said that Coolmore has been equally impressed by a yearling out of La Traviata by Henrythenavigator, also a Coolmore stallion.

“We think that [the Henrythenavigator-La Traviata] yearling is the best yearling we have,” said Magnier, who is the son of John Magnier, a former principal in Coolmore.

The second highest-priced filly or mare to sell during the session was the 5-year-old mare Minishaft, also a holdover from the Evans dispersal. Evans’s brother, Robert, purchased the mare, in foal to Tale of the Cat, for $620,000. In total through the first three days, Robert Evans has purchased five horses, all from the dispersal of his brother, who died in December.

“That was the first full-sized horse I could buy,” said Robert. “The full-size horses are expensive. I got on her because I thought she’d be relatively cheap. I’m tired of finishing second.”

For the November sale, 101 horses from the Evans estate have sold for total receipts of $49,669,500, making the dispersal the highest-grossing dispersal in November history. The Evans estate also sold 50 yearlings during the September sale for $6,527,000, and more weanlings and mares from the dispersal are cataloged later in the November sale.

Including Quiet Now, 23 horses have sold for $1 million or more during the first three days of the Keeneland sale, the highest total since 2007. The horses include Royal Delta, the winner of last weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Consigned by Khaled’s Palides, Royal Delta was purchased late on Tuesday for $8.5 million, the third-highest price of all time at the November sale and the highest price ever for a filly still in training.

Many of the buyers who had dominated the upper echelons of the select sessions were absent from the sales grounds on Wednesday, including Ben Leon, who bought Royal Delta and eight other horses over the first two days for $22.4 million. Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs also did not make a purchase on Wednesday after buying seven horses for $10.68 million in the first two select sessions. Bluegrass Hall, which bought 14 horses over the first two days to lead all buyers, bought four on Wednesday.

The increases in average and median are welcome news to the breeding industry, which has suffered through a precipitous decline since the credit crisis began in 2008. Over the three years since, receipts at the major bloodstock auctions have been cut roughly in half.

But the effects of the crisis seemed to abate earlier this fall, when prices for yearlings suddenly shot up, in part because of an effort by sales companies to pare back the number of horses they would accept to sales. That has spilled over into the market for broodmares, which produce the yearlings that will be sold at auction over the next several years.

The sale continues through Nov. 17, in11 consecutive sessions. The sale was initially scheduled for 14 sessions, but Keeneland pared the sale by three days earlier this year in response to reduced activity in the breeding market.