01/10/2011 7:53PM

Ave sells for $1.4 million at Keeneland January sale

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Shadai Farm paid $1.4 million for Ave, winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational, at Monday's opening session of the Keeneland January sale.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Three Grade 1 winners enlivened a gray day Monday as Keeneland’s January auction kicked off in Lexington, but even as the session enjoyed substantial gains in gross and average, some sellers faced a chilly market as buyers carefully cherry-picked from the session’s 363-horse catalog.

The session-topper was $1.4 million Ave, winner of the Flower Bowl Invitational, who sold to Shadai Farm. Three Chimneys Racing owned Ave in partnership with English breeder Trevor Harris's Lordship Stud. They withdrew her from Keeneland's November 2010 auction in order to take a tilt at the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup in Japan, where Ave finished 16th.

Ave and two other Grade 1 winners, Wickedly Perfect and Negligee, punched up the auction's bottom line. The sale's first session ended Monday night with 187 horses sold for $10,687,600, a $57,153 average, and a $20,000 median. The gross and average were up 62 percent and 54 percent, respectively, on a larger catalog, a higher-priced session-topper, and the influx of pricey Grade 1 winners. Importantly, the median held exactly level with last year in a sign that the market is showing hoped-for stability.

But the buyback rate rose from last year's 30 percent to 35 percent.

Shadai veterinarian Dr. Yoshihiro Nakaji and bloodstock adviser Naohiro Hosoda bid on the Japanese farm’s behalf and shook off a determined Lincoln Collins. Collins, a prominent international bloodstock agent who also is a close adviser to Three Chimneys, was not bidding for Three Chimneys, farm president Case Clay said.

Hosoda and Nakaji said Ave, a 5-year-old by Danehill Dancer, will now retire to the Shadai mare band.

“It was a very good price, but she was also a very good product,” Clay said.

KEENELAND SALE: Updated results

The second highest price at that stage was the $800,000 that Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm paid for 2010 Alcibiades winner Wickedly Perfect. The dapple-gray daughter of leading freshman sire Congrats was Yoshida’s pick of the auction’s fillies and mares, said Hosoda, who signed the ticket. Wickedly Perfect, now 3, was presented by the Three Chimneys agency as a racing or broodmare prospect, but Hosoda indicated that she might be retired. He said that she is sound and Yoshida had yet to confirm his plans for her.

Wickedly Perfect is out of the Tactical Cat mare Wickedly Wise.

“He sounds happy,” Hosoda said of his boss, adding that the price was “very close” to what he had expected to pay for the filly.

The session’s third Grade 1 winner, the 4-year-old Northern Afleet filly Negligee, brought $625,000.

Adrian Regan of Hunter Valley Farm signed the ticket for Negligee but offered little insight into the buyer’s identity, revealing only that the 2009 Canadian juvenile filly champion and 2009 Alcibiades winner would stay in the United States “for the moment.” Hill ‘n’ Dale was the consigning agent.

The session’s top yearling was Hip No. 286, a son of Tapit and the unraced Deputy Minister mare Blossomed. Acorn Equine paid $220,000 for the dark bay or brown colt. Hartwell Farm, agent for Iron County Farm’s partial dispersal, was the consignor.

Canadian breeder Dave Anderson said the strength of Ontario’s slots-supported racing and breeding program provided impetus for his buying Monday.

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I think it’s as good as anywhere, and we have a farm back home, so we’re going to take advantage of that.”

The son of Anderson Farms’ late owner Bob Anderson, he said he decided to continue his father’s legacy and came to Keeneland looking for good mares. He’ll leave with at least two from Monday’s session: $400,000 Song and Danz, the dam of Necessary Evil; and $170,000 Lady Charade, a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Auntie Mame and Star de Lady Ann. Allied Bloodstock consigned Song and Danz on behalf of Don Ameche III; the 9-year-old mare is carrying a Tapit foal. Calumet sold Lady Charade on ADK Racing’s behalf. Lady Charade is in foal to Indian Charlie.

“I grew up on the farm, I grew up in the business,” Anderson said after signing for Song and Danz.. “It’s in my blood, whether I like it or not. I’m a sucker for good-looking mares, and this mare fit the bill for us. I wouldn’t say it was a bargain, but it was good value.”

Anderson said he will continue breeding commercially and would take Song and Danz and Lady Charade back to Canada.

The session lost one of its most promising horses on Sunday night when Calumet Farm opted to scratch Antoniette, the dam of recent La Brea Stakes winner Switch. The 16-year-old Nicholas mare showed Sunday at Keeneland but began showing a waxy buildup of colostrum on her udder and dripping milk, usually signs of imminent foaling. Calumet scratched her from the sale and shipped her home to produce her Roman Ruler foal, which she did Sunday night, said Keeneland’s associate sales director, Tom Thornbury.

In another disappointment for Keeneland, Grade 1-placed stakes winner Rinterval was a buyback at $210,000. The 6-year-old Desert Prince mare was cataloged as a racing or broodmare prospect.

Many sellers couldn’t help expressing dismay at how far bloodstock values have fallen since the 2008 market collapse, but most agreed that they understood the new reality.

“I think we’ve all got to get to the point where we stop talking about 2007 and start thinking about 2011 and start building it back up,” Three Chimneys Farm’s Clay said.

The January sale was to continue through Jan. 14, with sessions starting at 10 a.m. daily.