12/27/2013 2:33PM

Breeding and sales Year in Review: Bloodstock market resurgent

Barbara D. Livingston
Breed-shaping sire Storm Cat died in April at Overbrook Farm, where he stood for his entire stud career.

The recalibration of the bloodstock market took a big step forward in 2013, as several major auctions set records and foal-crop numbers stabilized to a degree following precipitous declines over the past several years.

The Jockey Club predicted a decline in the size of the North American foal crop for an eighth straight year, estimating the 2013 crop at 23,000. While that figure represents a decline of about 40 percent since 2005, the last time the foal crop increased annually, the projected 2 percent decline from 2012 was the smallest drop since 2007.

As the supply end of the bloodstock industry moved toward an apparent settling point, the demand half of the equation exploded. No fewer than six major North American sales achieved a record-high gross, average, or median sale price or their highest-priced horse in 2013, often eclipsing marks in multiple categories.


Records aside, nearly all of the major North American auctions posted improved figures in 2013. What set this year’s gains apart from generally encouraging returns in 2012 was an expansion in activity, as the economic boost spread from high-end players to include the larger middle market.

The Keeneland January sale of horses of racing age was a good precursor of what was to come, surpassing the previous renewal’s gross sales during the third of five sessions. Powered by the dispersal of Issam Fares’s Fares Farm, the January sale posted its highest revenue since 2008, which was a common refrain for auction results in 2013.

This upward momentum carried into the 2-year-old market and was especially apparent in the auctions held by the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.

All three of the OBS 2-year-old sales – the March select sale, the spring sale in April, and the June sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age – posted sale-record average and median prices. The spring and June sales also posted record-high grosses.

The most expensive juvenile of the season was a $1.6 million Bernardini colt, purchased by Robert LaPenta at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of select 2-year-olds in training.

Fasig-Tipton unveiled a new event in 2013: a summer sale of select horses of racing age immediately following its Kentucky July yearling sale. The racing-age sale used Fasig-Tipton’s online resources to take entries until the final days leading up to the event. Among those late entries was the sale-topping filly Starship Truffles, who was entered after winning the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder. She was bought by Shane Ryan’s Castleton Lyons for $1 million.

The industry’s bellwether yearling auction, the Keeneland September sale, kicked off a bountiful fall-sale season in Kentucky, setting a record-high median price of $50,000 over 12 sessions. Total revenue for the September sale was the seventh highest in the sale’s history at almost $280.5 million, and the average price of $102,220 was the fourth highest.

The most expensive yearling of the North American sale season, a son of breakout all-surface sire War Front, was landed by the Coolmore partnership for $2.5 million during Keeneland September’s final Book 1 session.
With highly competitive bidding leaving many buyers still looking for horses following the Keeneland September auction, the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale exploded, posting all-time highs in gross, average, and median.

For a second straight year, Mandy Pope of Citra, Fla.-based Whisper Hill Farm was the standout buyer of the November breeding-stock sale season in Kentucky.
Pope first struck at the one-day Fasig-Tipton November sale, going to $5.2 million to secure the Irish-bred Galileo mare Betterbetterbetter, who sold in foal to War Front.

That select auction also saw the sale of two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection to Qatari Sheikh Joaan al-Thani’s Al Shaqab Racing for $2.7 million just two days after her second Breeders’ Cup win.

While Pope did not buy the sale-topper at the subsequent Keeneland November sale, she was the final bidder on its most buzzed-about offering, champion Groupie Doll. The popular racemare was offered at Keeneland four days removed from her repeat victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

On her sale date, Groupie Doll led an emotional group of fans and connections to the auction ring, with the horse’s primary caretakers, including trainer and co-breeder William “Buff” Bradley, walking arm-in-arm, en route to a $3.1 million hammer price.

The top-priced offering of the Keeneland sale came from the dispersal of E. Paul Robsham Stables, when M.V. Magnier of the Coolmore partnership bought Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria, in foal to Giant’s Causeway, for $4 million.

Those transactions helped drive a bull market during the 10-day Keeneland November sale, which surpassed last year’s gross sales by the middle of the fifth session. Revenue finished up 38 percent at more than $197.1 million, while the average sale price improved 35 percent to $80,256. The median equaled the record set from 2005-07, rising 59 percent to $35,000.

The November sale season in Kentucky also marked the emergence of Don Alberto Corp., a division of the Chilean-based Bethia Holding, which purchased Tom Simon’s Vinery Kentucky farm in October. The group was the leading buyer at the Keeneland November sale by gross, focusing on the upper-middle market to buy 32 horses totaling $10.64 million.


In October, The Jockey Club’s 2013 Report of Mares Bred revealed that 1,698 stallions covered 34,174 mares in North America. The number of mares bred fell 3.4 percent from the 35,391 reported at the same time in 2012, continuing a downward trend.

The two most eagerly anticipated new mothers of 2012, horses of the year Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, once again grabbed headlines with their second foals.

Rachel Alexandra delivered a 140-pound Bernardini filly in the early hours of Feb. 12 at Stonestreet Farm near Lexington, Ky. However, she was rushed to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital the following day after complications arose for a second straight year.

The Medaglia d’Oro mare underwent exploratory abdominal surgery at the hospital. Surgery revealed that an area of her small colon had been damaged during the foaling process, which led to a bacterial infection. Rachel Alexandra remained at Rood & Riddle for almost six weeks and returned to Stonestreet in late March.

On April 1, Zenyatta produced a 145-pound colt by prominent Gainesway sire Tapit at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky. The 2010 Horse of the Year was bred back to Claiborne Farm stallion War Front.

Havre de Grace, Horse of the Year in 2011, will join the roster of leading ladies whose foals will be watched closely by fans next year. The daughter of Saint Liam, a $10 million purchase by Mandy Pope in 2012, was bred to Tapit for her first mating.

Broodmare of the Year honors for the 2012 racing season went to Lisa Danielle, the dam of Horse of the Year Wise Dan and multiple Grade 2 winner Successful Dan. The 19-year-old Wolf Power mare is owned by Mort Fink, who campaigns her foals as homebreds.


The red and white silks of Ken and Sarah Ramsey were ubiquitous at the major races and meets of 2013, with a fleet of runners sired by their homebred stallion, Kitten’s Joy.

The 12-year-old El Prado horse was North America’s leading sire by earnings through Dec. 26, with $11,226,709, just $42,461 ahead of second-place Speightstown. His progeny were the engine of the Ramseys’ homebred brigade in 2013, helping the Kentucky-based couple secure eight leading-owner titles at various racetracks.

Kitten’s Joy’s signature day at stud came Aug. 17, when three of his offspring, all Ramsey homebreds, won Grade 1 races within about two hours – one at Saratoga (Big Blue Kitten) and two at Arlington Park (Admiral Kitten and Real Solution).

Leading the freshman sire list was Ashford Stud’s Dunkirk, who had 14 winners through Dec. 26 for earnings of $1,108,348. The best runner for the 7-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song was Havana, who won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

The stallions of Spendthrift Farm were among the most active in the breeding shed. The most active stud in North America were Spendthrift’s Into Mischief (210 mares bred). Harlan’s Holiday, who was based at WinStar Farm but died in November while standing the Southern Hemisphere season in Argentina, tied Spendthrift’s Archarcharch for second in number of mares bred in 2013 with 187. Kitten’s Joy (184) and Ashford Stud’s Majestic Warrior (176) rounded out the top five.

WinStar stallion Bodemeister was bred to the most mares among first-year stallions, with 173. Darby Dan Farm’s Shackleford (168) was second, and that farm’s Dialed In tied with WinStar’s Gemologist for third (154). Champion Hansen checked in fifth, covering 147 mares at Ashford Stud, but was sold in October to stand in Korea.

However, the biggest blue-chip prospect among the first-year sires was found in England, where 2012 European Horse of the Year Frankel got 126 mares in foal from 133 covered. The initial book for the undefeated son of Galileo was a breathtaking assembly of Grade/Group 1 winners and producers from around the globe, many of whom commanded top dollar at auction.


The Thoroughbred industry mourned the passing of legendary sire Storm Cat in 2013, as the breed-shaping son of Storm Bird was euthanized April 24 due to the infirmities of old age at 30. He was buried at Overbrook Farm near Lexington, where he sired 21 crops and remained after he was pensioned from stallion duty in 2008.

Storm Cat was twice the leading general sire in North America and led the broodmare sire list once. He also led the juvenile sire list a record seven times. Storm Cat sired five Breeders’ Cup winners and eight champions and became one of North America’s most successful commercial sires, commanding a $500,000 stud fee during the early 2000s.

Storm Cat’s influence also was felt as a sire of sires. More than 200 of Storm Cat’s sons have stood at all points of the globe, including three-time North American leading general sire Giant’s Causeway.

Another pillar of the recent generation of commercial stallions, Unbridled’s Song, was euthanized July 26 after a large mass was discovered in multiple sinus cavities and around his optic nerves, leading to a rapid decline in health. He was 20.

The son of Unbridled stood his entire career at Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville, Ky., where he sired 17 crops, including 46 graded or group stakes winners. Unbridled’s Song also became a force in the auction industry, with his lifetime average yearling price of $298,118 leading all North American sires at the time of his death. He has more than 45 sons at stud.

Other horses to die this year after leaving their mark include the broodmares Albertine, the dam of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arcangues; Heavenly Prize, a champion on the racetrack and the dam of graded stakes winners Good Reward and Pure Prize; Justenuffheart, dam of champion Dreaming of Anna; European classic winner and Group 1 producer Kazzia; graded stakes winner and graded producer Lotka; and Marshesseaux, producer of champion Left Bank.

Other notable sires who died in 2013 included Brian’s Time, Dayjur, Fasliyev, Generous, Hernando, Indygo Shiner, In Excess, Lando, Marquetry, McCann’s Mojave, Mecke, Miner’s Mark, 2013 leading North American juvenile sire Rockport Harbor, Selkirk, Slew City Slew, and Summer Bird.