11/10/2011 12:48PM

Buyers assess Breeders' Cup's effect on November mixed sales

Royal Delta, with trainer Bill Mott, sold for $8.5 million at Keeneland’s November auction three days after winning the Ladies’ Classic.

LEXINGTON, Ky. − Kentucky’s Thoroughbred auction houses had more rooting interests than usual at the Breeders’ Cup this year: 19 Breeders’ Cup runners also were entered in Lexington’s November mixed sales, which started at Fasig-Tipton on Sunday, the day after the Breeders’ Cup ended. The Breeders’ Cup’s effect on a runner’s sale price became obvious Tuesday, when 2011 Ladies’ Classic winner Royal Delta brought a stunning $8.5 million at Keeneland’s November auction.

Being able to sell a Breeders’ Cup winner at auction just days after the race almost always boosts a price, sale executives say, but today’s Thoroughbred buyers consider much more than a race result when they splash out that kind of money.

“The horses that run in the Breeders’ Cup races are of the highest level anyway, to start with,” Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said. “But yes, there is a bonus given to a horse that wins a Breeders’ Cup race when it goes through a sale. If you look at last year’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, this year we sold Unrivaled Belle, Blind Luck, Malibu Prayer, and Life At Ten. They all ran last year, and they all sold exceptionally well. Unrivaled Belle brought the most of all the ones she beat last year, and she won the race. So one would have to assume that it does give you a bonus.”

Unrivaled Belle sold Tuesday, a year after her Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic win, bringing $2.8 million from Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable.

“It can give you a boost, but it’s not the be-all and end-all,” Fasig-Tipton chief executive Boyd Browning said. “It can be the icing on the cake, but even in the case of a horse like Royal Delta, you’ve still got a valuable cake, even before the Breeders’ Cup.”

Keeneland’s November sale was the most obvious beneficiary of the Breeders’ Cup windfall this year. Royal Delta, already the Alabama Stakes winner this year, came to auction off a 2 1/2-length victory in the Ladies’ Classic. Selling as a racing or broodmare prospect, she inspired a long bidding duel between Adena Springs owner Frank Stronach and Benjamin Leon of Besilu Stables. Leon took her home for $8.5 million, a Keeneland record for a horse in training and the November sale’s third-highest price ever for a racing or broodmare prospect.

The Ladies’ Classic win and her quick turnaround in the sale ring played significant roles in Royal Delta’s appeal to high-level buyers, but other factors also are important in pushing a horse’s price up.

“If you have a Breeders’ Cup winner that doesn’t have a deep pedigree, you won’t get as big a premium as you would if you have that residual value to fall back on,” Russell said. “In this day and age, you have to have everything. You have to have a race record, you have to have a pedigree, and you have to have a physical [good physical conformation]. The big, attractive fillies are what’s selling here, and they are discounting ones that have conformation flaws, just like they do at the yearling sales.”

The Breeders’ Cup had less of a positive effect this year at Fasig-Tipton. The auction had cataloged more Breeders’ Cup runners − 16 − plus other close relatives of Breeders’ Cup contenders. Seven Breeders’ Cup runners scratched before the sale, revealing that the Breeders’ Cup can be a double-edged sword.

“Sometimes a finish off the board can lead an owner to withdraw from the sale or sell at a later date, but sometimes success can lead someone to retain the horse and not sell,” Browning said. “It depends on the circumstances of each horse and ownership.”

Of the 2011 Breeders’ Cup runners who did sell, the highest price belonged to Dubawi Heights. She brought $1.6 million from Shadai Farm despite finishing sixth in the Filly and Mare Turf. Pachattack, third behind Royal Delta in the Ladies’ Classic, brought $1.2 million. Her Smile, third in the Filly and Mare Sprint, brought $1 million.

“For the most part, our buyers evaluate a broodmare or broodmare prospect on her lifetime accomplishments, but it’s important to note that horses like Pachattack and Her Smile that did run well in the Breeders’ Cup certainly enhanced their appeal and likely their value by having a significant performance within 48 hours of the sale,” Browning said.

From the buyer’s side, valuing a Breeders’ Cup performer, or any other runner, is an exercise similar to handicapping.

“The thing is so nuanced, based on how much a horse wins by, how easily, whether it won by a short distance or got beaten narrowly, if it gets well beaten,” said bloodstock advisor Lincoln Collins, whose client Leonard Riggio of My MeadowView Stable bought the Fasig-Tipton sale-topper, $2.3 million Funny Moon, in foal to Indian Charlie.

“There’s a whole range of different possibilities. Taking the example of Royal Delta, she had a very good pedigree, she was already a Grade 1 winner, she was obviously going to be able to race next year. If she’d been beaten a long way in the Breeders’ Cup and finished out of the money, she was probably still worth $3 million or $4 million because she’s an Alabama winner and a current horse with potential to go on.

“If she’d run a very good race in the Breeders’ Cup and looked like she was competitive, she probably would’ve made $5 million or thereabouts,” he said. “But the fact that she won, and won comfortably, means everybody knows she’s a very, very good horse and clearly the divisional champion. But also she could easily be a very good 4-year-old, particularly because she’s an Empire Maker and a big, rangy, kind of unfurnished filly at this point. You’d have some cause to believe she’d be able to take on the boys. So a whole panorama or possible exciting racing opportunities opens up for you. You’ve got a broodmare who’s going to be a treasure in the broodmare band, but you’ve also got a racehorse that could earn significant amount of that $8 million back next year.”

2011 Breeders' Cup runners

Fasig-Tipton November      
Horse Race Result Price
Ask the Moon Ladies' Classic 6th $800,000
Awesome Belle Juvenile Fillies 12th Out
Dubawi Heights Filly and Mare Turf 6th $1.6 million
Elusive Kate Juvenile Fillies Turf 8th Out
Euroears Sprint 9th $320,000
Fort Loudon Juvenile 7th Out
Grace Hall Juvenile Fillies 2nd Out
Her Smile Filly and Mare Turf 3rd $1 million
Pachattack Ladies' Classic 3rd $1.2 million
Rapport Turf Sprint 6th $700,000
Satans Quick Chick Ladies' Classic 8th $600,000
Self Preservation Juvenile Fillies 4th Out
Tamarind Hall Filly and Mare Sprint 10th $250,000
Tanda Filly and Mare Sprint 9th Out
Turbulent Descent Filly and Mare Sprint 5th Out
Ultra Blend Ladies' Classic 4th $700,000
Keeneland November      
Horse Race Result Price
Golden Mystery Filly and Mare Sprint 7th Out
Royal Delta Ladies' Classic 1st $8.5 million
Switch Filly and Mare Sprint 2nd Out