11/07/2011 5:04PM

Christmas Kid at $4.2 million tops 14 million-dollar sales at Keeneland

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Photos by Z/Keeneland
Coolmore Stud paid $4.2 million for Christmas Kid, in foal to Bernardini, at Monday's first session of the Keeneland November sale.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Fillies and mares from the late Ned Evans’s Spring Hill dispersal set the Keeneland November breeding stock market alight Monday and produced the highest broodmare price that auction has seen since 2007.

The session-topper was Christmas Kid, a Grade 1-winning mare who cost Coolmore Stud $4.2 million, one of 14 horses to bring seven figures Monday.

By any measure, the two-week Keeneland sale started on a high note. Dispersals make quality vary widely from year to year, and this year’s Spring Hill dispersal pushed opening day to easy gains over last year. Monday’s session sold 147 horses, less than last year’s 183, but gross rose by 62 percent to $63,276,500. Average price more than doubled, from $212,951 last year to $430,452, and median advanced 64 percent, from $140,000 to $230,000.

The buyback rate fell from last year’s figure of 19 percent to 17 percent.

In the bidding for Christmas Kid, Irish-based Coolmore batted away a tenacious underbidder, bloodstock agent Reiley McDonald, who frequently bids for prominent breeder Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable. Seated inside the pavilion, McDonald initially shook his head at $3.8 million. But bidspotter Pete McCormick stood by, and, after a conversation with his unidentified client via cell phone, McDonald gave another, seemingly reluctant, nod for $4.1 million. When Coolmore raised him to $4.2 million, McDonald abruptly stood up and walked out of the pavilion, telling his client, “We’re out. That’s enough. It’s just too damn much.”

Christmas Kid sold in foal to Bernardini, the former 3-year-old champion that Coolmore’s longtime rival, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, stands at his Darley Stud.

Christmas Kid’s $4.2 million price tag was the highest for a broodmare at the Keeneland November sale since Playful Act set a $10.5 million world record for that category in 2007.

Coolmore employee Aisling Duignan said Christmas Kid probably will be bred back to Coolmore’s flagship sire, Galileo.

“That’s what she was bought for,” Duignan said of the 7-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare. “First of all, she was good herself. Her first foal was really good, and she’s magnificent looking.”

Tim Hyde, a close associate of Coolmore and its American division Ashford Stud, also picked up that first foal, a weanling Elusive Quality colt, for $525,000. The colt, like all of the Spring Hill horses, came to the auction as part of the Lane’s End agency’s consignment.

“Frankly, it was a little bit more than expected,” Duignan said of Christmas Kid’s price. “But she was so good looking, and when a mare gets a good first foal like that, you know, you’ve got to pay attention.”

Blind Luck arrived at the auction as 201A, a late entry on a supplemental catalog page. She brought an impressive record: champion 3-year-old filly of 2010, six Grade 1 wins, and more than $3.2 million in earnings. Bidding opened at $200,000 and skipped quickly to $2.1 million, then hung briefly before resuming its run to $2.5 million. The winning bidder, Mike Puhich, was representing one of Blind Luck’s owners, Mark Dedomenico. Puhich said Blind Luck will retire from racing, and Dedomenico will decide breeding plans later. Dedomenico owns Pegasus Training Center in California.

“She had a rough campaign, she ran her heart out, and we just want to let her be a horse for a little bit,” Puhich said. “He’ll let the smoke clear and then decide who to breed her to.”

Taylor Made Sales, agent, consigned Blind Luck to the November sale. Her dam, Lucky One, sold here last year while carrying a full sibling to the champion; she brought $1.85 million from Shadai Farm.

Unrivaled Belle, who beat Blind Luck in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, was to sell Tuesday at Keeneland as Hip No. 261. She’s cataloged as a broodmare prospect.

Spring Hill’s bloodstock accounted for 20 of the session’s 25 highest prices, including eight of the nine that brought $2 million or more. These included a pair of half-sisters to champion Saint Liam: $3 million filly Quiet Giant, a stakes-winning 4-year-old; and the session’s top weanling, a $2.6 million Medaglia d’Oro filly. Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stable bought both. The bay filly set a Keeneland November weanling filly record, toppling the $2.4 million that Isla Canela brought in 2006. The price was just shy of the $2.7 million North American weanling record for Amour Malheureux in 2006.

Besilu also sprang for a pair of $2 million Spring Hill horses: Dance Quietly, a 3-year-old A.P. Indy half-sister to Saint Liam; and Grade 1 winner Malibu Prayer, in foal to Smart Strike.

Alain and Gerard Wertheimer went to $2.4 million to acquire 2011 Mother Goose winner Buster’s Ready, a More Than Ready daughter now likely to retire to the same broodmare band that produced Goldikova. Adena Springs owner Frank Stronach, who has bid aggressively for top mares and broodmare prospects in the last 12 months, also spent $2.4 million for Spring Hill’s 2009 Prioress winner Cat Moves, carrying a Malibu Moon foal, as well as $1.95 million for the Three Chimneys Agency’s Life At Ten.

“I had a dry spell for the last two years, so I’ve got to catch up,” Stronach quipped after signing for Cat Moves. “I’m in the market for some nice mares, just to upgrade the quality.”

Stronach also snapped up a real collector’s item when he went to $1.5 million for 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta’s half-sister, a weanling filly by Coolmore stallion Henrythenavigator. Coolmore owns Zenyatta’s dam, Vertigineux, but reportedly sold the Henrythenavigator filly in May. Just days before the Keeneland sale, the filly’s consigning agent, Select Sales, put out a statement identifying the buyer as Australia-based Rick Jamieson, whose Gilgai Farm in Victoria bred the southern hemisphere version of Zenyatta: Australia’s reigning Horse of the Year Black Caviar, undefeated in 16 starts.

“What can I say? A half-sister to a champion, a great horse, and she looks great,” Stronach said of Zenyatta’s half-sister.

He confirmed that she would carry Adena’s red and black colors, but, asked whether he already had a trainer in mind for the filly, he demurred.

“She’s a weanling,” he said. “There’s a long time to go!”

Also selling for more than $2 million was $2.3 million Weekend Strike, a three-quarter-sister to Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Court Vision, in foal to Quality Road, who sold to Ireland’s Barronstown Stud.

The Keeneland November breeding stock sale was to continue through Nov. 17. Sessions begin daily in the Keeneland sale pavilion in Lexington.