01/15/2010 1:00AM

Final Keeneland tally shows marked declines


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's January all-ages sale ended Friday afternoon on a grim note, with 33 horses failing to bring any bid in a weak session that produced a $55,000 session-topper.

When the session ended, the five-day auction had sold 982 horses for an aggregate $23,895,100, down 27 percent from last year's gross for 1,338 at a six-day auction. The cumulative average price also slipped slightly, falling from $24,532 to $24,333, and the $8,000 median was 16 percent lower than last year's $9,500.

Buy-backs for the sale rose from 22 percent in 2009 to 27 percent this year.

"The January sale strongly underscores the market reset that is taking place, both within our industry and the larger global economy." Keeneland's sale director, Geoffrey Russell, said. "Buyers are understandably discriminating in their purchases, and that's been reflected in the results throughout the week. Quality continues to sell, as demonstrated in a seven-figure sale and several high six figures.

"However, as others have pointed out, in this economy where credit continues to be significantly restricted, buyers are being extremely careful as they make decisions about how much or whether to spend dollars."

Russell also added, "Whether our marketplace - or the larger economy - has completely reset is difficult to determine at this point."

The sale did have occasional bright spots. It sold a single seven-figure horse when Frank Stronach's Adena Springs Farm purchased Lane's End consignee Miss Isella for $1,085,000, and Gio Ponti's half-sister Bon Jovi Girl sold for $950,000 to an anonymous client of Denali Stud owner Craig Bandoroff. Both mares sold Tuesday as broodmare prospects.

On Thursday, amidst heavy session losses, the stakes-winning broodmare prospect Missvinski sold for $400,000 as the day's only six-figure horse. Coolmore employee Aisling Duignan signed the ticket for Missvinski, who was consigned by Michael C. Byrne. The 6-year-old Stravinsky mare is Group 1-placed in France. She is out of the Brocco mare Miss U Fran.

Friday's $55,000 session-topper was Unbridled Empire, a 3-year-old Empire Maker filly who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Fourty Niners Son and Cindy's Hero. John Penn's Chromedome partnership bought her as a racing or broodmare prospect from the Hill 'n' Dale Sales agency.