04/04/2010 11:00PM

Keeneland 2-year-old sale rebounds


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's April 2-year-old sale closed out the boutique juvenile auction season on a bright spot, reversing the 2009 sale's declines in gross and median.

The sale-topper was a $625,000 Bernardini colt that Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stable purchased from William Helmbrecht, agent.

Helmbrecht's brother Mike bred the colt in the name of the Woodbridge Farm, which he operates with partner Bill Geist.

The single-session auction at Keeneland's sale pavilion in Lexington grossed $12,013,000 for 71 horses, a slight improvement of 2 percent from last year's total for 66 juveniles. The average fell by 5 percent, a much shallower decline than that seen last season, to $169,197. In the most positive sign, horses that sold brought a median price of $135,000, up 15 percent from 2009's figure. Buybacks were 37 percent.

Last year's two-night auction saw a 28-percent drop in gross. The 2009 average fell 16 percent, and median decreased by 22 percent in a boutique juvenile sales market that declined roughly 30 to 35 percent overall. The 2009 buyback rate was 44 percent.

Last year's sale produced 2009's most expensive 2-year-old, $1.9 million Take Control. But buyers and sellers alike this year agreed that million-dollar horses are less likely in today's cautious buying climate.

"I think there's money out there, but everybody's conservative about what they pay," said trainer John Ward, who bought a $525,000 Maria's Mon colt on behalf of John Oxley. The colt is a half-brother to multiple graded winner Miss Isella and had been a $500,000 yearling purchased by IEAH Stables last year.

Eddie Woods, agent, consigned the colt on IEAH's behalf at the Keeneland April sale.

Other high-priced horses included Hip No. 135, a $575,000 Malibu Moon-Whirlwind Charlott colt that Katsumi Yoshida of Japan bought from Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree agency; Hip No. 117, a $525,000 Johannesburg-Spain filly that first-time Keeneland attendee Didier Reed bought for France-based Prime Equestrian; and Hip No. 84, a $450,000 Forest Wildcat-Orate filly that trainer Bob Baffert signed for that Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds, agent, consigned.

"It was our sense that the market had more confidence entering this sale," said Keeneland sale director Geoffrey Russell. "That confidence was largely borne out this evening, where there was a strong market for quality. Moreover, there was a good cross-section of domestic, Japanese, and European buyers, an indication that our investments in building a deeper buying bench in a number of markets are reaping dividends. Finally, our gross and median were up and RNAs were down, which are good and positive signs that we can build on going forward."