11/20/2006 1:00AM

Keeneland gross tops $800M for year


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland November sale ended Sunday, capping a remarkable fall auction season with a near-record gross. The 14-day sale did set a North American record for a weanling price and Keeneland record prices for a weanling filly and a horse in training.

The 14-day auction ended Sunday afternoon after selling 3,147 lots for $313,843,800, up 8opercent from last year's 12-day total of $289,602,900 for 2,816 lots. The average price dipped slightly, falling from $102,842 last year to $99,728, but the median remained level with last year's figure at $35,000.

The auction's gross fell just short of 1999's record total of $317,666,000 but helped Keeneland achieve gross sales this year of more than $800 million.

Just two months after the Keeneland September yearling auction set records for gross, top price, average, and median, the November breeding stock sale continued the market momentum. The November sale's top price was $6.1 million, for an unbeaten 3-year-old Unbridled's Song colt named Half Ours. Aaron Jones bought the sale-topping colt to dissolve his partnership with Barry Schwartz. The price was the highest ever paid at Keeneland for a horse in training.

But the sale's real story was the strong demand for young broodmares and broodmare prospects and for weanlings. The top price for a mare was the $6 million that John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farms paid Claiborne Farm, agent, for Madcap Escapade on the auction's opening day, Nov. 6. Madcap Escapade sold in foal to Pulpit. Even far later in the sale, the prices for young females were well above what many buyers and sellers alike had expected, with mares and prospects still bringing six-figure prices as late as Thursday of the sale's second week.

The market for weanlings was similarly robust. At the second session on Nov. 7, a Montjeu weanling colt out of Elbaaha, by Arazi, set a North American record auction price for a weanling when Japanese agent Nobutaka Tada paid $2.7 million for him. Indian Creek Farm, as agent, sold the colt.

A $2.4 million Gone West-Islington filly also set a Keeneland record for most expensive weanling filly. Marc-Antoine Berghracht, agent, purchased the filly for Alberto Abajo.