01/12/2015 7:39PM

Keeneland January: Average up, median steady in opening session

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Premier Steps sold for $400,000 to Japan's Shadai Farm to top the opening session of the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

The opening session of the Keeneland January Horses of all ages sale was practically devoid of headline-grabbing fireworks, but the consistency of the middle market helped propel gains in average sale price and a steady median.

A total of 204 horses changed hands during Monday’s session for revenues of $12,607,200. Gross fell eight percent from the opening total of the 2014 renewal, when 232 horses sold for a combined $13,714,900.

The average sale price rose five percent during the first session, from $59,116 to $61,800, while the median price went unchanged at $35,000. The day one buyback rate rose from 24 percent in 2014 to 33 percent on Monday.

“Mixed sales are very different from yearling sales,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “You are selling the factory, so they can vary more than anything else. Going into it, we were hoping it would be like [the yearling season], and so far I think it is. Anything’s that has perceived quality is selling very well. There’s a sophisticated buying bench here to buy the right kind of horse, and when that horse comes in, there’s plenty of money for them.”

Monday’s session marked the first time since 2010 that no horses sold for $500,000 or more in the opening session of Keeneland January. Miss Catalyst led the 2010 opening session at $325,000.

Shadai Farm of Japan purchased Monday’s session-topper, stakes winner Premier Steps, for $400,000.

The 5-year-old daughter of Footstepsinthesand was offered as a racing or broodmare prospect following a career in which she won three of 16 starts for $180,446, highlighted by a win in the listed Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park. She also hit the board in Grade/Group 3 races in the U.S., France, and England.

“I thought she was a nice mare,” said Craig Bandoroff of consignor Denali Stud. “I didn’t quite peg her there, but we were happy. We got lucky when Shadai and Coolmore hooked up on her and took her to that level. It’s always nice when that happens.”

Bred in Ireland by Manister House Stud, Premier Steps is out of the winning Second Set mare Primissima, a German-bred whose four foals to race are all winners. She is from the family of Group 3 winner Mehmet Bora and Group 2 stakes winner Princess Taufan.

“She’s a good-looking filly and she had some race record,” Bandoroff said. “You’re not up against as many in her category in January as you are in November, so I think that helped her too.”

The top yearling of the session came during the day’s final handful of offerings, when Joe Minor’s JSM Equine bought a Lemon Drop Kid colt out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Motokiks for $270,000.

A pair of Motokiks’ Grade 3-winning daughters stole the show at the 2013 Keeneland January sale, when Keertana sold for $1 million, followed shortly thereafter by half sister Snow Top Mountain, who hammered for $950,000. The dam’s seven winners from 10 foals to race also include Grade 1-placed stakes winner Diversy Harbor.

“[The price] was about where we thought it would be,” bloodstock agent Justin Casse said after signing the ticket. “I think it’s very comparable to the prices that were going in November. We had stepped up and bought some nice babies in November and I’d like to say that this horse is as nice as the good ones that I bought there.”

Bred in Kentucky by Elevage LLC, the colt is from the family of Italian Group 1 winner Knifebox and Grade 3 winners Sans Arc and Parochial. Casse said the colt was a likely candidate to be pinhooked during the proper yearling sale season.

“You’ll see him pop up in a sale later this year,” he said. “I think the family is a very good family. It’s still active. The mare has some age on her, but she’s still got some runners that are running competitively. I think it was the standout pedigree and physical for the day here.”

Monday’s session was also notable for the presence of Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old female of 2010, who finished under her reserve with a final bid of $1.4 million, making her the only horse of the day to hammer for seven figures, even though she did not sell.

The 8-year-old Pollard’s Vision mare was cataloged at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale last year, but was scratched when she was found to have aborted her Midnight Lute foal.

"I like to bring horses here to sell,” said John G. Sikura of consignor Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency. “We discussed it with the owner and thought we were fair and reasonable. If you look at mares of her comparable ability and race record in foal at [the November sales] they were making a lot more money. We're here to get her sold at a fair price but it wasn't a fire sale. It didn't get done, so we'll breed her and go forward.”

Blind Luck won 12 of 22 starts for earnings of $3,279,520, highlighted by six Grade 1 scores. She has produced two foals, a 2-year-old Bernardini filly and a newly-turned yearling colt by Giant’s Causeway. The mare previously sold at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale for $2.5 million to dissolve a partnership.

“I was disappointed we couldn’t get Blind Luck sold, but that is the market and it is what it is,” Russell said. “The rest of the sale, I thought, went very well. We assumed going in that the broodmare prospects would sell very well and they did, and it was highly competitive bidding for them, both domestically and internationally.”

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the session’s leading consignor by gross, with 43 horses sold for a combined $3,938,500. The operation accounted for four of the top 10 highest prices of the day, led by Ruban Bleu, a stakes-placed Broken Vow mare and dam of impressive recent maiden winner Tiznow R J, who sold to Olin B. Gentry, as agent, for $360,000.

Shadai Farm was the session’s leading buyer, with two purchases totaling $630,000, including the session topper.

Book 1 of the Keeneland January concludes on Tuesday and the sale continues through Thursday, with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For complete results from Monday’s session, click here.

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2015 204 (-12%) $12,607,200 (-8%) $61,800 (+5%) $35,000 33%
2014 232 $13,714,900 $59,116 $35,000 24%