01/12/2016 7:38PM

Keeneland January: Book 1 closes with gains in average, median

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While lacking the seven-figure fireworks of its immediate predecessor, the first book of the 2016 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale closed on Tuesday with healthy returns.

The first two days of the January sale saw 375 horses sold for revenues of $26,651,600, down 4 percent from the opening book of last year’s renewal, when 452 horses brought $27,798,400. The average sale price rose 16 percent from $61,501 to $71,071, while the median saw a growth of 17 percent from $30,000 to $35,000.

The Book 1 buyback rate closed at 30 percent, up slightly from 29 percent in 2015.

“With mixed sales, you never know from year to year how these sessions fall,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Last year’s second day was stronger than the first day, and this year, the first day was stronger than the second day, but overall it comes out pretty much comparable.”

The first book of the 2016 sale finished without a seven-figure horse, trailing last year when the Galileo mare Up brought $2.2 million to top the sale as the lone offering to break that threshold.

However, the number of horses to bring $400,000 or more grew from four to nine. At the next level, 36 offerings sold for $200,000 or more in Book 1, outpacing the 24 to do so in 2015.

“Some of the yearling buyers have been saying it’s been difficult out there, that when they have stumbled across one they think nobody else has, they find out they’re one of many,” Russell said. “You can’t hide a good horse, never could, never will.”

Evelyn Benoit’s Star Guitar Inc. purchased Tuesday’s session-topper, the Woodbine Oaks winner Roan Inish, for $500,000.

The 9-year-old Elusive Quality mare sold in foal to Arch, which would be her fourth foal. Her first foal, Inishkea, also by Arch, raced once in Ireland last year.

Roan Inish was sold as part of an unannounced dispersal of Ontario-based Robert Costigan, who campaigned the mare as a homebred during her on-track career, which featured two wins in eight starts for $598,619. She also won the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Woodbine and finished third in the 2010 Queen’s Plate Stakes.

“We were very delighted,” said Headley Bell of Mill Ridge, which handled the dispersal as agent. “The Costigans are fine people, people you want to be in the business … . We’ve gone from one good home to another good home, and that’s important.”

The mare is a daughter of two-time Canadian champion turf female Inish Glora, whose four winners from six runners also includes the Grade 3-placed In Equality. Her extended family includes Grade 3-placed stakes winner Asserting Bear.

Roan Inish will be sent to bolster the broodmare band of Benoit’s Louisiana-based stallion Star Guitar, whose first foals are 2-year-olds of 2016.
“She’s a tremendous supporter of racing in Louisiana,” said James Keogh, who was acting as agent for Benoit at the sale. “It’s her passion. She loves Star Guitar and she just wants to give the horse every opportunity.

“This mare was her pick of the sale,” Keogh continued. “She just had to have her, and she’s excited to have her. It was considerably more than we thought we were going to have to give for her, but when Mrs. Benoit sets her mind on something, it’s very hard to stop her.”

The session’s most expensive yearling was an Uncle Mo colt out of the stakes-placed Silver Ghost mare It’s Spooky who sold to Steven Young as agent for an unnamed client for $250,000. Young said the colt would be kept to race.

Bred in Kentucky by World Thoroughbreds Racing Inc., the colt is a half-brother to four winners from five runners out of the dam, including Grade 3 winner Rerun and multiple stakes-placed Garnet Crystals. Further down the page is Grade 3 winner Revivalist, Grade 2-placed stakes winner Don’ttalktome, and stakes winners It’s Over and Tell All You Know. Warrendale Sales consigned the colt as agent.

“I couldn’t be a bigger fan of Uncle Mo right now,” Young said. “The horse is a super individual, and I hope he’s brave and lucky. He’s a very nice horse.”

Tuesday’s session closed with 193 horses sold for $13,020,400, marking a decline of 14 percent from last year’s second day, when 248 horses sold for $15,191,200. The average saw a 10 percent gain from $61,255 to $67,463, while the median rose 17 percent, from $30,000 to $35,000.
The session’s buyback rate finished at 26 percent, even with last year’s comparable session.

Lane’s End was the session’s leading consignor by gross, with 22 horses sold for $2,432,000, including two of the top four prices. Leading the way for the consignment was Canadian champion Conquest Harlanate, who was purchased by Japanese-based Shimokobe Farm for $450,000. The 4-year-old filly will be bred to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and sent back to Japan to produce the ensuing foal.

De Meric Stables, as agent, was the leading buyer, with four purchases totaling $730,000. Florida-based bloodstock agent Nick de Meric’s most expensive purchase of the day was a $225,000 yearling Bernardini colt out of the multiple stakes-placed Empire Maker mare Flying Train.

Book 2 of the three-book Keeneland January sale kicks off on Wednesday, and the auction continues through Friday, beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.