01/11/2018 7:24PM

Keeneland January concludes with gains as market momentum continues

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A colt by American Pharoah sold for $1 million as the Keeneland January sale had multiple seven-figure horses for the first time since 2013.

The uptick in the North American mixed auction market seen in the latter part of 2017 proved it could carry into 2018, especially in the upper markets, as a pair of seven-figure horses helped drive considerable improvements in final returns for the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

The four-day auction concluded on Thursday with 909 horses sold for revenues of $34,996,000, a gain of 22 percent compared with last year’s five-day sale when 961 horses were moved for $28,785,500. The gross surpassed last year’s final total early in the third session. 

This year’s average sale price closed at $38,499, up 29 percent from $29,954. The median finished at $12,000, marking a 14 percent improvement from $10,500.

Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales, said one of the goals for the January auction was to bring down the buyback rate, and those returns proved successful, especially in the later sessions. The final figure sat at 26 percent, down from 31 percent in 2017.

“[The sellers are] smart people,” Elliston said. “They’re tailoring their offerings to the marketplace. They’re bringing product they think will sell in this marketplace, and they’re getting it right. They’re getting offerings and reserves at the right price, where they believe the January sale is.

“Quantity isn’t necessarily our guidepost anymore,” Elliston continued. “Yes, we’d like to have as many offerings as we can, but we really want to see commerce getting done. Even though we had a few hundred hips fewer in our catalog, to sell this number of horses and to get this clearance rate up suggests that we, in partnership with our consignors and breeders, are getting the right kind of offerings to this market.”

Two horses hit the seven-figure mark during the 2018 sale, marking the first time the January auction featured multiple transactions at that level since 2013, when three horses hammered for $1 million or more.

Horses sold for $400,000 or more rose from five to six, while horses to meet or exceed the $250,000 price point grew from 11 to 20. Total six-figure sales rose to 90 from 60.

The auction’s biggest price came from the last offering of Book 1, when bloodstock agent Steven Young bought Grade 2 winner Mrs McDougal for $1.6 million on behalf of an undisclosed client. She was the most expensive horse sold at the Keeneland January sale since Irish Group 2 winner Up sold for $2.2 million at the 2015 renewal.

The 6-year-old broodmare prospect by Medaglia d'Oro won 5 of 15 starts during her on-track career, highlighted by wins in the Grade 2 Lake George Stakes at Saratoga in 2015 and the Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont and the listed Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct in 2016. Her three other stakes placings were highlighted by a third-place effort in the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes at Belmont in 2016. 
Mrs McDougal, who was originally trained by Chad Brown for Mr. and Mrs. William Warren, was privately sold following her stakes successes, and raced last year for 2 TY LLC and trainer Richard Mandella. Returning from a 10-month layoff, she placed once in four stakes starts. 

“She is a terrific filly who earlier in her career was arguably the best 3-year-old filly in America when she won at Saratoga,” Young said. “She trained tremendous on the dirt for Mandella after he got her, and I think she’s got unlimited potential as a broodmare.”

Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Mrs McDougal is the lone winner from four starters out of the Distorted Humor mare Distorted Passion, a Grade 2-placed multiple stakes winner. Distorted Passion, out of stakes winner Arianna's Passion, is a full sister to Grade 2 winner Warbling.

Eaton Sales consigned Mrs McDougal, as agent.

Mrs McDougal was offered as a supplemental entry to the Keeneland January catalog. Late additions are a rarity at Keeneland’s sales. Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales operations, said the mare’s resume made her a welcome addition, and the hammer price justified the decision.

“It’s a feel thing,” he said. “We look for graded stakes horses. It’s kind of a thing in the auction market at the moment – wild cards, supplemental entries, whatever you want to call them. This time of year, with our November sale ending, and then the January sale, you can get lucky and get a mare like that. When Reiley [McDonald of Eaton Sales], called and asked if we could get her in, I was happy to accommodate.”

The sale’s top newly-turned yearling went to M.V. Magnier of the Coolmore partnership, who bid by proxy on an American Pharoah colt and landed him at $1 million.

He was the third-most expensive yearling colt, and the sixth-highest-priced yearling overall, in Keeneland January history. He became the second seven-figure foal from American Pharoah’s first crop, after a weanling filly out of Untouched Talent sold to Narvick International for a record-tying $1 million at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale.

The gray or roan colt is out of the stakes-winning Holy Bull mare Mekko Hokte, whose five winners from six runners include Irish Group 1 winner Caravaggio and Grade 2 winner My Jen. The extended family includes Grade 3 winner Sharp Performance.

“American Pharoah doesn't need any explaining, and Aidan O'Brien always believed Caravaggio to be the best sprinter he ever trained, so when our team considered this colt the best individual in the sale, it was an easy decision for us to make," Magnier, who is attending the Magic Millions sales in Australia this week, said in a statement distributed to the press.

Magnier added that a decision on where to train and campaign the new purchase would be made at a later time.

The seven-figure colt was bred in Kentucky by the Windmill Manor Farm of Richard Imbert and the Petaluma Bloodstock of Charlie O'Connor, Coolmore America's director of sales and Imbert's son-in-law. Coolmore also raced and stands Caravaggio, and the global operation stands American Pharoah at its Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky. Coolmore’s Richard Henry signed the ticket in Keeneland’s back ring on Tuesday.

Paramount Sales consigned the colt, as agent for the breeders.

"There's not a better pedigree in the book,” said Gabriel Duignan of Paramount Sales.“We all know who Caravaggio is, we all know who his dad is. It was good, spirited bidding. I think David Ingordo was right under it. It was a fair price."

Union Rags of Lane’s End finished the sale as the leading covering sire by gross, with three pregnant mares sold for $730,000. He was also the top covering sire by average price among those with three or more mares sold, at $243,333. The stallion’s most expensive offering in that category was Charm City Girl, by Pioneerof the Nile, who sold to Larkin Armstrong, as agent, for $350,000.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the auction’s leading consignor by gross for the 16th time since 2001, with 77 horses sold for a combined $3,455,700. Leading the way was Motown Lady, a Grade 1-placed racing or broodmare prospect by Uncle Mo who went to Town and Country Horse Farms for $340,000.

Young was the sale’s top buyer, with two purchases totaling $2,085,000.

Thursday’s closing session finished with 258 horses sold for $3,251,300, up 31 percent from last year’s fourth and penultimate session when 209 horses brought $2,489,600. The average sale price was up 6 percent to $12,602 from $11,912, the median rose 20 percent to $6,000 from $5,000, and the buyback rate closed at 19 percent compared with 24 percent during last year’s comparable day of trade.

The session failed to produce a six-figure offering, after last year’s fourth session saw one cross that threshold. However, purchases of $50,000 or more rose to 12 from 11.

A pair of horses tied for the session’s highest price, each bringing $80,000.

Marc Detampel, a Chicago-based owner who primarily campaigns in Louisiana and Florida, bought Mr. Classical, a 4-year-old Bernardini colt who previously raced as a homebred for Juddmonte.

The bay colt raced twice for trainer Brown, finishing third in his debut last June at Belmont Park, then fourth in a Saratoga maiden special weight.

“He showed a lot of talent with Chad Brown in his first couple of starts, and Garrett [O’Rourke, manager of Juddmonte’s U.S. operation] gave him a good recommendation,” said Fergus Galvin, who signed the ticket as agent for Detampel.“He’s going to go to Brendan Walsh at the Fair Grounds. Hopefully it won’t take a couple months to get him back into racing condition, but he certainly has a really good form to build on for next year.”

Mr Classical is out of the winning Empire Maker mare Solo Piano, whose two winners from three runners includes Grade 3-placed Purser. His second dam is the 2001 Kentucky Oaks winner Flute, who is the pivot point for runners including Grade 1 winner Weep No More and Grade 2 winner Filimbi.

Mill Ridge Sales consigned Mr Classical as agent for the Juddmonte operation.

Tying for the session lead was Tabulation, an 8-year-old broodmare by Giant’s Causeway who sold pregnant by Mineshaft to the Chu family’s Baoma Corp.

The chestnut mare is the dam of one starter, who raced once last year as a juvenile.

Bred in Kentucky by Mt. Brilliant Farm and Ranch, Tabulation is out of the stakes-winning Afleet mare The Administrator, whose five winners from eight runners includes 2011 Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro, Grade 3 winner Saint Marden, and Grade 2-placed Sweet Lips. The extended page includes Japanese champion Goshawk Ken and Peruvian champion Gautier.

Tabulation went unplaced in two career starts for owner Besilu Stables and trainer Edward Plesa, Jr.

Gainesway consigned the mare, as agent.

Thursday’s top yearling was a first-crop Competitive Edge colt who sold to Conrad Farms for $70,000.

The dark bay or brown colt is out of the stakes-placed Rock Hard Ten mare Katie’s Ten, whose first foal to race is a winner. English Group 1 winner Lumiere and Group 2 winner Sensation can be found further down the page.

Kerby Chua bred the colt in Kentucky, and he was consigned by Lane’s End, as agent.

Lane’s End was the final session’s leading consignor, with 35 horses sold for $663,400, led by the day’s most expensive yearling.

Baoma Corp., with Donato Lanni acting as agent, was the day’s top buyer, with two purchases totaling $152,000.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

-- additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland January results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2018 909 (-5%) $34,996,000 (+22%) $38,499 (+29%) $12,000 (+14%) 26%
2017 961 $28,785,500 $29,954 $10,500 31%

Keeneland January top prices

Price Horse Buyer Consignor
$1,600,000 Mrs McDougal (broodmare prospect by Medaglia d'Oro - Distorted Passion, by Distorted Humor) Steven Young, agent Eaton Sales, agent
$1,000,000 colt by American Pharoah - Mekko Hokte, by Holy Bull M.V. Magnier Paramount Sales, agent
$485,000 Bellavais (racing/broodmare prospect by Tapit - La Cloche, by Ghostzapper) Steven Young, agent Darby Dan Farm
$450,000 Banree (broodmare prospect by Macho Uno - Grand Glory, by Distorted Humor) Andre Lynch, agent Eaton Sales, agent
$425,000 Spring Eclipse (broodmare by Unbridled's Song - Coragil, by Metfield), in foal to Gemologist Green Leaf Farm Shawhan Place, agent