01/06/2014 8:38PM

Keeneland January: First session posts improved median

Keeneland photo
Life Happened, the dam of Vyjack and Tepin, sold for $750,000 to lead the opening session of the 2014 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

As temperatures struggled to rise above zero degrees Fahrenheit in Lexington, Ky., the opening session of the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale concluded on Monday with an improved middle market from the previous year, but less fireworks at the top.

Keeneland reported 232 horses sold for revenues of $13,714,900 on Monday, down 11 percent compared with the 2013 opening session total of $15,331,400 from 201 sold. The average sale price fell 22 percent, from $76,276 to $59,116.

While Monday’s session lacked a seven-figure horse to spike the gross and average, a significantly improved clearance rate helped push the median to $35,000, up 17 percent compared with $30,000 last year. The buyback rate fell from 34 percent to 24 percent.

“I think we’re having a very comparable sale, year-to-year,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “I thought today was very good from start to finish. There was good, competitive bidding on yearlings. The clearance rate was the big thing, and that was very positive.”

Life Happened, the dam of Grade 2 winner Vyjack and Grade 3 winner Tepin, sold for $750,000 to bloodstock agents Jason Litt and Alex Solis for owners LNJ Foxwoods to top Monday’s session.

The 13-year-old Stravinsky mare was consigned by Select Sales, agent. She was offered carrying a foal from the final crop of the late Harlan’s Holiday, whose standout runners include Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, the sire of Vyjack.

“You can breed [Life Happened] to anything and she’ll throw big and gorgeous,” said Carrie Brogden of Select Sales. “She’s uncomplicated. She throws runners. … Is it possible that the foal she’s carrying will bring the same price that she will today? Sure, if she throws what she always throws, absolutely. We bred her to Harlan’s Holiday, because I think I was one of his biggest fans. Each year, we bred five mares to him, and [his] last year, we bred five mares to him.”

Life Happened, who was unraced, is the dam of four winners from as many starters, led by Vyjack, who captured last year’s Grade 2 Jerome Stakes and Grade 3 Gotham Stakes and finished third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Life Happened is also the dam of full siblings Tepin, winner of last fall’s Grade 3 Delta Princess Stakes, and Grade 3-placed winner Prime Cut. Both horses are by Bernstein.

Litt said that Life Happened would remain in Kentucky to foal for her new owners LNJ Foxwoods, a husband, wife, and daughter operation whose current runners include stakes-placed winner Fleet of Gold.

“We bought her for a client that’s building up a broodmare band,” Litt said. “She seemed like a logical choice with pretty good runners – Vyjack, obviously – and the filly [Tepin] is very impressive. She’s a beautiful mare that’s in foal to the last crop of Harlan’s Holiday, so it’s pretty exciting.

“Honestly, I thought the price was really good value,” Litt added. “We really thought that she would bring a bit more, and honestly, I was just here in case, so we were very pleased. We really just threw up a couple bids and then it stopped. It was still a good amount of money, but at the end of the day, you don’t see that many mares that have this much kind of production record and with this much potential upside.”

A Kitten’s Joy colt was the highest-priced yearling of the session, selling to Philip Blake for $235,000.

The dark bay or brown colt is out of the Storm Cat mare Gata Bella, whose three winners from four foals to race include stakes winner Ha Ha Tonka. He is from the family of Grade 1 winner Capote Belle and Grade 3 winners Duluth and Real Courage. The Kentucky-bred colt was consigned by Castle Park Farm, agent.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the leading consignor by gross, with 49 horses sold totaling $2,585,000. The group was led by Grade 3-placed racing or broodmare prospect Heavenly Pride, who sold to Phyllis Wyeth’s Chadds Ford Stable for $290,000.

Solis and Litt were the day’s leading buyers, based solely on the $750,000 purchase of session-topper Life Happened for LNJ Foxwoods.

The Keeneland January sale continues on Tuesday with the second of four sessions, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, first session:

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2014 232 (+15%) $13,714,900 (-11%) $59,116 (-22%) $35,000 (+17%) 24%
2013 201 $15,331,400 $76,276 $30,000 34%