01/05/2017 12:26PM

Keeneland January: Less star power, more substance

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Summer Solo tops the 2016 Keeneland January sale at $700,000.

The 2017 auction year kicks off with the Keeneland January sale of horses of all ages, but the trend of division in the mixed marketplace is not one that will change with a simple flip of the calendar page.

Throughout the previous year, buyers and sellers noted the cutthroat competition for elite offerings, and sparse prospects for anything less. The end result was often nominal year-to-year change in the overall figures, but the plunge from a noticeably strong middle market into the final books at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale was impossible to ignore.

With more focus on the rank and file in the January sale than in the November sale, the question facing the upcoming auction is how the market will react to substance over style.

“I think it should be a continuation of what we saw in November,” said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell. “There’s some very nice stock in the sale for January, and I think they will sell very well.”

The sale once again will comprise five days, this Monday through Friday, with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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This year’s catalog has 1,839 entries, up 5 percent from last year’s book, which had 1,796 horses on offer.

While the January sale does not ride the current of the Breeders’ Cup, which can fuel the top of the market at the November sale, nor does it have the bulk of its sister sale, Zach Madden of consignor Buckland Sales said the smaller pool can help boost the profiles of some entries that might have slipped through the cracks in earlier auctions.

“The middle market is real tough, and there’s going to be a lot of mares and yearlings that fall into that category here in January,” he said. “I just hope with there being fewer horses to absorb between January and November, there’s a little bit more interest in a mare or yearling that may just get passed over in November.

“It looks like a decent catalog, and I think just as always, being optimistic and resilient is the deal. It’s one of those things where you never know until you set up shop and get the ball rolling on shows.”

Russell agreed that the January sale has a certain kind of horse who benefits from forgoing the November sale.

“Broodmare prospects always seem to sell better, the kind of midmarket broodmare prospect,” he said. “Obviously, the Grade 1 stakes winner or champion always seems to sell better in November, but the middle, upper-middle broodmare prospects always seem to sell better in January than they do in November.”

Last January’s sale closed with 1,040 horses sold for $35,463,000, a 0.4 percent increase in gross from 2015. The average sale price of $34,099 was a 9 percent decline, while the median fell 31 percent to $11,000. The buyback rate went unchanged at 25 percent.

Virginia Kraft Payson bought the sale’s two most expensive horses, both half-sisters out of the dispersal of the estate of Sarah J. Leigh. Denali Stud handled the dispersal as agent.

Summer Solo, a Grade 1-placed Arch mare, sold in foal to Ghostzapper for a sale-topping $700,000. She was followed by half-sister Summer Sweet, an unraced 2-year-old More Than Ready filly who changed hands for $550,000. The filly was placed in training with Christophe Clement and has placed in one of three starts.

Payson also bought the one of the sale’s two most expensive short yearlings out of the Leigh dispersal, going to $450,000 to secure an Arch filly out of the Seeking the Gold mare Seeking Atlantis, whose progeny includes Grade 3-placed Seeking Her Glory.

Hips to watch

Hip No. 145, Siren Serenade, b. m., 2006, Unbridled’s Song-Versailles Treaty, by Danzig, consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent.

The dam of Grade 1-placed Luminance, she goes through the ring in foal to Tapit. Out of the four-time Grade 1 winner Versailles Treaty, Siren Serenade is a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver and Grade 2 winner Saarland.

Hip No. 309, Delightful Joy, ch. m., 2012, Tapit-Graeme Six, by Graeme Hall, consigned by Denali Stud, agent.

This Grade 3-winning broodmare prospect is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Cali Star.

Hip 350, Grosse Pointe Anne, dk. b. or br., 2007, Silver Deputy-Playa Maya, by Arch, consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent.

This half-sister to champion and hot sire Uncle Mo sells in foal to Pioneerof the Nile. Her first foal to race is the stakes-placed Indian Annie.

Hip 456, More Oats Please, ch. m., 2006, Smart Strike-Miss Yiayia, by Gilded Time, consigned by Kaizen Sales, agent.

The dam of Grade 1 winner Peace and War, who sold at last year’s Keeneland November sale for $1.45 million. She sells in foal to Medaglia d’Oro.

Hip No. 686, Chocolate Pop, gr. or ro. m., 2006, Cuvee-White Chocolate, by With Approval, consigned by Four Star Sales, agent.

Grade 2 winner Airoforce is the first foal to race out of this stakes-placed runner, who is in foal to Bernardini.