01/13/2017 5:58PM

Keeneland January: Mixed sale concludes with declines

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The broodmare Siren Serenade, in foal to leading sire Tapit, sold for $1.025 million to lead the Keeneland January sale.

The 2017 renewal of the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale saw a market potentially on the cusp of transition, posting a higher buyback rate and more than double the number of no-bids, paired with across-the-board declines.

The five-day auction moved 961 horses for revenues of $28,785,500, down 19 percent from last year’s sale, also a five-day event, when 1,040 horses sold for $35,463,000.

The average sale price declined 12 percent to $29,954 from $34,099, while the median dipped 5 percent to $10,500 from $11,000.

“I think this was a typical January sale catalog, lacking a dispersal,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “A dispersal is usually what raises the level of the January sale. The quality offerings that were here were very well-sold. From that aspect of it, I thought it was a successful sale.

“There was underlying concern that we have a lot of horses that aren’t meeting the marketplace,” he continued. “The market’s become very tight. People are looking for a very specific criteria, especially with breeding stock. If they don’t hit the criteria, they walk away. It’s not like they drop to the next level. When you’re outside that, it’s very tough.”

Perhaps most indicative of the rapidly-vanishing lower commercial market was the number of horses that failed to draw a bid. There were 37 no-bids during the 2016 January sale, and 85 this year.

The buyback rate rose to 31 percent after finishing at 25 percent last year.

Russell said this trend of tougher going in the lower levels, which has become more apparent at each Keeneland auction since last year’s September yearling sale, should be on the minds of breeders when evaluating their stock for the upcoming breeding season and planning the purposes of their matings.

“Just because you breed your horse does not necessarily mean it needs to come to a horse sale,” he said. “People need to understand there are certain horses that are sale horses and do very well, and there are certain horses that are aren’t commercial product, but can still race very successfully.

“You need to evaluate your horses and say, ‘These are the commercial horses that I will sell, and these ones probably won’t meet the market, so I’ll put them in training,’” Russell continued. “Most people don’t want to put them in training because it’s an expensive experience.”

At the top of the market, three horses sold for $500,000 or more, tying last year’s sale. But below that, the number of horses sold for $250,000 or more fell to 11 from 21, while six-figure purchases declined to 60 from 90.

The sale topper came in the first session, as Siren Serenade sold to Don Alberto Corp. for $1.025 million. The 11-year-old Unbridled’s Song mare was the only horse in the catalog offered in foal to leading sire Tapit. She is already the dam of three winners from four runners, highlighted by Grade 1-placed Luminance, by Tale of the Cat. Don Alberto also bought that filly for $1 million at last November’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale.

Luminance was the second seven-figure foal out of Siren Serenade, as her War Front filly Lady Mamba sold to Mayberry Farm for $1 million at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.

"She's a big, strong mare,” said Reiley McDonald, who signed the ticket for Chilean-based Don Alberto, which has a farm in Kentucky. “It's a lovely family. They already own part of that family, and are having good foals, so it was just a no-brainer for them. There was nothing like her at the sale and Don Alberto's playing at the highest end of the game. She was the perfect mare for them.”

Bred in Kentucky by Cynthia Phipps, Siren Serenade is out of the four-time Grade 1-winning Danzig mare Versailles Treaty, dam of 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver and Grade 2 winner Saarland. The extended family features Grade 1 winners General Assembly, Gold Fever, and Boisterous. Siren Serenade went winless in 10 starts, but placed in five of them, earning $49,217.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned the mare, as agent.

"It was a bit of an afterthought,” Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John G. Sikura said about the mare’s entry in the January sale. “I'm in the business to buy, sell, and trade, and the mare's produced really good foals, and this was the year to sell her or you were going to be owning her.

Among the auction’s other populations, the most expensive newly-turned yearling was a $385,000 Uncle Mo colt who sold to Ellen Charles’s Hillwood Stable.

Bred in Maryland by Nicewonder Stable, the March 10 colt is out of the winning Salt Lake mare Gone to Utah, whose six winners from as many runners include stakes winner Away We Go and stakes-placed runners Powder Mountain, Quiet Hour, and Gallivanting. Grade 1 winners Ogygian and Honour and Glory are in the extended family.

"He's just a really beautiful colt,” Charles said. “Rodney Jenkins trains for me and trains for this colt, so I know all of the family. Uncle Mo comes from my mother's breeding, so it was kind of all in the family. I've wanted an Uncle Mo and he seemed like the right one, so we'll see.”

Charles, a leading owner and Maryland and regular buyer at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic auctions in Timonium, Md., said she does not often shop at the Keeneland January mixed sale, but the Uncle Mo colt was a major attraction.

Kitty Taylor of consignor Warrendale Sales said the colt far exceeded her expectations, as well as the $150,000 reserve. Taylor said the mare colicked and had an obstructed labor while giving birth to the Uncle Mo colt, and had to be sent to New Bolton Center.

The colt’s difficult birth remained a long-lasting concern toward his marketability, even after he proved to be perfectly healthy.

“They put him in standing bandages because he was a little knock-kneed, and that's why he had the white hairs [on his legs]," Taylor said. "We were afraid it would turn people off, but it really didn't stop people because he was just so lovely and he moved so well. He was so sensible back here. He was just a really classy horse. 

"It's a small breeder from Virginia named Carolyn Beverly who only had this one horse to sell this year. I said, 'Let's come here instead of September when there's a ton of them.' I'm really glad to do it for someone like that."

Gainesway resident Tapit led the auction’s covering sires by gross, with the lone transaction of sale-topper Siren Serenade.

Liam’s Map was the top covering sire by average price, among those with three or more in-utero mares sold, with four mares bringing an average of $95,050. The resident of Lane’s End was represented by his first book of mares at the January sale.

Taylor Made Sales Agency finished as the auction’s leading consignor, with 100 horses sold for $4,740,800.

International Equities Holding, the breeding operation of Oussama Aboughazale, led all buyers with 11 purchases totaling $2,251,000.

The fifth and final session on Friday saw 171 horses sold for $1,306,500, down 27 percent from last year’s closing day when 197 horses brought $1,790,100. The average price dipped 16 percent to $7,640 from $9,087 while the median went unchanged at $5,000. The buyback rate finished at 32 percent, up from 28 percent.

Machmer Hall bought session-topping mare Singsong for $52,000.

The 4-year-old broodmare prospect by Unbridled’s Song won two of 10 starts for owners Tobey Morton and Douglas Arnold for earnings of $77,564. She was trained by John Kimmel, and made her last start on Nov. 12 at Aqueduct, finishing unplaced.

Bred in New York by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd., Singsong is out of the stakes-placed Forest Camp mare Church Camp, and hails from the family of multiple Grade 2 winner Middlesex Drive. Buck Pond Farm consigned Singsong, as agent.

The session’s top yearling was a first-crop Flashback filly who sold to Rockbridge Bloodstock for $32,000.

Bred in New York by Hidden Lake Farm, the filly is out of the placed Lord At War mare Boatman Road, and is a half-sister to stakes winner Belief System and Grade 3-placed Segal. Her extended page features Grade 2 winner Elite Squadron.

Mulholland Springs consigned the filly, as agent.

Kitten’s Joy of Ramsey Farm finished the session as the top covering sire by gross and average (three or more sold), with three mares bringing a combined $50,000 and an average of $16,667.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the day’s top consignor, with 28 horses sold for $275,600, while Machmer Hall topped the buyers with the lone purchase of the session-topper.

For complete sale results, click here.