01/15/2016 7:20PM

Keeneland January produces mixed results


The Keeneland January horses of all ages sale closed Friday with declines in average and median, but a slight bump in gross, led by a trio of high-profile purchases by prominent owner and breeder Virginia Kraft Payson.

A total of 1,040 horses sold over five sessions for revenues of $35,463,000, up 0.45 percent from last year’s final gross of $35,305,500 from 948 horses sold over four days.

The average sale price fell 8 percent from $37,242 to $34,099, while the median of $11,000 marked a 31 percent decline from last year’s sale. The buyback rate went unchanged at 25 percent.

“When you talk about mixed sales from year to year, the difference between this year and last year is the $2 million mare,” said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell, referencing the $2.2 million Galileo mare Up, who topped the 2015 auction. “That’s what the difference in the bottom line is. The number of horses [in the sale] might have an effect on the median, too. This market is a good market, but it’s not a wonderful market. “

No horses eclipsed the seven-figure price point in 2016, trailing the single offering to do so during the previous renewal. Nine offerings brought $400,000 or more, bettering the four at that level last year. At the next level down, the number of six-figure horses grew from 80 to 90.

“The upper-middle market was very strong,” Russell said. “At the top, we didn’t have the mare in foal to Tapit [Yearly Report, a scratch], and the mare in foal to War Front [Peace Burg] had her darling little War Front filly. We were missing those two, but the next level down was very, very strong.

“It’s also a level a lot of people have comfort in, too,” Russell continued. “They feel that they get a good return.”

The auction’s top two lots were a pair of half-sisters sold during Monday’s opening session, with Payson buying the $700,000 broodmare Summer Solo and the $550,000 racing or broodmare prospect Summer Sweet as back-to-back lots.

Earlier in the day, she bought the sale’s co-highest-priced yearling, a $450,000 Arch filly. All three were consigned by Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud as agent for the partial dispersal of the Estate of Sarah J. Leigh, who died in August.

Sarah Leigh, a prominent theatrical agent, grew up at her father Gerald Walter Leigh's Eydon Hall in England. Following his death, she continued the bloodstock business. Eydon Hall has been responsible for European Horse of the Year Barathea, European champion and classic winner Bosra Sham, and classic winner Gossamer.

Payson said after the transactions that she had raced against the Leigh Family’s stable for years, and found the prospect of buying into the breeding program to be a major attraction.

Summer Solo, trained by Christophe Clement for Leigh, won the first three starts of her career, all on the New York circuit. She suffered her only loss when third, beaten just over three lengths, in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational. The mare is now carrying her first foal, by Ghostzapper.

“The legs on the mare were thick and short, short cannon bones, and they were absolutely beautiful,” Payson said. “I wrote ‘buy’ in the catalog.”

Payson said after the purchase that Summer Solo would be sent to Stone Farm in Paris, Ky., to have her foal.

Summer Sweet, a 2-year-old by More Than Ready, immediately followed her older half-sister through the ring. She will be sent to the barn of Christophe Clement to begin training for her on-track career.

“I was sort of iffy about the More Than Ready [filly] because he’s not very tall, and my broodmare band is all short, but they’ve won a lot,” Payson said. “I don’t mind small, but when you sell out of small, buyers don’t like them. They like big, but I prefer the small ones.”

Summer Solo and Summer Sweet are out of the Caerleon mare Summer Solstice, a stakes winner in France and the dam of stakes winners Summer Breezing and Adirondack Summer. The second dam is stakes placed Summer Sonnet, dam of multiple Group 1 winner Act One, as well as Group 1-placed Summer Symphony and Gharir.

Leading the yearling contingent were a War Front colt and an Arch filly who each sold for $450,000 during the opening session.

The War Front colt, a May foal, sold to Cromwell Bloodstock out of the consignment of Greenfield Farm, as agent. The colt is out of the unraced Unbridled's Song mare Exogenetic, whose five winners from six starters are led by Grade 3 winner Super Ninety Nine and stakes winner Elusive Horizon. 

Exogenetic is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Exogenous, who was by Unbridled, the sire of Unbridled's Song. It is the extended family of champion Countess Diana, and of Grade 2 winner Barbarika, second dam of champion Curlin.

Gatewood Bell of Cromwell Bloodstock said the decision would be made to race or resell the colt at a later time, but the hammer price on Monday probably forced the new owner's hand toward sending him to the track.

“He’s got a lovely profile and is going to grow into a nice horse, I think,” Bell said. “He’s a May foal. A nice walk to him. I love May foals. Usually you get a little discount, but I don’t think we did with that one. Time will tell.”

The colt was one of two horses sold to close out the dispersal of the late Jerre Paxton’s Northwest Farms. The official dispersal took place in two phases during the Keeneland September yearling sale and Keeneland November breeding stock sale, with the horses sold in January having been previously scratched.

“I thought it was just a hair better than I expected,” said Bruce Gibbs of Greenfield Farm. “The colt had some minor X-ray issues. He’s a very young horse, being a May 6 foal, and he had a very good chance to outgrow them. Otherwise, there was nothing wrong with the horse.

“He was a shade sick in November right before the sale, so I scratched him and came here. All things considered, he got nine scopes, so the X-ray issues were acceptable. It’s a risk factor, but I believe people will take a risk on the conformation of the horse and the family.”

The Arch filly purchased by Payson from the Leigh dispersal is out of the unraced Seeking the Gold mare Seeking Atlantis, dam of two winners from as many starters, led by Grade 3-placed Seeking Her Glory. The filly will also be sent to Stone Farm to continue her development.

Immediately prior to the filly's sale, Seeking Atlantis sold for $300,000 to Castleton Lyons. Seeking Atlantis, out of multiple graded stakes winner Atlantic Ocean, is a half-sister to stakes-placed Golden Galleon and Converge.

“I knew the filly was going to sell well,” Craig Bandoroff said. “It’s a very strong price, but it’s a testament to Sarah Jane. She bought Seeking Atlantis from the [Edward P. Evans dispersal of 2011], and said this was one she could build on and have as a foundation mare. Unfortunately, she wasn’t here to carry it through.”

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the auction’s leading consignor by gross, with 92 horses sold for $4,359,500. Topping the consignment was Bahnah, a Grade 3-winning Elusive Quality mare who sold as a racing or broodmare prospect to Brookdale, agent, for $285,000.

Payson's Payson Stud was the sale’s leading buyer, with two purchases totaling $1.25 million. She also bought one horse under her own name for $450,000, bringing her purchases to a total of $1.7 million.

In the yearling market, Ashford Stud resident Uncle Mo was the auction’s leading sire by gross, with nine sold for $1,012,000. The late Ashford stallion Scat Daddy was the leading sire of yearlings by average, with four horses sold for an average price of $168,000.

“The yearling market was very strong, continued on from November,” Russell said. “It was probably the start of a trend of more end-users being here buying foals and short yearlings. That adds more competition for the pinhookers. Some of the pinhookers made a comment that they had to stretch a little further on the nicer ones.”

Friday’s fifth and final session saw 197 horses sold for $1,790,100. The average sale price was $9,087, while the median price was $5,000. The buyback rate closed at 28 percent.

The session-topper came in the auction’s final offering, when Barry Eisaman’s Eico Ventures purchased a newly turned 2-year-old Uncle Mo colt as a racing or stallion prospect for $80,000.

Bred in Kentucky by Eric DelValle, the gray or roan colt is the first foal out of the Panamanian champion Cashel Castle mare Amor de Palacio. Donato Lanni signed the ticket on the colt as agent.

"He's by Uncle Mo -- ever heard of him?" Lanni joked, referencing the record-setting leading freshman sire of 2015. "He was nice enough horse, a strong horse. You usually don't buy 2-year-olds in January, but he was just a nice horse."

The colt was consigned by Jim and Pam Robinson's Brandywine Farm, as agent for the dispersal of the estate of Eric A. Delvalle. His extended family includes Grade 3 winners Boomzeeboom and Harlem Rocker, as well as Panamanian champion Monjust.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the session’s top consignor by gross with 23 horses sold for $389,100, including two of the day’s top three offerings. Strapping Groom, a Grade 1-winning stallion prospect by Johannesburg, was the consignment’s highest-priced representative, selling to Haras Cerro Punta in Panama for $75,000.

Wombat Bloodstock was Friday’s leading buyer, with two purchases totaling $83,000. The most expensive of the pair was Aliquippa, a $58,000 Yes It’s True mare who sold as a racing or broodmare prospect.