01/04/2013 2:17PM

Keeneland January sale features larger catalog, Fares Farm dispersal

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Michael Burns
Embur's Song, a champion mare in Canada, is among the offerings at the Keeneland January sale.

On the heels of a November mixed sale season that saw gains in the open market, the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale will try to carry that momentum into 2013 with the help of the high-profile Fares Farm dispersal. The sale will be held Monday through Friday, with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

This January sale features a catalog 19 percent larger than last year, with 1,893 offerings. To account for the additional entries, Keeneland expanded the auction from four days to five.

While the growth in hip numbers goes against the recent trend of smaller catalogs at the major sales, Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, said the increase wasn’t as much a reflection of the market as it was of the horses that were available at the time.

“January is January,” Russell said. “You never know how many days are going to be in the January sale. The January sale always seems to attract more racemares and horses off the racetrack, so we probably just had more of them this year.”

John Stuart of Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services said the January sale also serves as an ideal landing point for horses who might not have been ready for the auction ring in November.

“Sometimes it’s tricky to time your horses into the November sale,” Stuart said, “whether you have your ducks in line, your plans aren’t quite set, or the horse isn’t physically ready.”

One of the biggest attractions of this year’s sale will be the dispersal of Issam Fares’s Fares Farm, the operation that bred two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

The Lexington, Ky.-based farm has 80 horses cataloged, including two half-sisters to Curlin: Deputy Saint, a 6-year-old mare by Saint Liam who sells in foal to Lemon Drop Kid, and a yearling filly by Distorted Humor, who was the final foal out of dam Sherriff’s Deputy. Other notable offerings in the dispersal include Canadian champion Embur’s Song and Deputy’s Delight, dam of Canadian champion Delightful Mary and Grade 2 winner Delightful Kiss.

“I think that’s a very good drawing card,” Russell said. “It’s a nice group of young mares. There’s a champion involved in it, they’re very well covered, and the yearlings are by very good commercial stallions.”

Five days before the sale started, Congress approved a bill to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, effectively raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest citizens, among one of its measures. The residual effect could leave some potential buyers reconsidering how much they want to spend as the full effects of the bill have yet to be determined.

However, Stuart said an increase in taxes for the upper class could end up being a boon for the auction market, as buyers could covet the tax deductions that come with Thoroughbred ownership.

“We might not have the same accelerated depreciation schedules, which were really nice, but it looks like largely, the deductions are going to remain,” Stuart said. “The deductions almost become more important. You want to continue to invest in your business so you don’t have to pay big taxes on big profits. People are probably going to want to continue investing in the horses, because they get nice deductions from it.

“I think they’re going to realize that there are a lot of tax benefits to participating in the horse business, and they’re going to start taking advantage of them more and more. If the rates are going to go up, they’re going to look for ways to invest instead of pay taxes.”