04/09/2012 8:11PM

Keeneland juvenile sale average even with last year; $700K topper

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Keeneland Photo
This colt by Majestic Warrior-Counter Cat topped the Keeneland 2-year-old in training sale at $700,000

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland’s April 2-year-old in training sale on Monday night posted figures that were even or slightly lower than last year despite weakness at the bottom of the market and a block of scratches that significantly reduced the numbers of horses that went through the ring.

With only 59 horses sold from an original catalog of 161 horses, average was $165,322, nearly identical with last year’s average of $165,200 for 70 horses sold. Median for this year’s sale of $120,000 was down 7.7 percent from last year’s median of $130,000.

Sixty-six horses were scratched from the sale, including 19 that were scratched late on Monday. Another 36 horses failed to meet the reserve set by their consignors, for a buyback rate of 38 percent, up 15 percent from the buyback rate of 33 percent last year.

The top price paid for a horse at the sale was $700,000, which is the highest price for a horse sold at the venue since 2009, when a horse called Take Control brought a final bid of $1.9 million. Another five horses were sold for $400,000 or more, and with such a small number of horses going through the ring, those purchases had an outsized effect on the average.

“It was fun at the top,” said Walt Robertson, Keeneland vice president of sales. “The top end couldn’t have been better.”

The Keeneland juvenile sale is the last of the four major select auctions for 2-year-olds in training held during the year. The previous three sales have all posted significant gains in average, signaling that demand is picking up for racehorse prospects at a time when purses in New York have been boosted considerably by slot-machine subsidies.

But it would be difficult to draw any conclusions from the Keeneland results, either good or bad, because of the small number of horses that went through the ring and the potential for the results to be skewed by pockets of strength and weakness. In fact, the sale was headed for significant declines with a little less than a third of the catalog left, but then four horses, including the sale topper, sold for $475,000 or more, sending the running average from less than $120,000 to above the $160,000 mark in a span of 30 minutes.

“It’s a pretty selective horse sale,” Robertson said. “That’s the world we live in right now.”

The $700,000 sales topper, a colt by Majestic Warrior out of the unraced Hennessy mare Counter Cat, worked an eighth in 10 seconds at Keeneland’s under-tack show on Thursday. John Moynihan made the winning bid on behalf of Barbara Banke and George Bolton, who have partnered on horses in the past. Banke is the widow of Jess Jackson; the two were co-owners of Stonestreet Stable, which Banke continues to operate.

Moynihan said he was most impressed by the colt’s fluid and powerful eighth-mile work on Thursday, and he said that the unknowns surrounding the colt’s sire probably worked to his clients’ benefit. The sire of the colt, Majestic Warrior, is a son of A.P. Indy, and his first foals are 2-year-olds this year.

“If an A.P. Indy worked like that, he would have brought a fortune,” Moynihan said.

The top-priced filly was a $475,000 daughter of Tapit out of the unraced Storm Cat mare Instant Coverage. She had worked an eighth-mile on Thursday in 10 seconds.