11/08/2016 6:23PM

Keeneland November: Breeding stock sale opens strong

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Secret Gesture sold for $3.5 million to Godolphin to lead a strong opening session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

The Keeneland November breeding stock sale started off at a blistering pace on Tuesday, with strong gains across the board led by the $3.5-million Galileo mare Secret Gesture.

Tuesday’s trade saw 115 horses sold for revenues of $50,155,000, up 11 percent from last year’s opening session when 136 horses brought $45,094,000.

The average sale price increased 32 percent to $436,130 from $331,574, while the median jumped 28 percent to $260,000 from $202,500. The buyback rate finished at 33 percent, up from 30 percent at the same point last year.

“I thought it was a very strong session with great international appeal,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “The foal market seemed to be very strong. We knew going in that we had a beautiful group of foals this year. It seems there is a dynamic change in the marketing of these horses between November now instead of [pointing for] September. They were well-rewarded today, and I look forward to tomorrow.”

Three horses sold for $2 million or more, compared to just one to do so in the opening session last year. Overall, 10 horses fetched seven-figure price tags – including five in the first hour of the session. The number of horses to bring $500,000 or more rose to 31 from 26.

“A couple of buyers told me today around lunchtime that they felt they had to stretch further to buy,” Russell said. “One buyer made the comment, ‘I have two choices – Either I stretch or I go home with nothing. I have to have product, so I’ve got to stretch.’ I think the quality of the catalog reflected that.”

John Ferguson, bloodstock adviser for Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum’s Godolphin operation, purchased Tuesday’s session-topper Secret Gesture for $3.5 million.

The multiple Group 1-placed daughter of international titan Galileo sold carrying her first foal, to the cover of internationally-popular commercial sire War Front. She was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm, as agent.

"She's a lovely mare and was an outstanding race filly in Europe from a beautiful family," Ferguson said after signing the ticket, adding that the mare would likely head to Europe. "From our point of view, she was a mare that could make the difference."

Secret Gesture was a Group 2 winner and multiple Group 1-placed in England, highlighted by a runner-up effort in the Epsom Oaks. She was also second in the German Oaks, and was Grade/Group 1 placed in both France and the U.S.

Bred in Great Britain by the partnership of Qatar Racing and Newsells Park Stud, Secret Gesture is a full sister to Group 3 winner Sir Isaac Newton and a half to Group 3 winner Maurus. They are out of the stakes-placed Danehill mare Sastye who is a full sister to Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sagamix.

"It's bittersweet, really,” said Julian Dollar of Newsells Park Stud. “It was a great price, and she's going to a great home. She's going to be mated well. We've got the mare [Shastye] and we've got a couple of sisters in training. There's a lot going on, but we've got something to keep at home and she was pretty special. It's sad to let those go, but it was a great price. You've got to be happy.”

Other leading prices of Tuesday’s session were Grade 1-winning filly Celestine, who will remain in training for 2017 after selling for $2.55 million to Moyglare Stud; and Grade 3 winner Tapicat, in foal to Pioneerof the Nile, sold for $2.2 million to Summer Wind Farm.

A colt by Pioneerof the Nile sold to R.C. Thoroughbreds for $600,000 to rank as the day's highest-priced weanling. 

Bred in Kentucky and consigned as agent by Three Chimneys Farm, the colt is out of the graded stakes-winning mare Dust and Diamonds - who followed him through the ring, carrying a full sibling, and sold for $1 million to Katsumi Yoshida. 
"The sire doesn't hurt," Chris Baker of Three Chimneys said. "All the things you can see are there - physically, he has scope, presence, athleticism, easy mover, a great mind. You saw what he did out there [in the ring], just standing there like, 'Is this about me?'"

WinStar Farm resident Pioneerof the Nile was the session’s top covering sire by gross, with six in-foal mares selling for a combined $5,810,000. The leading covering sire by average sale price, among those with three or more mares sold, was Gainesway’s Tapit, with three mares bringing an average of $1,225,000.

Three Chimneys Sales was the day’s top consignor by gross, selling 17 horses for $13,975,000. The Midway, Ky., operation was also the leading consignor by gross with three or more sold at $763,235.

Ferguson was the top buyer by gross with the lone purchase of the session-topper.

Book 1 of the Keeneland November sale concludes Wednesday, beginning at 11 a.m. Eastern. The auction then continues daily through Sunday, Nov. 20, starting at 10 a.m.

For complete sale results, click here.

-- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland November, session one results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2016 115 (-15%) $50,155,000 (+11%) $436,130 (+32%) $260,000 (+28%) 33%
2015 136 $45,094,000 $331,574 $202,500 30%