11/02/2015 6:17PM

Keeneland November: Hard Not to Like tops strong opening session at $2.2M


The Keeneland November breeding stock sale got off to a flying start on Monday, as a pair of mares fetched seven-figure price tags within the first hour. And the session kept rolling. The auction’s opening session posted gains in all major economic categories from the 2014 opener.

Led by multiple Grade 1 winner Hard Not to Like at $2.2 million, a total of 136 horses sold on Monday for gross receipts of $45,094,000, an uptick of 9 percent from last year, with virtually the same number of horses, 135, sold for $41,398,000. The average price of $331,574 and the median of $202,500 were gains of 8 percent and 19 percent, respectively, from $306,652 and $170,000 in 2014.

The buyback rate of 30 percent was up from 25 percent in this session last year.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, noted that only one horse sold for more than $2 million on Monday compared to three during the opening session last year, then added, "The next level of the market obviously helped with both the median and the average.

"The range from about $400,000 up was very strong today for everything – broodmare prospects, mares in foal, foals themselves,” Russell said.

Seven horses sold for seven figures, the same number as during the 2014 opening session. For the second year in a row, Hard Not to Like created fireworks at the Keeneland November sale. She sold to Dattt Stable on Monday. The Hard Spun mare, who was scratched from Saturday's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, was consigned by Taylor Made Sales as agent for Speedway Stables. Speedway purchased her for $1.5 million at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.

"We’re looking for a nice filly to add to our broodmare band," said Gary Bush, who signed the ticket on behalf of Dattt. Bush said Hard Not to Like might race one more time, in the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 29.

Ontario-bred Hard Not to Like has won or placed in 10 stakes while bankrolling more than $1.2 million. She scored Grade 1 triumphs on three different turf courses, taking the 2014 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, 2015 Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita, and 2015 Diana Stakes at Saratoga. In the Diana, she established a course record while defeating eventual Breeders' Cup Mile winner Tepin. Also in that field was Stephanie's Kitten, who later won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Hard Not to Like is out of the stakes-winning Tactical Cat mare Like a Gem.

Bush said the competition for top mares is stiff.

“You got to pay a lot of money for those," he said. "No one wants to pay that, but that’s where it is at the top, and that’s where we’re shopping.”

Also fetching seven-figure price tags on Monday were Kentucky Oaks runner-up Shook Up, sold for $1.65 million to Three Chimneys; Canadian champion Spring in the Air, sold for $1.65 million to Nawara Stud; graded stakes winner Colonial Flag, sold for $1.6 million to Alpha Delta Stables; Comedy, dam of graded stakes winner Taris, sold for $1.5 million to Stonestreet Farm; Grade 1 winner Sunset Glow, sold for $1.375 million to Pursuit of Success; and Grade 1 winner Don't Tell Sophia, sold for $1.2 million to Katsumi Yoshida.

The session's top weanling was a $475,000 Medaglia d'Oro colt, purchased by Darley Stud Management from the consignment of Lane's End, as agent. The colt is the first foal out of Grade 1 Prioress Stakes winner Emma's Encore, by Congrats. He comes from the extended family of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Gainesway Farm stallion Tapit, North America’s reigning leading sire, dominated the session. He was the leading sire and covering sire by both gross and average. Shook Up is by Tapit, while Colonial Flag and Comedy both sold in foal to him.

The Keeneland November sale’s second and final Book 1 session begins on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern. The sale then continues with daily sessions beginning at 10 a.m. through Nov. 13.

For complete sale results, click here.