11/18/2017 3:52PM

Keeneland November: Middle market propels gains in average, median

Keeneland photo
Champion Stellar Wind sold for $6 million to lead all horses at the marathon Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

The 2017 edition of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale faced its share of challenges – the late scratch of co-headliner Lady Eli, fewer horses offered in the elite Book 1 portion, the lack of a high-profile dispersal, and a soft lower-end market, to name a few – but an increasingly strong middle market propelled overall gains in average and median sale prices at the close of the marathon sale.

The 12-day auction finished with 2,309 horses sold for revenues of $202,021,700, down 6 percent from last year’s 13-day sale when 2,653 horses brought $215,213,000. Individual highlights included the $6-million sale of champion Stellar Wind as a broodmare prospect, a $1-million weanling half brother to Grade 1 winner and popular young sire Violence, and the debut crop of weanlings from Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

This year’s cumulative average closed at $83,342, up 3 percent from $81,121 in 2016. The median finished with a 22 percent boost to $30,500 from $25,000, making it the third-highest return in the auction’s history.

The median sale price was on pace to tie with the Keeneland November record of $35,000 at the close of the second-to-last day of trade, but only two horses even matched that price point during the 12th and final session, bringing the number down by the final click.

“Generally speaking, it’s been a strong auction market in the U.S. and internationally, and I think that continued in November,” Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales, said. “We saw strong buying across the board – at the top, the middle, and even as it moved into the lower end.

“We had fewer horses, 12 sessions vs. 13,” he continued. “Ideally, I think we’d have liked to have had some more horses up front [in the earlier books], but that happens. You’re reliant on those that are brought to market, but those that did sell up front were strong.”

The buyback rate finished at 25 percent, which was an improvement over last year’s final figure of 27 percent. That result was especially noteworthy considering the 2016 auction featured the dispersal of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables, which put 100 horses through the ring without reserve.

“Our breeders and the consignors put reasonable reserves on their horses, but then they got blown through,” Elliston said. “A horse that might have a $59,000 reserve was selling for $145,000. That was happening quite frequently, and it just showed how many different people were on those horses. That’s what creates the growth in the middle market, you’ve got enough people with the wherewithal to go after them, and you’ve got the stock.”

Confirming those comments, buyers echoed that they found bidding competitive, with hammer prices reaching above predictions.

"Good stock, anything worth anything good, is just a fight," bloodstock agent Chris Brothers said. "You're going 20, 30 percent over what you would have liked to have spent."

At the top of the market, 18 horses changed hands for seven figures, one less than the previous year. The number of horses sold for $500,000 or more shrunk to 52 from 74, while horses to cross the $250,000 threshold dropped to 172 from 192. Total six-figure purchases rose to 529 from 519.

Evidencing the middle market, there was strong demand in both the Book 2 and Book 3 portions of the auction, including an improved buyback rate in both segments. Book 2 improved its gross 14 percent from 2016, its average 9 percent, and its median 18 percent. Book 3 showed significant growth, with the gross rising 25 percent and average up 12 percent during its two days. Book 3's closing session posted particularly strong figures, with the session-to-session gross from 2016 soaring 47 percent and the average and median spiking 29 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Stellar Wind tops sale

When the Keeneland November catalog was released, it was highlighted by a pair of tentpole racing/broodmare prospects – champion Stellar Wind and multiple Grade 1 winner Lady Eli. The latter was scratched two days prior to the auction after coming out of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf with lacerations on her hind legs.

Stellar Wind was left in a class all her own on the marquee, and lived up to the billing, selling to the Coolmore partnership for $6 million.

The mare will be bred to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who is based at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky, for her first season as a broodmare. The young stallion’s first foals are weanlings of 2017.

"We came out here early before the Breeders' Cup and got a look at a lot of the American Pharoah foals,” M.V. Magnier, who signed the ticket for Coolmore, said. “They've really impressed us. The reaction to them has been quite amazing. Speaking to all the lads, we're going to send her to American Pharoah."

The transaction tied Stellar Wind for the fifth-highest price in history among broodmare prospects sold at North American public auction who have never carried a foal, including horses in training offered as racing or broodmare prospects. Her price matched champion Take Charge Brandi, who sold to Hill 'n' Dale Farm at the 2015 Keeneland November sale. Stellar Wind and Take Charge Brandi are also tied for the third-highest price among broodmare prospects in Keeneland November history.

Stellar Wind finished her on-track career with 10 wins in 16 starts for earnings of $2,253,200. She scored six Grade 1 victories, taking the Apple Blossom Handicap, Santa Anita Oaks, Beholder Mile, Zenyatta Stakes, and two editions of the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes. She finished second in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Distaff, and was named champion 3-year-old filly that season.

The mare was flown in from California after finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Del Mar, her lone defeat of the season.

John Sadler, who was in attendance for the sale, trained Stellar Wind for owner Hronis Racing. Lane's End consigned her, as agent.

"We had her for three years, and we loved her,” the trainer said. “She was so great for us. She gave a lot of great thrills winning a lot of Grade 1s. We're going to miss her a lot, but we're happy to get such a good result and see her go to such nice people.

"I just came in to kind of finish the circle,” Sadler said of his trip to the sale. “I gave her mints this morning, she loves peppermints, so we're sending her off with a bag of fresh peppermints, and I'll go off to California to work on the next one." 

Bred in Virginia by Keswick Stables and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Stellar Wind is the lone runner out of the winning Malibu Moon mare Evening Star, from the immediate family of Grade 1 winners Mor Spirit and Great Hunter. She shares an extended family with champion Tepin - who Coolmore purchased for $8 million across town at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale one day prior.

Weanling market

Expectations were high for the weanling market at this year’s auction, combining the excitement of a strong class of first-year stallions with a successful Keeneland September yearling sale for pinhookers earlier this year, and the results did not disappoint.

The weanling portion of the catalog produced revenues of $61,342,100 from 884 youngsters sold, marking a 10 percent increase from last year, when 861 horses brought $55,833,900. It was the eighth-highest weanling gross in Keeneland November history.

The weanling average finished at its third-highest point in sale history, rising 7 percent to $69,392 from $64,848. The median price of $37,000 was a 32 percent improvement from $28,000.

"The weanling market for the good ones and the horses that are clean is outrageously high,” Reiley McDonald of consignor Eaton Sales said. “It bodes well for the Thoroughbred market right now, and hopefully for the weanling sales here next year.”

A half brother to Grade 1 winner and second-leading freshman sire Violence sold to Andre Lynch, acting as agent for an unnamed partnership, for $1 million to lead the weanling draft.

The Curlin colt is out of the winning Gone West mare Violent Beauty, whose three foals to race are all winners. His third dam is the champion Sky Beauty, with an extended family that includes champions Dayjur, Gold Beauty, and Quasar, Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home, and Grade 1 winners Maplejinsky, Pine Island, Point of Entry, and Tale of Ekati

“We’ll race him,” Lynch said. “He was the best foal of the sale, a great mover, he had everything. We loved his pedigree. We hope he runs.”

The colt was bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Dell Ridge Farm and John G. Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale. The latter consigned the colt, as agent.

Furthering the ties to Sikura’s operation, Violence stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale, as does Curlin, who relocated to the farm for the 2016 breeding season. The stallion was represented by both Keeneland November’s top mare and top weanling to finish as the sale’s leading sire by gross.  

“Curlin’s had a fantastic year,” Sikura said. “That’s the kind of money those horses make. I thought he’d make more, but I’m very pleased. I’m thrilled that we sold another million-dollar foal.

“He’s the kind of horse that, with any racing ability, has a huge upside [as a stallion prospect],” Sikura continued. “It’s a lot of money, but I think he had great value. He’s a magnificent horse.”

The colt became the most expensive foal out of Violent Beauty to sell at public auction, surpassing Wild Mint, who sold as a weanling for $850,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.

American Pharoah highlights strong first-crop weanling class

For the first time in nearly four decades, the debut crop of weanlings by a Triple Crown-winning stallion was offered during Kentucky’s fall sale season, and the reception of American Pharoah’s first foals lived up to the anticipation.

American Pharoah, a son of Pioneerof the Nile, was the auction’s leading first-crop weanling sire by both gross and average, with five horses bringing a combined $2,080,000 and an average price of $416,000, more than double the next-closest average for a newcomer.

The Triple Crown winner put through the sale’s fourth-most expensive weanling, a colt out of the Grade 3-placed stakes-winning Harlan’s Holiday mare J Z Warrior, who sold to Scott and Evan Dilworth for $575,000. Eaton consigned the colt, as agent.

"There would have been some premium if it had been some plain old, average American Pharoah just walking through here, but there's not an average one in the bunch,” McDonald said. “They have their daddy's shoulder, length, scope, and apparently, from the little I've seen in my barn, and what I've heard talking amongst friends, they've got his temperament.”

Even without a newcomer as buzzed-about as American Pharoah, the class of first-year stallions was an overall stout group.

Honor Code, a resident of Lane’s End, was the auction’s second-leading first-year stallion by average, at $179,375. Fellow Lane’s End resident Liam’s Map was third at $146,818, while Carpe Diem of WinStar Farm was fourth at $120,824. Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm’s Bayern finished the top five at $103,000.

Rounding out the top ten were Summer Front ($100,667), Lea ($93,538), Daredevil ($90,300), Tonalist ($88,500), and Tapiture ($87,208). Commissioner, a member of the WinStar Farm roster, sold the most weanlings of the first-year stallions, with 20 foals bringing a combined $535,500.

You’re to Blame leads racing-age offerings

The horses of racing age market has been steadily growing in prominence at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The segment hit a high note last year, with multiple stakes winner Uptown Twirl fetching a seven-figure price tag; Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Diversify and graded stakes winner Honorable Duty emerging from the graduates; and the Conquest Stables dispersal fueling strong figures.

The most expensive offering of the group this year was Grade 3 placed You're to Blame, who sold to bloodstock agent Steven Young for $440,000. He declined to name a buyer, but said the colt would go to trainer Todd Pletcher. 

You're to Blame, a 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt previously trained by Mike Maker, won twice from his first five career starts. He has competed creditably in stakes company both sprinting and routing this year, pushing his career earnings to $189,325.

The colt finished third in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes, beaten a neck for second; fourth in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile, beaten a head for third, on the Kentucky Derby undercard; second in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont undercard; and fourth in the Curlin Stakes in July. He was most recently second in an allowance-optional event Sept. 15 at Belmont. 

Young said that how well the young horse stood up to that campaign, and his upside potential on the track, were major factors in the purchase. 

"He's in very good shape," Young said. "For a horse that's 3, turning 4, he's got a lot of blue sky to him. I'm taken aback a little bit how well he vetted for a horse that's 3 turning 4. I think that's a horse who's got a chance to build on what he's done." 

You're to Blame, who was consigned by Lane's End, as agent, is the lone winner out of the Grade 1-placed stakes-winning Malibu Moon mare Bon Jovi Girl. The mare is a half sister to three other stakes horses, including champion Gio Ponti. 

As You're to Blame stood in the ring, activity was snappy, with bid-spotters shouting from several different places in the ring until the $350,000 point, at which point Young slugged it out against one underbidder. 

"This is a sale we've done good out of," said Young, who last year landed Grade 3-placed Conquest Babayaga out of the same session. "I can only speak for myself - I've done awful good out of this sale." 


Medaglia d’Oro, a resident of Darley America, was the auction’s top covering sire by gross, with nine pregnant mares sold for $7,910,000. The most expensive offering in that group was Street Fancy, a Grade 1-winning Street Sense mare who sold to Bridlewood Farm for $1.5 million.

Gainesway’s Tapit was the sale’s leading covering sire by average among those with three or mares sold, with three mares averaging $895,000. It was Tapit’s second year at the top of the list, after previously hitting the mark in 2015. His group was led by Oscar Party, a Grade 2-placed stakes-winning Dixie Union mare who went to Alpha Delta Stables for $1.9 million.

Taylor Made Sales Agency finished as the auction’s leading consignor by gross for the 19th time since 1992, with 224 horses bringing a combined $23,652,500. Oscar Party was the consignment’s most expensive offering.

Bedouin Bloodstock was the leading consignor by average sale price, moving 12 horses for an average of $502,917. The operation handled the sale’s second-most expensive offering, 2016 Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, who sold in foal to Pioneerof the Nile to Bridlewood Farm and Don Alberto Corp. for $2.3 million.

Magnier’s sole purchase of the $6-million Stellar Wind made him the sale’s leading buyer by gross.

Closing session

The 12th and final session of the Keeneland November sale finished on Saturday with 115 horses sold for revenues of $687,100. The average sale price finished at $5,975, and the median closed at $3,500. Saturday’s buyback rate was 31 percent.

Two horses led the session, and their respective slices of the market, on Saturday, each selling for $35,000.

The day’s top broodmare was Gold Indy, an A.P. Indy mare who sold to Adel Alatawy.

The 11-year-old mare was pregnant to first-book stallion Tourist, and is the dam of two winners from as many runners. Bred in Kentucky by Dinwiddie Farm, she is from the family of Grade 1 winners Fantastic Look and Designed for Luck, as well as Grade 2 winner Macho Macho and Grade/Group 3 winners Miss Fortunate, Worldly Ways, Trial By Jury, and Sweyneese.

Gold Indy won one of 10 starts for earnings of $43,960. She was consigned on Saturday by Gainesway, as agent.

The day’s top weanling was a first-crop Tapiture colt who sold to Clarmont Bloodstock Club.

The bay colt is out of the placed Fusaichi Pegasus mare Pegastorm, who is the dam of one winner from two starters. The page also features Grade 2-placed stakes winner Storm’s Darling and Grade 3-placed stakes winner Sweet Ducky.

Brookdale Sales consigned the Kentucky-bred colt as agent for breeder Copper Penny Stables.

Dominus, a Spendthrift Farm resident, was the day’s top covering sire by gross, with three pregnant mares sold for $42,000. He was also the day’s leader by average among those with three or more mares sold at $14,000. The most expensive was Queen Brianna, a daughter of Unbridled’s Song who was the day’s second-most expensive broodmare, going to Machmer Hall for $34,000.

Paramount Sales was the day’s top consigner by gross, moving 15 horses for $66,300. Leading the way was a weanling first-crop Hampton Court filly who went to Peter Strandwitz for $22,000.

Clarmont Bloodstock Club was the day’s leading buyer, with two purchases totaling $46,000, including the day’s highest-priced weanling.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

-- additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland November, final results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2017 2,424 (-7%) $202,021,700 (-6%) $83,342 (+3%) $30,500 (+22%) 24%
2016 2,653 $215,213,000 $81,121 $25,000 27%

Keeneland November, top five mares

Price Horse Buyer Consignor
$6,000,000 Stellar Wind - racing/broodmare prospect by Curlin M.V. Magnier Lane's End, agent
$2,300,000 Cathryn Sophia - broodmare by Street Boss, in foal to Pioneerof the Nile Bridlewood Farm/Don Alberto Bedouin Bloodstock, agent
$2,100,000 For Royalty - broodmare by Not For Love, in foal to Bernardini Summer Wind Equine Denali Stud, agent
$2,000,000 Enchanted Rock - broodmare by Giant's Causeway, in foal to More Than Ready White Birch Farm Gainesway, agent
$1,900,000 Oscar Party - broodmare by Dixie Union, in foal to Tapit Reynolds Bell for Alpha Delta Stables Taylor Made Sales, agent

Keeneland November, top five weanlings

Price Horse Buyer Consignor
$1,000,000 colt by Curlin - Violent Beauty, by Gone West Andre Lynch, agent Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent
$775,000 filly by Tapit - My Conquestadory, by Artie Schiller Baccari Bloodstock Bedouin Bloodstock, agent
$675,000 filly by Tapit - Mushka, by Empire Maker Skara Glen Stables/Bluewater, agent Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent
$550,000 colt by Pioneerof the Nile - Bobbie Use, by Not For Love Baccari Bloodstock Bedouin Bloodstock, agent
$500,000 filly by American Pharoah - Life At Ten, by Malibu Moon Blue Sky Stables Adena Springs
$500,000 filly by Speightstown - Wonderful, by Galileo Shadwell Estate Company Denali Stud, agent

Keeneland November, top five racing/stallion prospects

Price Horse Buyer Consignor
$440,000 You're to Blame - racing/stallion prospect by Distorted Humor Steven Young, agent Lane's End, agent
$190,000 Next Shares - racing prospect by Archarcharch David Meah, agent Elite Sales
$155,000 Fact Finding - racing prospect by The Factor B.B.E. Kingswood Farm, agent
$150,000 D'ambrosio - racing/stallion prospect by Tapit Steven Young, agent WinStar Racing, agent for Stonestreet Farm
$140,000 Commandeering - racing/stallion prospect by Bodemeister Mike Ryan, agent WinStar Racing, agent for Stonestreet Farm
$140,000 Machismo - racing/stallion prospect by More Than Ready Zach Madden, agent for Loooch Racing WinStar Racing, agent

Keeneland November, leading sires by gross

Includes sires of broodmares, racing/broodmare prospects, racing/stallion prospects, and weanlings

Stallion Number sold Gross
Curlin 14 $8,397,000
Tapit 29 $7,317,000
Giant's Causeway 36 $5,494,000
Distorted Humor 34 $4,843,500
More Than Ready 36 $4,691,500

Keeneland November, leading sires by average (three or more sold)

Includes sires of broodmares, racing/broodmare prospects, racing/stallion prospects, and weanlings

Stallion Number sold Average price
Not For Love 6 $605,667
Curlin 14 $599,786
Successful Appeal 3 $517,000
American Pharoah 5 $416,000
Dixie Union 14 $334,643

Keeneland November, leading covering sires by gross

Stallion Number sold Gross
Medaglia d'Oro 9 $7,910,000
Curlin 11 $7,750,000
Pioneerof the Nile 7 $5,720,000
Uncle Mo 11 $4,825,000
American Pharoah 11 $4,785,000

Keeneland November, leading covering sires by average (three or more sold)

Stallion Number sold Average price
Tapit 3 $895,000
Medaglia d'Oro 9 $878,889
Pioneerof the Nile 7 $817,143
Curlin 11 $704,545
Speightstown 5 $657,000

Keeneland November, leading consignors by gross

Consignor Number sold Gross
Taylor Made Sales Agency 224 $23,652,500
Lane's End 119 $17,704,200
Denali Stud 108 $12,138,300
Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency 65 $10,875,900
Gainesway 73 $9,062,900

Keeneland November, leading consignors by average (three or more sold)

Consignor Number sold Average price
Bedouin Bloodstock 12 $502,917
Elite Sales 18 $253,000
Stonereath Stud 10 $223,000
Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency 65 $167,322
Hartwell Farm 4 $160,000

Keeneland November, leading buyers by gross

Buyer Number purchased Gross
M.V. Magnier 1 $6,000,000
Summer Wind Farm 3 $4,550,000
SF Bloodstock 21 $4,336,000
Don Alberto 2 $3,500,000
Woodford Thoroughbreds 21 $3,338,000