11/14/2014 5:19PM

Keeneland November: Record weanling, median highlight sale

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A daughter of Tapit sold for $3 million to establish a North American record price for a weanling, one of the highlights of the Keeneland November sale.

The 2014 edition of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale continued the auction’s upward trend, highlighted by a record-tying median and a weanling whose price established a North American record.

The 11-day sale moved 2,512 horses for revenues of $205,899,500, up four percent from the 2013 renewal, which featured 2,457 horses sold over 10 sessions for $197,189,000. This year’s sale produced the highest gross since the 2011 edition, which featured the high-profile dispersals of the late Edward P. Evans’ Spring Hill Farm and Prince Saud bin Khaled’s Palides Investments NV. Removing that renewal from the equation, it was the highest-grossing Keeneland November sale since 2007.

“I think the November sale was very good from start to finish, especially the start,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Book 1 does set the tone, and this Book 1 certainly set the tone and set the momentum for the whole sale. There were a lot of buyers at the top, varied both domestic and international. It was really competitive bidding at all levels of the market.”

The average sale price finished at $81,966, besting last year’s final figure of $80,256 by two percent and turning in the best performance since 2007. The record-tying median of $35,000 equaled the mark established in 2005 and matched in 2006, 2007, and 2013.

At the top of the market, 18 horses sold for seven figures, bettering last year’s comparative figure of 14.

“I think the overall word for the sale was ‘quality,’” Russell said. “Horses perceived as being quality offerings in any session brought premium prices. If we had any complaint from anybody, it was the buyers saying they couldn’t buy, and I can live with that one.”

While sales figures showed positive growth, the cumulative buyback rate took a fairly significant jump, rising seven percentage points from 15 percent to 22 percent. Russell said the buyback figures were unusually low in 2013, which contributed to such a large jump, but he also said the higher rate of horses to finish under their reserves could be due to sellers seeing increased value in their mares.

“People need factories,” he said. “They put values on the mares because they knew they couldn’t replace the mare without those values. I think there are several sellers saying, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t sell my mare, but I didn’t know if I could be able to replace her, so I decided just to keep her.’ If that’s the reason behind it, that’s fine. The same with weanlings; if [sellers] got a premium for the foals, they were happy. If they didn’t, they’ve got September next year.”

The highest-priced broodmare and weanling were both sold during the auction’s second session on Nov. 5, led by Irish Group 3 winner Aloof who was purchased for $3.9 million by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm. The price made Aloof the most expensive offering of the North American November sale season.

The 5-year-old daughter of international titan Galileo sold in foal to popular young commercial sire War Front, and Pope said the mare would be sent back to War Front in 2015. Aloof was consigned by Paramount Sales, agent.

“[The price] was more than I thought,” Pope said. “I thought it would be $2 million, so the price was about twice what I thought she would go for. Galileo is the best stallion, he and Tapit, and her being in foal to War Front, you couldn't ask for anything more. She was beautiful and leggy, which I think will help – the War Fronts have a little bit of leg and can be a little plain. I think she'll have a pretty War Front [foal].”

Aloof won the Group 3 Fillies' Stakes in Ireland and placed in five other group stakes events during her racing career, bankrolling $170,939. The War Front foal will be her first.

"She was a queen all week, and we knew she'd sell well,” said Paramount’s Pat Costello of Aloof. “The price was a little beyond our expectations, but the market is what it is. She's a big, scopey mare, and to do what she did on the racetrack, that was just an addition – and she's in foal to War Front, one of the hottest sires in the world. She couldn't be more appealing."

Bridlewood Farm was the buyer of the North American record-priced weanling, a $3-million Tapit filly out of the stakes-winning Storm Cat mare Serena’s Cat.

The filly was consigned by Hill 'n' Dales Sales Agency, as agent. Her price surpassed the previous North American record of $2.7 million that Globe Equine Management paid for Amour Malheureux at the 2006 Keeneland November sale.

"Physically, she's the best filly on the grounds," said Bridlewood general manager George Isaacs. "You couldn't draw a picture any prettier. I think we were at the max, but [Bridlewood Farm owner John Malone] is a strong guy, and he gave me the green light to $2 million. I had him on the phone and I said, 'I'm good to call it quits here at $2.5 million,' and he said, 'No, keep going.' At $2.8 million, they bid $2.9 million, and he said, 'Well, bid $3 million. Go ahead.' You can't scare him away if he likes something."

Serena’s Cat, is the dam of Grade 2 winners Noble Tune and Honor Code. She is out of stakes winner Serena's Tune, and is a half sister to Group 3 winner Vocalised. The next dam is champion Serena's Song, who is the dam of Group 1 winner and stakes producer Sophisticat, Grade 2 winners and sires Grand Reward and Harlington, Grade 3 winner Schramsberg, and stakes-placed winner Arbitrate.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the leading consignor of the Keeneland November sale by gross, with 260 horses sold for revenues of $28,048,900. Topping the consignment was Grade 1 winner Egg Drop, in foal to Tapit, who sold to Bridlewood Farm for $1.9 million.

Chilean-based Don Alberto Corp., which last year purchased the former Vinery property near Lexington, Ky., was the auction’s leading buyer, with nine purchases totaling $8,575,000. The Solari family’s operation purchased three of the 10 most expensive horses of the sale, led by Modeling, a Tapit mare from the family of Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, who sold in foal to Distorted Humor for $2.85 million.

Friday’s closing session saw 162 horses sold for revenues of $1,069,400. The average sale price finished at $6,601, while the median closed at $4,500 and the buyback rate settled at 28 percent. Because last year’s sale concluded after 10 sessions, there were no comparable figures.

Topping the session was Win Willy, a multiple Grade 2-winning stallion prospect who sold to Rancho Natoches in Mexico for $45,000. The 8-year-old son of Monarchos was consigned as agent by Taylor Made Sales Agency.

The highest-priced broodmare was Backroom Blues, an 18-year-old Dixieland Band mare who sold to Machmer Hall for $30,000. She is the dam of Grade 3 winner Sindy with an S, Grade 1-placed stakes winner Indian Winter, and stakes-placed Five Star Holding. The mare was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, and went through the ring in foal to Morning Line.

Leading the weanling market was a colt from the first crop of sire Dialed In, who sold to Preston Stables for $28,000. The dark bay or brown colt is out of placed Salt Lake mare Jayla, who is the dam of stakes-placed runners Casse and Zyzilia. Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services, agent, consigned the colt, who hails from the family of Grade 1 winners Manistique and Unbridled Command.

For complete hip-by-hip sale results, click here.

Keeneland November breeding stock sale, final results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2014 2,512 $205,899,500 (+4%) $81,966 (+2%) $35,000 22%
2013 2,457 $197,189,000 $80,256 $35,000 15%