11/20/2016 4:31PM

Keeneland November: Sale concludes with even returns

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Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Unrivaled Belle sold for $3.8 million to Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm to lead this year's Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Four consecutive years of gains in gross and average at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale were stalled during the auction’s 2016 renewal with mild declines, illustrating a more polarizing commercial spectrum in the marketplace.

The sale was highlighted by the $3.8-million purchase of 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner Unrivaled Belle by Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm and the racing-age-heavy dispersal of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables.

The 13-day auction finished with 2,653 horses sold for revenues of $215,213,000. The sale finished as the 10th highest-grossing edition of Keeneland November in history, despite posting a 2 percent decline from last year’s 12-day sale, when 2,575 horses brought $218,959,400.

The average sale price finished with its ninth-highest performance, at $81,121, but down 5 percent from $85,033 in 2015. The median closed at $25,000, down 17 percent from $30,000. Similar to the Keeneland September yearling sale, the average and median kept a competitive pace with the previous year’s cumulative figures through the upper- and middle-market books, but fell off into the lower-end offerings late in the second week of the sale.

“I think we leave November with the thought that it was a successful sale, with a couple caveats,” Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, said. “There is concern for horses that don’t meet the marketplace – the non-commercial horses. I guess everybody has to realize the marketplace has spoken, and they don’t meet it. That will be a concern.”

:: DRF Breeding Live: Exclusive extended analysis of Keeneland November's marketplace and leading sires ::

The buyback rate finished at 27 percent, up from 25 percent in 2015. The figure regularly tracked ahead of last year throughout the changing levels of the market, even during the horses of racing age portion of Book 4 when the sizable Conquest Stables dispersal was offered without reserve.

At the top of the market, 19 horses brought a seven-figure sale price, down from 22 last year. Horses sold for $500,000 or more rose to 74 from 58, while offerings that surpassed the $250,000 threshold increased to 192 from 182. Six-figure purchases totaled 519, down from 560.

“The first four books were awesome,” Russell said. “The quality of the horses here, you saw people step up and stretch on buying horses that we hadn’t seen for a while. Overall, it’s good, but we’d better take notice, because I’d hate to get back into that cycle we seem to get so involved in.

“Anybody who sells horses should look at the results of this year’s sales and see what the marketplace is bearing at the moment,” he continued. “If they don’t bear out, it doesn’t do anybody a world of good bringing them up here if they’re not going to get a return. I’m hoping that people will take a look and see, and make some business decisions.”

Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm went to $3.8 million to secure Unrivaled Belle. The 10-year-old Unbridled’s Song mare sold in foal to Tapit. Her lone starter to date is the 2-year-old Tapit filly Unique Bella, who finished second in her career debut on June 23 at Santa Anita.

"She's gorgeous,” Pope said. “We have good thoughts about the 2-year-old. Hopefully, she'll go on and do something. We'll breed her back to Tapit. What a hell of a race mare.

“She's a big-sized mare, rangy, good bone, but not overly huge,” Pope continued. “I think she's a good fit for Tapit."

Unrivaled Belle was bred in Kentucky by Gary Seidler and Peter Vesgo, who also campaigned her during her on-track career. She won six of 14 starts for $1,854,706, with her Breeders’ Cup win bolstered by victories in the Grade 2 La Troienne Stakes over champion Rachel Alexandra, the Grade 3 Rampart Stakes, and the non-graded Real Prize Stakes. She placed in four additional Grade 1 races.

Eaton Sales consigned Unrivaled Belle, as agent.

The weanling portion of the Keeneland November sale, which saw a North American record-priced offering in each of the past two renewals, finished with 861 horses sold for $55,833,900, down 15 percent from the 2015 auction when 855 weanlings brought $65,405,400. The average weanling sale price dipped 15 percent to $64,848 from $76,498, while the median declined 7 percent to $28,000 from $30,000.

The weanling market was topped by a War Front colt out of the Australian-bred Encosta de Lago mare Drifting Cube, who sold to the Coolmore partnership for $1.45 million. The price tied for the sixth-highest for a weanling colt in Keeneland November history.

"He comes from one of the best Australian families,” said M.V. Magnier, who signed the ticket. “We've had a lot of success with the family in the past with Rubick [a Group 2-winning full bother to Drifting Cube]. He was one of the fastest 2-year-olds of his crop down there.

"He was a very good mover with a lot of quality,” Magnier said of the colt. “Let's hope he keeps on improving."

The bay colt is the first foal out of Drifting Cube, who was a $1,018,600 broodmare prospect purchase by John G. Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm out of the 2014 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. The mare is from one of Australia's most dominant family lines, with a page that includes Group 1 winner and top international sire Redoute's Choice, Group 1 winners Hurricane Sky, Umatilla, Manhattan Rain, Platinum Scissors, and Group 3 winners Sliding Cube, Rubick, and Precious Lorraine.

"This horse sold very well,” Sikura said. “It's very fulfilling because I went to Australia, bought two mares, and they were very expensive. I felt like a fish out of water. I was in the Southern Hemisphere, and the pedigrees were a little unfamiliar, but I took a deep breath and bought two expensive maiden fillies from the Teeley dispersal, which was descendent of the best female family in Australia.” 

The Keeneland November sale is a popular arena for dispersals, and one of the major drawing points for this year’s edition was the offering from Conquest Stables. One hundred horses sold without reserve in the Conquest dispersal, via Lane’s End as agent, for revenues of $11,207,500 and an average of $112,075.

The most expensive horse out of the draft was My Conquestadory, an Artie Schiller mare and the operation’s lone Grade 1 winner, who sold in-foal to Tapit to the partnership of SF Bloodstock and Newgate Farm for $1.5 million. Her first foal, a weanling Tapit colt, sold to S. L. P. H. for $410,000.

Of the 100 Conquest horses sold, 85 were offered over a two-day period in Book 4 during the auction’s horses of racing age segment. That segment of the Conquest dispersal was led by Conquest Serenade, a 3-year-old Unbridled’s Song filly who sold to Stonestreet Stables for $800,000. She will continue to race under Mark Casse, who trained all of the Conquest horses.

“I thought they sold well,” Casse said. “It was sad. I knew [the dispersal] would be sad, but this is a tough business. I was really proud watching them all go around, how many good horses that we had bought. Ernie came in fast and went out fast. That’s him.”

While the Conquest dispersal was the main attraction of the auction’s horses of racing age portion, the most expensive offering was Uptown Twirl, a multiple stakes-winning Twirling Candy filly who sold to Three Chimneys Farm for $1,075,000. The 3-year-old half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire became the first horse to sell for seven figures during the second week of the November sale.

Leading commercial sire Tapit, who stands at Gainesway, was the auction’s top covering sire by gross, with seven in-foal mares bringing a total of $9,625,000. Claiborne Farm’s War Front was the leader in that category by average sale price, with four mares getting an average of $1,825,000.

Lane’s End was the leading consignor by gross, with 265 horses sold for $26,030,300. The Conquest Stables dispersal accounted for 38 percent of its horses sold and 43 percent of its gross.

Whisper Hill Farm was the sale’s leading buyer, with four purchases totaling $7.2 million.

The 13th and final session of the Keeneland November sale saw 122 horses sold on Sunday for $609,900. The average sale price finished at $4,999, the median closed at $3,000, and the buyback rate finished at 17 percent. Because last year’s sale finished after 12 sessions, there are no comparable figures.

The session topper was a weanling Shanghai Bobby filly who sold to Teresa Little, as agent, for $35,000. Bred in Pennsylvania by Thomas McClay, the filly is out of the stakes-winning Magic Cat mare Rhome Magic, whose four foals to race are all winners. Darby Dan Farm consigned the filly as agent for McClay’s complete dispersal.

The day’s top broodmare, and second-highest price, was Moonlit Malibu, who sold to High Peak Farm for $34,000. The 8-year-old Malibu Moon mare is the dam of one placed runner. On her own accord, Moonlit Malibu won seven of 23 starts for earnings of $256,288, with victories in the 2011 and 2012 runnings of the Municipalities Mayors Handicap at Charles Town.

Bred in Kentucky by D. J. Stable and B. Wayne Hughes, Moonlit Malibu is out of the unraced Sky Classic mar As Long As Ittakes, and is a half-sister to stakes-winner Wait It Out. Her extended family includes Canadian champion Larkwhistle, Panamanian champion Edubai Del Ocho, and Japanese Group 3 winners Moere So Bloods and Meikei Pega Star. Scott Mallory consigned Moonlit Malibu, as agent.

Debuting stallion Fast Anna of Three Chimneys was Sunday’s top covering sire by gross, with two mares bringing $25,000. The leading covering sire by average, among those with three or more sold, was Morning Line of Lane’s End at $5,300.

Shawhan Place was the session’s leading consignor by gross, with 10 horses sold for $68,200. Teresa Little, as agent, was the top buyer, with two purchases totaling $54,000.

For complete sale results, click here.

-- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland November breeding stock sale, final results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2016 2,653 (+3%) $215,213,000 (-2%) $81,121 (-5%) $25,000 (-17%) 27%
2015 2,575 $218,959,400 $85,033 $30,000 25%

Keeneland November breeding stock sale, top 10 purchases

Price Name/Pedigree Buyer Consignor
$3,800,000 Unrivaled Belle (Unbridled's Song - Queenie Belle, by Bertrando), in foal to Tapit Whisper Hill Farm Eaton Sales, agent
$3,500,000 Secret Gesture (Galileo - Shastye, by Danehill), in foal to War Front John Ferguson Hunter Valley Farm, agent
$2,550,000 Celestine (Scat Daddy - Mona Mia, by Monarchos) Moyglare Stud Farm Taylor Made Sales, agent
$2,350,000 Feathered (Indian Charlie - Receipt, by Dynaformer), in foal to War Front Summer Wind Equine Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent
$2,200,000 Tapicat (Tapit - Zealous Cat, by Storm Cat), in foal to Pioneerof the Nile Summer Wind Equine Three Chimneys Farm, agent
$2,200,000 Ithinkisawapudycat (Bluegrass Cat - Unbridled Run, by Unbridled), in foal to Constitution Marette Farrell, agent for Mount Brilliant Farm Ashview Farm, agent
$1,700,000 Paola Queen (Flatter - Kadira, by Kafwain) SF Bloodstock, LLC Brookdale Sales, agent
$1,500,000 My Conquestadory (Artie Schiller - Golden Artemis, by Malibu Moon), in foal to Tapit SF Bloodstock and Newgate Farm Lane's End, agent for the complete dispersal of Conquest Stables
$1,450,000 Peace and War (War Front - More Oats Please, by Smart Strike), in foal to Tapit Katsumi Yoshida Hunter Valley Farm, agent
$1,450,000 Weanling colt, War Front - Drifting Cube, by Encosta de Lago M.V. Magnier Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent