11/13/2015 5:06PM

Keeneland sale concludes with solid overall figures

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Barbara D. Livingston
Take Charge Brandi, who went for $6 million, was among 22 horses to sell for seven figures during the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

The Keeneland November breeding stock sale, perhaps sparked by the Breeders’ Cup in the final days of October, started off red-hot, with a high-dollar champion and record-priced weanling in its opening days. From there, the auction continued to burn, concluding with some of its best figures ever and continuing moderate upward trends in most categories.  

“I think we saw people here that normally don’t come to the sale [as a result of the Breeders’ Cup],” Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, said. “A couple of my agents said they saw people they have never seen here before. … When we agreed to have the Breeders’ Cup, [Keeneland president Bill Thomason’s] whole point was, it would have to enhance the sale. … It enhanced it because the excitement and enthusiasm of the Breeders’ Cup definitely carried over. It worked very well.”

Buoyed by that enthusiastic start in Book 1 – which finished with double-digit gains – and then sustained by a strong top of the market, Keeneland November surpassed last year’s gross on Tuesday, with more than three sessions still remaining, and eventually wrapped up with 2,575 horses sold over 12 sessions for a total of $218,959,400. That figure represents a gain of 6 percent from the 2,512 sold for $205,899,500 in 11 sessions in 2014, and is the sale’s eighth-highest gross of all time. Remarkably, the sale out-grossed its 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, and which has been a modern standard for the sale.

The sale’s average price finished at $85,033, a gain of 4 percent from $81,966 in 2014 and the eighth best all-time. The median finished at $30,000 – a drop of 14 percent from the record-tying $35,000 last year. That mark was first set in 2005 and matched in 2006, 2007, 2013, and 2014.

“I think [the results come from] the depth of the catalog,” Russell said. “We came into the sale knowing that we had some very nice offerings in the first book, especially highlighted by those [weanlings] as well. Everything was well-received by the market. I think that set the tone for the rest of the sale. I think people realized if they’re going to buy, they’re going to have to spend the money for them.”

At the top of the market, a total of 22 horses sold for seven figures, eclipsing last year’s mark of 18. The next level of the market widened as well, as an additional 36 horses sold for between $500,000 and $1 million, a mark 29 reached last year.

The charge was led by champion Take Charge Brandi, who sold for $6 million to John G. Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm – the sales wing of which had consigned her, as agent, for owner Willis Horton. Her price tied her for the sixth most-expensive broodmare or broodmare prospect ever sold at Keeneland November, and she became the sale’s most expensive horse since 2007.

“I thought the horse was a $5 million or $6 million mare,” said Sikura of Take Charge Brandi, who will now join the broodmare band at Hill ‘n’ Dale and be bred to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who moves to the Lexington, Ky., outfit for 2016. “She’s a champion, unique pedigree, beautiful individual. It’s a highly coveted family in the marketplace. Very rare, and you have to have rare and unique stuff if you’re going to compete at the top of market.”

Take Charge Brandi, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway, pulled the upset in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, then captured the Grade 3 Delta Princess Stakes and the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes to secure her divisional Eclipse Award. She won the Martha Washington Stakes early this year before suffering a bone chip that derailed her campaign, and was retired in September after finishing unplaced in her two comeback starts.

Take Charge Brandi is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Charming, a daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner and Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady. Take Charge Lady is also the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner and champion Will Take Charge, as well as Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy.

Rounding out the top five mares sold at Keeneland November were Grade 1 winner Photo Call, who went for $3 million to J.J. Crupi’s New Castle Farm, as agent; multiple Grade 1 winner Hard Not to Like, sold for $2.2 million to Dattt Farm; and Terrific and Wonderfully, both daughters of international titan Galileo, who sold for $1.9 million to Moyglare Stud and $1.8 million to Ballylinch Stud, respectively.

Take Charge Lady’s family also made its influence felt at the top of Keeneland’s weanling market, as the mare’s filly by popular young commercial sire War Front sold for $3.2 million to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, from the consignment of Eaton Sales, as agent. The price broke the North American weanling record set last year at Keeneland November, when a Tapit filly sold for $3 million to Bridlewood Farm.

The record-priced weanling led a staggering six youngsters to sell for seven-figure price tags, with the top three of those being by War Front, who stands at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. Those youngsters – the record filly, a $2.6-million half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Honor Code, and a $2-million filly out of Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria – ranked as Keeneland November’s first, fourth (tie), and ninth most-expensive weanlings of all time.

“I think the weanling market, like the rest of the segments of the market, at the very top, if you fit all the criteria, got a great physical, et cetera, it's very good. And if not, there's a gap,” said Sikura, who consigned three seven-figure weanlings. “We try to really hand-pick and bring only premier horses here that we believe are really bulletproof in the marketplace, not only because of the pedigree but with a great physical and the way they vet, et cetera.”

While the top of the market was strong, the market at all levels was also quite selective. The one blight on the rose was the sale’s buyback rate, which finished at 25 percent, up from last year’s 22 percent.

“As we’ve said before, people are very critical,” Russell said. “They have very strict guidelines what they’re going to spend the money on. And if they don’t meet the criteria, they just walk off.

“I think they’re reaching for horses they really like, and that leaves a gap for the ones they don’t buy, and the difference is razor-thin.”

A number of dispersals were present in the sale, most notably that of Nat Rea's Regis Farm. Rea entered the Thoroughbred marketplace in 2012 and quickly made an impact in the commercial arena, purchasing several high-dollar offerings. However, in September, he announced his decision to disperse his Thoroughbred stock and switch business focuses. Three Chimneys Farm was agent for the dispersal, responsible for two seven-figure offerings: $1.65-million Shook Up, who will join the broodmare band at Three Chimneys, and $1.15-million Royal Obsession, sold to Stonestreet Farm. Royal Obsession became the first horse to sell for seven figures in Book 2 since 2011, helping to keep the sale’s momentum going following the elite Book 1 portion. The Regis dispersal also produced Donworth, sold for $550,000 to Dennis O’Neill in Book 5, one of several racing or stallion prospects who gave the auction a boost in its final days.

Other dispersals included the complete dispersal of Northwest Farms LLC, with Greenfield Farm as agent; the first phase of the Manchester Farm dispersal, with Legacy Bloodstock as agent; and the complete dispersal of the estate of A. Steven Miles Jr., with Lantern Hill Farm as agent.

“Anytime you have complete dispersals that have no reserve, it shows you the strength of the market,” Russell said. “I think both Regis and Northwest showed that strength – and their horses were all over, they weren’t just in Book 1, they were spread out all through. Regis had horses [in Book 6]. I think it showed that there is strength to this market.”

For the second year in a row, North America’s reigning leading sire Tapit, standing at Gainesway in Lexington, finished as Keeneland November’s top sire by gross, with 46 offspring, including both mares and weanlings, sold for a total of $12,915,000. He led home Galileo and Giant’s Causeway, both of whom stand for international outfit Coolmore, in that category. Among sires with three or more offspring sold, Galileo edged out War Front to lead average prices, with 10 offspring sold for an average of $955,000.

Medaglia d’Oro, based at Darley’s Jonabell Farm in Lexington, led the covering sires list, with eight mares in foal sold for $5,355,000. Next on the list were Coolmore’s leading freshman sire Uncle Mo, then War Front. Tapit led War Front and Medaglia d’Oro by covering sire average among those with three or more sold, with his three mares averaging $1,183,333.

Keeneland’s top consignor by both gross and average was Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales, which sold a total of 97 horses for $28,392,700. Powered by eight seven-figure horses, the outfit’s average finished at $292,708, leading consignors with three or more sold.

The top buyer by gross was New Castle Farm, which purchased 26 horses for $10,059,000. The leading buyer by average, among those with three or more purchased, was Bridlewood Farm, with three landed for an average of $650,000.

For complete sale results, click here.