11/17/2011 4:53PM

Keeneland sale ends with large gains

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Pumped up by important dispersals, Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale ended a remarkable 11-day run Thursday that built industry confidence that the Thoroughbred market had turned a corner after bruising downturns due to oversupply and the recession.

Keeneland’s auction, which started Nov. 7, sold 2,554 horses for $208,511,200, for an $81,641 average price and a $24,000 median. The gross was up 42 percent, even though the 2010 auction was two days longer and featured a larger catalog that sold 2,929 horses. The median was up 21 percent, and the average price performed even better, jumping 62 percent. Buy-backs fell from 23 percent to 20 percent.

Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner (and probable 3-year-old filly champion) Royal Delta outdid even high expectations when Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stables paid a sale-topping $8.5 million for her. That Empire Maker filly’s price was a Keeneland record for a horse in training and the November sale’s third-highest for a broodmare prospect. Coolmore bought her.

Royal Delta, the only Breeders’ Cup winner offered this year at the November sales, was from the late Saud bin Khaled’s Palides Investments dispersal (Chanteclair Farm, agent), one of two dispersals that contributed mightily to Keeneland’s bottom line this month. Palides Investments sold 30 horses for a combined $16,939,000. The second dispersal, that of the late Edward P. Evans’s Spring Hill Farm, became Keeneland’s highest-grossing dispersal ever when it sold 170 horses for $55,820,000, including 12 for $1 million or more. Lane’s End handled the Evans dispersal. Its top seller was $4.2 million Christmas Kid, in foal to Bernardini. The Evans dispersal also helped Lane’s End achieve a record gross for a consignor after selling 371 horses for $66,220,500.

“The dispersals definitely fueled the market dramatically,” said Keeneland’s sales director, Geoffrey Russell. “We had two unique dispersals full of collector’s items, and when you have collector’s items you get collector’s prices. Supply and demand also is definitely a factor, and having the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill also was a factor.”

The North American Thoroughbred foal crop has been dropping since 2005, a decline that accelerated sharply between 2007 and 2010.

“North American breeders have stepped up to the plate and bought 18 of the top 23 mares offered,” Russell added. “I think that’s a very positive thing.”