01/12/2012 7:09PM

Keeneland sale ends with strong gains across the board

The 10-year-old Topliner, in foal to Medaglia d'Oro, was the Keeneland sale's highest-priced horse.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Mares returned to the fore Thursday at the Keeneland January all-ages auction, which ended with robust gains despite a smaller catalog.

The four-day auction closed with 1,003 horses bringing $37,991,900, a 50-percent increase over the 2011 sale's gross for 1,021 horses sold over five days. The 2012 cumulative average price billowed up by 53 percent, from $24,731 last year to $37,878, and the median performed even better, doubling its $7,500 figure in 2011 to $15,000 this season.

In more welcome news, buy-backs fell from last year's 27-percent level to 20 percent. There were 344 withdrawals from the 2012 vendue, as compared to 421 from last year's larger catalog.

The $1.4 million sale-topper, and the auction's only millionaire, went through the ring on Monday. That was Grade 1 winner Star Billing's dam Topliner, who was hammered down to Katsumi Yoshida of Japan's Northern Farm. Paramount Sales agency consigned the 10-year-old unraced Thunder Gulch mare. She is a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Stellar Jayne and Starrer and sold in foal to Medaglia d'Oro.

The auction's most expensive yearling was a $490,000 Unbridled's Song three-quarter-brother to Grade 1 winner Sassy Image. Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms made that purchase from Havens Bloodstock agency, which consigned the gray or roan May 27 foal on behalf of his breeders, Judith and Barry Becker. The colt's dam is the Hennessy mare Ideal Image.

The Eaton Sales agency consigned the leading yearling filly, a $400,000 Empire Maker daughter of Grade 1 winner Ticker Tape. Camas Park Stud owner Tim Hyde signed the ticket for the bay filly, a Jan. 27 foal.

A pair of $90,000 broodmares were the most expensive offerings at Thursday's final session. One day after short yearlings - weanlings who became yearlings on Jan. 1 - dominated the price board, the broodmares La Defense and Rendezvous Point were co-session-toppers. The Elm Tree Farm agency sold La Defense, a 14-year-old Wild Again mare and the dam of stakes winner Quelle Surprise, to McMahon and Hill, LLC. She was cataloged in foal to Munnings. Several hours later, Diamond G Ranch of Oklahoma also went to $90,000 for the Mill Ridge agency's Rendezvous Point, a Kingmambo half-sister to graded winner and sire Five Star Day and to the dam of Grade 2 winner High Finance. An 11-year-old mare, Rendezvous Point is in foal to Discreet Cat.

The most expensive yearling was the $72,000 Awesome Again-A B C Amanda colt that Fred Hertrich bought from the Hidden Brook agency. A March 24 foal, he is a half-brother to Grade 1-placed Mystery Girl.