04/12/2011 1:09PM

Keeneland sale results not seen as daunting

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland’s April 2-year-old sale Monday evening closed out the boutique juvenile auction season with losses that did little to dent auction executives’ conviction that the market is stabilizing.

Keeneland’s single-digit decreases follow mixed results at earlier auctions in Florida and California, but auction houses and sellers say the season’s relatively shallow dips combined with some gains make them believe the market is leveling after its sharp two-year fall.

Keeneland’s one-day auction sold 70 juveniles for $11,564,000. That total was down 4 percent from last year’s gross for 71 horses. The average price slipped by 2 percent to $165,200, and median was down 4 percent at $130,000. The buy-back rate also dropped, falling from last year’s 37 percent to 32 percent, but there also were 65 scratches, meaning 59 percent of cataloged horses did not sell for one reason or another.

The sale-topper was a $625,000 Indian Charlie-Teenage Temper colt that Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables bought from Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds.

Fasig-Tipton’s February Florida sale at Palm Meadows had a 15 percent decline in gross and a 5-percent loss in average, but its median held level with 2010. It also produced the season’s highest-priced juvenile so far, a $1.35 million Empire Maker-Half A. P. filly that Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum bought. California’s Barretts March auction produced gains of 11 and 7 precent in average and median price. And the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March sale, reformatted this year to combine two auctions, saw the average price drop less than 1 percent, though median was off by 7 percent.

At Keeneland, buying agent John Moynihan said he paid more for Jackson’s two purchases – the $625,000 sale-topper and a $485,000 War Front-La Prada colt – than he had expected. But Dunne, the $485,000 colt’s consignor, said the road to the top of the boutique market isn’t as easy as it used to be.

“Times have changed,” said Dunne, whose 12 horses averaged $180,417 and sold for a $185,000 median. “Today, $500,000 is the old $1 million. It’s a little harder sledding right now, but if you’ve got what they want, they’ll pay for them, and there’s still money to be made.”

At least one buyer at Keeneland was pleased the price wasn’t even higher for another War Front colt. Agent Steve Young, bidding for an unidentified client, was one of the losing bidders for Jackson’s War Front-La Prada colt but returned to the auction ring later to buy a $475,000 half-brother to Laragh.

“He was an awful nice horse out of a proven mare, and as much as War Front moves all his mares, you’ve got to hope if he moves this one as much he’d be very special,” Young said of the colt, adding, “I’ve tried to buy as many War Fronts as I could, and I thought he’d possibly bring more money than he brought.”

Katsumi Yoshida, owner of Japan’s Northern Farm, continued to pluck horses selectively from the American market. Buying this time under the name Lake Villa Farm, Yoshida bought three horses for $935,000, led by a $400,000 colt by recent Japanese import Empire Maker. The gray or roan colt is out of the Dixieland Band mare Cosmic Wish. Niall Brennan was the seller.

Recently pensioned sire A. P. Indy had two juveniles in the sale. His filly out of stakes-winner Maizelle, by Seeking the Gold, fetched a $250,000 bid from agent Ben McElroy, and his three-quarter-brother to Katerbug brought $240,000 from Dogwood Stable. Kings Equine, agent, sold the filly, and Wavertree Stables consigned the colt.

Storm Cat’s sole offering, one of just three foals in the pensioned sire’s 2009 final crop, brought more money but failed to sell at $375,000. Hip No. 151, a bay colt out of Grade 1 winner Halo America is a full brother to Marino Marini and half-brother to Quick Temper. He last went through the auction ring at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale, where Kaleem Shah bought him for $320,000.

Also going unsold were a pair of fillies who made their first starts at Keeneland just days before the auction. Hip No. 73, Tiz Terrific, and Hip No. 127, Grace Abounds, finished second and third in a $50,000 maiden special weight on April 9. Tiz Terrific, a Tiznow filly out of Terrifee, scratched from the sale. Grace Abounds failed to sell on a $90,000 hammer price.