Updated on 09/16/2011 7:38AM

Keeneland theory: Price just about right

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Foaming Brine, a 6-year-old full sister to graded stakes-winner and popular sire End Sweep, brought $170,000 as Wednesday's session-leader as of 5 p.m. Eastern on day three of Keeneland's January horses of all ages sale.

Foaming Brine, a daughter of Forty Niner and Grade 1 winner Broom Dance (Dance Spell), sold, in foal to Favorite Trick, to Charles H. Deters. The Walnut Green agency sold the unraced mare on behalf of the late Mrs. Jane du Pont Lunger's Christiana Stables, which is dispersing its stock.

At the auction's second session on Tuesday, You's dam Our Dani brought the top price of $625,000 on a final bid from Robert Nataf of the Horse France agency.

Nataf said he purchased the mare, who currently is in foal to the obscure Chief's Crown stallion In a Walk, on behalf of an unidentified European syndicate. He added that Our Dani (by Homebuilder) might be bred to an American stallion in 2002, but he emphasized that those plans are far from certain at this point.

Our Dani led a session that posted declines across the board, selling 269 lots for gross receipts of $11,260,600, down sharply from last year's second day, which sold 223 lots for $15,769,000. The average price also sank, 41 percent, from $70,713 last year to $41,861. The median dropped 29 percent, from $28,000 to $20,000.

But the key at the January sale, whose stock and quality varies widely from year to year, is whether the prices are strong for the particular horses in the ring. In the case of this January catalog, which did not have the benefit of a selection of major dispersals, buyers generally felt the prices were strong for the stock on offer during the first two days.

So, apparently, did the sellers: The buy-back rate stayed low on Tuesday at just 15 percent, much lower than last year's 26 percent.

Digital medical rewords weighed

Keeneland is considering going digital in the health information repository at its six annual sales. The auction house has been discussing the digitizing technology with various consignors and plans to hold an informational open house for veterinarians and sellers on Jan. 23.

Supporters of digital X-rays, which are the main point of discussion, say the technology would allow easier archiving of X-rays and easier viewing by foreign buyers who want their own vets to look at a horse's radiographs.

"There's little question that this is the wave of the future," said Mark Taylor of the Taylor Made Sales Agency. "I see a lot of possibilities as far as buyers on other continents. If a buyer in England wants his own vet to look at X-rays, he wouldn't have to fly the vet over here but could pull them up on the Internet, if the quality is good enough."

Quality undoubtedly will be an issue, as there may be liability concerns over what a vet can and can't see if his computer isn't quite up to peak standard. Cost also is an issue Keeneland and its consignors will examine in coming months.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales, said the idea is in the initial-discussion stage, and it could be a year or more, if ever, before buyers will see an entirely digital X-ray service at the repository.

"So far, everyone seems very comfortable with it," said Russell, who noted that veterinarians, buyers, and consignors would need to embrace the technology in order for Keeneland to find offering a digitized portion of the repository worthwhile.

New director at Equine Spectrum

Equine Spectrum, the online auction service in which Keeneland is a major stakeholder, has hired a new executive director. Dan Kelliher, most recently a vice president of sales for the Milwaukee-based technology company Paragon Development Systems, started working with Equine Spectrum in mid-December.

Kelliher, 37, has some experience in the Thoroughbred game. Once a groom for Charlie Whittingham and D. Wayne Lukas, he now owns three Midwestern stallions - Alaskan Frost and Charlie Barley in Illinois and Cutlass Fax in Indiana - in partnership.

Kelliher said Equine Spectrum plans to offer a stallion season auction on Feb. 6. He said that the group also will focus this year on pegging bloodstock auctions to major racing events like the Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup, offering horses related to "hot" horses while the pedigrees presumably are at their peak value.

"We want to leverage that moment of value," he said. "That allows both the buyer and the seller to capture the moment and celebrate the current value of their equine properties."