11/22/2009 12:00AM

Overbrook lightens Keeneland's losses

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's 13-day November breeding stock auction ended Sunday afternoon with losses in gross and average, but the median price managed to remain unchanged from last year. The sale figures were aided substantially this year by Overbrook Farm's dispersal, which provided four of the auction's five millionaires, including the sale-topper.

The sale-topper was Honest Pursuit, a $3.1 million racing or broodmare prospect that Alain Wertheimer of the Wertheimer et Frere stable purchased. A 4-year-old Storm Cat filly, Honest Pursuit is out of Grade 1 winner Honest Lady, a daughter of the legendary Grade 1 producer Toussaud.

The Eaton Sales agency handled Overbrook's dispersal, which grossed $31,760,000 for 148 horses, an average price of $214,595. That contributed richly to Keeneland's coffers at a time when the market was generally in decline. The auction's 13 days grossed $159,727,800 for 2,779 horses, down 14 percent from last year's aggregate for 3,019 horses. The cumulative average price of $57,477 was down 6 percent from last season. But the $20,000 median was unchanged from last year. Also improved was the cumulative buyback rate. It fell from 28 percent last year to 22 percent.

Honest Pursuit's appearance on the auction block represented a rare opportunity to buy into one of the most productive families in the world, privately held by Juddmonte Farms. She came to Overbrook through an agreement between the operation's founder, the late W. T. Young, and Juddmonte owner Khalid Abdullah. Under that agreement, Overbrook provided seasons to Storm Cat for Juddmonte mares, and the two programs shared out the resulting foals.

The market also benefited, especially in its first week, from active Australian and Japanese bidders.

The 2009 sale's million-dollar horses totaled five, down from 19 a year ago. Four of those were from the Overbrook consignment. They were Honest Pursuit; $2.3 million Cotton Blossom (in foal to Street Cry), who sold to Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable; $1.7 million Summer Raven (in foal to Unbridled's Song), who sold to Reynolds Bell, agent; and $1.3 million Dark Sky, a 4-year-old full sister to French Oaks winner Nebraska Tornado, who went to Edward Evans. The sale's other million-dollar horse was former Horse of the Year Azeri. She brought $2.25 million as the auction's third-highest-priced horse and sold to Katsumi Yoshida. Azeri was carrying a Distorted Humor foal.

But the auction's second week was marked by steep declines, as was largely expected by consignors who had already endured or witnessed the Thoroughbred economy's downturn at earlier sales. The final Keeneland November session on Sunday saw gross fall 64 percent with 131 horses sold, as compared with 242 in 2008. The average price was $6,134, down 34 percent, and the $2,700 median was 49 percent lower. Sellers at that level this year were less willing to let their horses go than were their early-selling counterparts: The 2009 final session's buyback rate climbed from 18 percent last year to 30 percent.

But one final-session consignor had a very happy ending Sunday. That was War Horse Place, which sold a Kitalpha-Sparklin Lil weanling for $100,000 after the weanling colt's older half-brother, Twin Sparks, set a six-furlong world record of 1:06.49 on the dirt at Turf Paradise on Saturday. Dr. Lisa Lex was the weanling colt's buyer.