01/05/2018 8:46AM

Sellers hoping the beat goes on for Keeneland January

Keeneland Photo
The Keeneland January sale will run from Jan. 8-11.

A healthy response from middle-market buyers energized the mixed auction market during the first half of its season, and that momentum shows no sign of slowing down for the first event of the 2018 calendar, the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

The Keeneland January sale takes place Jan. 8-11 in Lexington, Ky., with sessions beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

The January sale is seen by many as an extension of the marketplace from the previous year’s Keeneland November breeding stock sale, which bodes well for the prospects of the upcoming auction. The 2017 November sale produced a small jump in average and a 22 percent spike in median to put that figure at its third-highest point in the auction’s history.

“I continue to be optimistic,” said Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales. “Oftentimes, the best indication of what might happen in the future is looking back, and obviously we’re coming off a strong September yearling sale and we had an active, vibrant market in November. When you look at January, I come at it a couple ways. One, I don’t think demand has been met. I think it was hard to buy horses in September and November, and folks still have orders to fill, so you hope there’s still demand there in January.

“Secondly, you look at the quality of the offerings that we have, and that’s what January, in many respects, is all about. It’s an amalgamation of what folks are looking for, from yearlings to broodmares ready to foal babies, as well as broodmare prospects, horses of racing age. We’ve even got stallion prospects in here.”

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The 2018 Keeneland January catalog comprises 1,583 entries over four sessions, down 16 percent from the 1,893 from the five sessions of last year’s catalog. The smaller catalog continues a trend seen during the auction company’s marathon September and November sales, which also saw reduced entries.

“I think we would all agree quality still rules,” Elliston said. “The days of unlimited-sized catalogs are kind of going away. I think our breeders understand what it takes to prepare a horse to come to market and the cost associated with it, so you have to have something that’s commercially viable.”

While many conditions remain the same between Keeneland’s November and January auctions, one factor that could have a significant impact on the upcoming sale is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law in late December and went into effect on Jan. 1. The new provisions afford buyers a greater range to expense qualifying purchases including broodmares and yearlings for tax purposes.

“Now that the tax laws are such that you can write 100 percent of them off, I think that might buoy the sales,” said Douglas Arnold of Buck Pond Farm. “That’s the part of the new tax thing that I think is great. If you buy a $500,000 mare, you get the total write-off this year, so it really spurs people to use their money. I think the horse business is going to benefit from this in a big way.”

Last year’s Keeneland January sale saw some regression, finishing with 961 horses sold for $28,785,500, down 19 percent in gross from the 2016 edition. The average sale price declined 12 percent to $29,954, while the median fell 5 percent to $10,500.

The sale-topper was Siren Serenade, a placed Unbridled’s Song mare who sold to Don Alberto Corp., in foal to Tapit, for $1,025,000. Out of the multiple Grade 1 winner Versailles Treaty, the mare is a half-sister to 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner George Vancouver and Grade 2 winner Saarland.

Siren Serenade is the dam of three winners from four foals to race, including Grade 1-placed Luminance. She delivered her Tapit foal in May.

The highest-priced yearling was an Uncle Mo colt who drew $385,000 from Ellen Charles of Hillwood Stable.

Later named Gnarly Mo, the Maryland-bred colt is out of the winning Salt Lake mare Gone to Utah, whose six foals to race are all winners, including stakes winner Away We Go and stakes-placed Powder Mountain, Quiet Hour, and Gallivanting.