11/08/2010 5:13PM

Seven-figure mares lead first Keeneland session

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – High-quality mares and broodmare prospects were in demand Monday at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale, where the opening session offered the feast-or-famine trend many sellers said they had expected.
Bidding competition was stiff for auction standouts, and one of the most aggressive upper-market bidders Monday was Coolmore Stud. By 3:30 p.m., the Irish-based global breeding operation had bought two of the afternoon’s three seven-figure mares, session-leader Society Selection for $1.85 million and $1.4 million Golden Ballet, the dam of 2010 Belmont winner Drosselmeyer.
With selling nearing its conclusion, the first session bore out predictions that obvious top-quality offerings would sell well, but that buyers were not in a mood to gamble on animals they felt were less than top notch, even if those horses appeared to be bargains. The most common words sellers used to describe Monday’s market were “thin” and “selective” on a day when mares, rather than weanlings, were the hottest commodity among the pool of wealthy buyers who have so far survived the economic downturn and subsequent credit crunch.
A multiple Grade 1 winner now in foal to Medaglia d’Oro, Society Selection was part of the Irving Cowan dispersal consigned by Taylor Made Sales. The 9-year-old already has produced a winner in her Giant’s Causeway filly Superior Selection, and she went through the auction ring carrying a foal by the popular sire Medaglia d’Oro. Society Selection is by Coronado’s Quest and out of the Dixieland Band mare Love That Jazz, a Grade 3 winner who was runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1996.
Coolmore employee Aisling Duignan signed the ticket and said the mare would be owned by a partnership of Coolmore’s owner John Magnier and his frequent partners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.
Tayor Made also consigned Golden Ballet, who sold to Coolmore in foal to Unbridled’s Song.
Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Co. has been quiet at auctions of late but struck early Monday for a $450,000 weanling colt by 2006 champion juvenile and 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. That was the top price for a weanling by 3:30 p.m. Hamdan’s buy supported his family’s stallion operation, because Street Sense stands at the Darley Stud owned by Maktoum’s brother Sheikh Mohammed. Sheikh Hamdan’s weanling purchase is a bay son of stakes-producer Time for a Crown, by Time for a Change. The colt is a half-brother to stakes winner Banga Ridge and Grade 1-placed Coronet of a Baron.
Paragon Farms, agent, consigned the session-leading weanling.
Coolmore came back to spend $410,000 for a Taylor Made agency chestnut weanling colt who is closely related to ill-fated 2008 Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles. The weanling and Eight Belles are by the same sire, Unbridled’s Song, and he is out of Be My Prospect, a half-sister to Eight Belle’s dam, Away.
As at Fasig-Tipton’s sale the night before, mares were the headliners at Keeneland’s opening session, but many sellers noted that the market felt shallow, especially for offerings below million-dollar quality.
“It’s pretty obvious there’s no bank money around,” said consignor Helen Alexander of Middlebrook Farm, which sold the afternoon’s third million-dollar mare, $1 million Carribean Sunset, to James Bester Bloodstock. “That’s kind of what we’re missing. I think there are a lot of people who’ve had their legs kind of kicked out from under them, so it’s tough for everyone right now. The people who can afford to buy horses are buying them, but they’re being very selective about what they’ll buy. We need to have credit loosened, because we need more people in the game, and it’s not productive when you only have a small group of people doing it.”
Those who were buying came from around the globe. On the buyers’ list, exotic names like Klawervlei Stud (South Africa) and Tevfik Celikoglu (Turkey) nestled alongside those of domestic stalwarts like Ann and David Hanley’s Whitechurch Farm, Lael Stable, and WinStar Farm. In some cases – most notably the Japanese and Australians – a favorable exchange rate whetted their appetite to spend.
“We participated last year and were competitive, and it’s even better this year,” said Bester, buyer of $1 million Carribean Sunset. Bester said he purchased the Grade 1- and Group 1-placed Danehill Dancer mare for Australia’s Kia-Ora Stud. She is out of the Royal Academy winner Bonheur. “No doubt the exchange rate makes it worthwhile.”
“We want group-winning fillies, preferably on turf, because we race on turf in Australia,” Bester said of Carribean Sunset. “She had Group 1 form, and she did it in Ireland and in America. And Royal Academy is a very good broodmare sire, as well. He’s the broodmare sire of our leading sire, Fastnet Rock, in Australia.”
Kia-Ora Stud is a commercial breeding operation that also has benefitted from a relatively strong yearling and racehorse market in the southern hemisphere.
“It has held up well all year,” Bester explained. “We have a strong racing program in Australia with good prize money. Owners can still make money racing horses, and there’s a lot of syndication in Australia, so the man in the street can own a horse. With all that good prize money, it encourages people to buy horses.”
The Keeneland November sale continues through Nov. 20. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m. in Keeneland’s sale pavilion.