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Submitted by John Conte on Friday, November 15, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Keeneland November Sale notes significant gains

LEXINGTON, Ky.– Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale concluded Thursday with a 38 percent increase in total sales, demonstrating exceptional strength at every level of the market. Strong demand for quality broodmares and weanlings from an internationally diverse clientele drove double-digit gains in gross, average and median, and produced 14 million-dollar-plus horses, double the number sold in 2012.

Gross sales for the 10-day auction, held Nov. 5-14, surpassed last year’s 11-day November Sale total of $143,025,600 on the fifth day of selling. It marks the second-highest November Sale gross since 2007, falling just short of the $208,511,200 achieved in 2011, which featured the record-grossing dispersal of the estate of Edward P. Evans’ Spring Hill Farm. This year 2,457 horses were sold compared to 2,414 in 2012.

Additional increases also were seen in cumulative average price and median. The average price of $80,256 rose 35 percent from $59,248 from 2012. The median climbed to $35,000, up 59 percent from last year’s $22,000 and equaling the record median realized in 2005-2007.

The RNA, or buy-back rate, a strong indicator of competitive trade, fell by as much as 30-50 percent throughout the sale to conclude at 14.54 percent.

“The quality of Book 1, which featured Grade 1 winners and producers, set the stage early on, creating momentum that carried throughout the sale,” said Keeneland Vice President of Sales Walt Robertson. “There is keen interest in top-end broodmares. That demand, coupled with positive results from the past two September Yearling Sales, have given buyers confidence to make long-term investments throughout the market.”

Fourteen horses – all broodmares and racing or broodmare prospects – were sold for seven figures or more versus seven in 2012 sale. The seven-figure horses came during the first two select days of the sale, which comprise Book 1, and were purchased by 13 different entities representing owners from the U.S. and abroad.

The results proved the enthusiasm for horses in Book 1, as 242 horses were sold for $86,532,000, a 41 percent increase from the initial two sessions of the 2012 sale. The average of $357,570 was 22 percent above the 2012 sale, while the median of $220,000 was 38 percent higher than last year.

“Much like what we saw in September, bidding was spirited among new and established buyers who were out in force through the very last day,” said Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell. “The strength of Book 1 rippled through each strata of the market, with consistent increases seen from book to book. Our consignors are to be congratulated for an outstanding job of meeting the market.”

Keeneland’s long-term efforts to build relationships with horsemen across the United States and around the globe has created a deeply diverse pool of domestic and foreign buyers that is unlike any other in the world.

“One consignor described it as the ‘United Nations of Keeneland,’ ” Russell said. “That strategy has helped to fuel the market gains we are realizing now.”

Keeneland’s global buying bench received high praise from Mark Taylor, vice president of marketing and public sales operations for the sale’s leading consignor, Taylor Made Sales Agency. Taylor Made sold 199 horses for $20,464,800 to lead consignors for the second consecutive year and for the 18th time in the past 24 years.

“I don’t think anybody has as clear an understanding of its importance as Taylor Made because we sell so many horses,” Taylor said about Keeneland’s efforts to recruit buyers from around the world. “You see people from these foreign countries coming up and buying horses. Keeneland has broken down the barriers to make that happen.”

A significant international player at the November Sale was the Don Alberto Corp., which purchased 32 horses for $10.64 million to lead all buyers by total expenditures. Don Alberto Corp. represents the family who owns Chile’s Haras Don Alberto, a prominent Thoroughbred breeding operation which recently purchased Vinery near Lexington on which to develop a Central Kentucky operation called Don Alberto Farm.

The Don Alberto Corp. is the latest leading buyer to invest in Central Kentucky farmland and simultaneously build a breeding foundation with purchases at Keeneland’s November Sale. Among other prominent names are Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm (leading buyer, 2000) and Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Farm (leading buyer, 2004 and 2005).

The international activity at Keeneland helped to create a high level of competition throughout the November Sale, especially for young mares.

“It’s just a factor of supply and demand. There’s a very, very strong demand now for young mares,” said consignor James B. Keogh of Grovendale on the sale’s closing day. “We sold two mares to Korea today for considerably more than we expected.”

This year’s November Sale also featured two dispersals: the complete dispersal of E. Paul Robsham Stables and the estate of the Eric Kronfeld. 

Lane’s End consigned the Robsham dispersal, which sold 24 horses for $12,174,000, including the sale-topping Awesome Maria for $4 million. On opening day of the sale, Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier purchased the 6-year-old Maria’s Mon mare, a Grade 1 winner and millionaire in foal to Giant’s Causeway.

The Kronfeld dispersal, handled by Winter Quarter Farm, sold seven horses for a total of $2,478,000. The highest-priced offering was Eblouissante, the winning half-sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta, who sold for $2.1 million to Ian Banwell’s St. George Farm. Offered as a racing or broodmare prospect, Eblouissante has been returned to trainer John Shirreffs to resume training.

The horse that drew the most attention from horsemen, fans and the media during the sale was champion Groupie Doll, who three days before she entered the sales ring won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita for the second consecutive year. Consigned as a racing or broodmare prospect by Trackside Farm, agent for Fred Bradley, trainer William “Buff” Bradley, Carl Hurst and Brent Burns, Groupie Doll sold for $3.1 million to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm.

The November Sale traditionally offers a number of weanlings, and this year’s collection proved especially popular with both pinhookers and end-users.

The two highest-priced weanlings were both colts by War Front purchased by Aisling Duignan of Coolmore. Claiborne Farm, agent, consigned the top-priced $800,000 weanling, who is out of the Pulpit mare Treasure Trail, a half-sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta. Eaton Sales, agent, consigned the $750,000 colt, who is out of the stakes-placed Carson City mare City Sister and is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Dixie City.

“(For) the horses that had the quality, there were multiple bidders on them,” said Pete Bradley, whose Bradley Thoroughbreds purchased 10 weanlings for $613,000 with the intent to pinhook about 80 percent. “All the major buyers (were here); the pinhookers were geared up and had plenty of money to spend.”

Bradley also experienced the sale as a seller. With Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, Bradley Thoroughbreds sold the two-year-old filly Zloty during the Nov. 12 session that featured horses of racing age. She brought $345,000 from Bobby Flay Thoroughbreds to rank as the session’s second-highest-priced horse behind the $450,000 that Richard L. Duchossois paid for Grade 3 winner General Election.

“The strength of the market, I thought, was amazing,” Bradley said. “It wasn’t just at the top. The support was very broad. Hats off to Keeneland for getting the buyers here because at the end of the day if the people aren’t there, you can’t sell the horses.”

On Thursday, 249 horses sold for $2,875,900, an increase of 70 percent over last year’s $1,695,500 for 216 horses. Average rose 47 percent from $7,850 to $11,550, while the median was up 36 percent from $5,500 to $7,500.

Grovendale paid $135,000, the session’s highest price, for Kimbolton, a 3-year-old filly by First Defence sold as a broodmare prospect. Kimbolton is out of Grade 2 winner Skimble, by Lyphard, and is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Skimming.

The next Keeneland sale is the 2014 January Horses of All Ages Sale, to be held Jan. 6-10.

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