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Submitted by Jerry Antonucci on Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Uplifting sale of Groupie Doll drives gains on day two

Business remained on the uptick on Wednesday during the second session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, led by the popular sale of champion female sprinter Groupie Doll to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill farm for $3.1 million.

At the close of Wednesday’s session, 129 horses sold for revenues of $44,277,000, up 31 percent compared with last year’s second session gross of $33,840,000 from 109 sold. The average sale price rose 11 percent to $343,233 after finishing at $310,459 last year, while the median of $220,000 increased 10 percent from $200,000 in 2012. The buyback rate on Wednesday was 20 percent, down from 32 percent last year.

“I would say that there has been an increase in the quality of the catalog,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We had more Grade 1 stakes-winning mares in the sale this year, and with the [E. Paul Robsham Stable] dispersal horses in the sale yesterday, we had those quality mares, and I think the market has improved over the year, especially at the top end.”

The Keeneland November sale has thus far continued to validate the resurgence of interest at the very top of the market. Eight horses eclipsed the seven-figure mark during Wednesday’s session, one more than last year’s sale total of seven millionaires.

Through two days, 14 horses have sold for a million dollars or higher. Of those horses, the only buyer to secure more than one was Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, with two. This offers more evidence of another positive trend at the sales, as a growing and diverse group of upper-echelon buyers plunge back into the arena.

“The top end of the market is strong at the moment,” Russell said. “People are willing to spend for quality offerings, and we had a lot [of them]. Actually, there are several people that are unhappy that they were the underbidders, and they actually haven’t bought anything.”
Topping the session was champion Groupie Doll, who has been arguably the most talked-about offering of the November sale season.

The 5-year-old Bowman’s Band mare, who was bred and owned in majority by Fred Bradley and his son and trainer William “Buff” Bradley, was among Keeneland’s marquee offerings, appearing in the ring just four days after her second consecutive victory in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. That score, by half a length over Judy the Beauty, gave her 11 wins from 21 career starts and pushed her bankroll to $2,478,850.

“Groupie Doll was gorgeous,” said Pope, whose winning bid was greeted with a healthy round of applause. “Obviously, she won $2.4 million, and she was a champion – maybe [she will be] champion two years in a row. She was elegant, calm and cool. Nothing ever ruffled a feather with her whatsoever, [when I watched] her be shown. She just sat there royally and regally taking everything in stride, saying, ‘Okay, I’m here. I’m cool.’”

Groupie Doll arrived on the Keeneland sale grounds Monday. The buzz sale grew steadily in the hour preceding the mare’s arrival in the ring Wednesday, as a crowd gathered outside of Barn 14, where Groupie Doll was stabled as part of the Trackside Farm consignment.

When the call came for Groupie Doll to head to the back walking ring, Buff Bradley, exercise rider Jada Schlenk, and groom and assistant Matt Hebert bid emotional farewells, patting and hugging the mare. Bradley and Schlenk then walked arm-in-arm as they followed the mare to the walking ring.

“I kind of had to hold myself together,” said Bradley, whose father was also in attendance at the sale pavilion.

A longtime Thoroughbred breeder and former Kentucky state senator, Fred Bradley purchased Groupie Doll’s dam, Deputy Doll, for $25,000 at the 1997 Keeneland September yearling sale. Groupie Doll is by far the most accomplished foal out of the mare, who was struck by lightning and died in early 2012 at age 17.

Groupie Doll is the second standout homebred for the Bradleys, who own Indian Ridge Farm in Frankfort, Ky. They also campaigned Grade 1 winner and fan favorite Brass Hat, who earned over $2.1 million.

“[Groupie Doll’s sale] is going to keep everything moving forward,” Bradley said of the family business. “I’m going to be at Churchill Downs tomorrow morning at 5:30. It’s not going to slow us down any. We’re looking for the next Groupie Doll.”

The top weanling of the session was a War Front colt that sold to Aisling Duignan for $750,000.

The bay colt is out of the Grade 2-placed winning Carson City mare City Sister, who is the dam of three winners from four foals to race, including Grade 2 winner Dixie City and stakes-placed winner Union City, both by Dixie Union.

Bred in Kentucky by Tada Nobutaka and consigned by Eaton Sales, agent, the colt is from the family of champion and leading sire Dehere, Group 2 winner Hanks, and Grade 3 winner Fast Decision.

Duignan also bought the opening session’s top-priced weanling, spending $800,000 Tuesday on another War Front colt that is a close relative of Zenyatta.

Wednesday’s leading consignor was Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, selling 12 horses for a combined $8,035,000. Their consignment was led by the day’s second-highest-priced offering: Star Billing, a Grade 1-winning Dynaformer mare, who sold to Mt. Brilliant Farm for $2.6 million. She sold in foal to Giant’s Causeway.

The second session’s leading buyer was Don Alberto Corp. The Chilean company purchased Lexington, Ky.-based Vinery in October, and bought nine horses on Wednesday, spending $4.13 million. The most expensive offering purchased by the operation was Reach The Stars, a Galileo mare in foal to Tapit, who sold for $850,000.

“It’s great to see a new investor inside of Kentucky,” Russell said, regarding Don Alberto Corp. “It’s great to see them coming in, buying Vinery last month, and [then to] come in being early buyers. Watching them invest back in Central Kentucky is spectacular. It’s good for Keeneland and it’s good for the industry.”

After two sessions, 242 horses have changed hands for gross revenues of $86,532,000, up 41 percent from last year’s two-day total of $61,505,000. The overall average sale price jumped 22 percent, from $294,282 to $357,570, while the median rose 38 percent, from $160,000 to $220,000.

Book 2 of the Keeneland November Sale begins Thursday at 10 a.m. Eastern, and the auction continues through Nov. 14.

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