Keeneland November Sale up 6 percent from 2014; 22 horses sold for seven-figures
Lexington, Ky. – The Keeneland November Sale ended Nov. 13 with solid results that echoed recent market trends: brisk trade from the world’s deepest contingent of buyers; keen competition for exceptional individuals that led to 22 horses sold for seven-figures, highlighted by the sale of champion Take Charge Brandi for $6 million to be the most expensive Thoroughbred sold at public auction in the world this year; and strong demand for top-quality foals that produced a North American record-priced weanling for the second consecutive November Sale.
This year’s November Sale was held Nov. 2-13, and immediately followed Keeneland’s successful inaugural hosting of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Oct. 30-31.
“Keeneland has been the center of the Thoroughbred racing and sales world this fall, with the race meet and Breeders’ Cup bookended by two strong auctions,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “As we planned for the Breeders’ Cup, we believed that its international appeal would positively impact the November Sale, and it did. Horsemen from across the U.S. and around the world attended the Breeders’ Cup and then stayed to participate in the sale, adding further depth to our already incomparable buying bench. Consignors took advantage of this unique opportunity to showcase their best horses to a global audience.”
Gross sales of $218,959,400 for the 12-day November Sale increased 6.34 percent over 2014, surpassing last year’s 11-day auction total of $205,899,500 on the ninth day of selling. Total sales represent the highest gross since the November Sale record of $340,877,200 set in 2007. This year 2,575 horses were sold compared to 2,512 in 2014.
The cumulative average of $85,033 rose 3.74 percent from last year’s $81,966 to mark the highest since 2007. The median price of $30,000 was just below the $35,000 posted in 2014.
“The market continues to show stability; however, the strength of this sale was built on the depth and breadth of buyers assembled at Keeneland,” Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell said. “Keeneland’s international development strategy continues to bear fruit. Trade was very active despite the diminished participation of last year’s two leading buyers. Our year-round recruitment efforts have established Keeneland as the world’s leading provider of horses and buyers at every level of the market.”
Week 2 in particular benefited from the activity of buyers from South America, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Turkey and the Philippines, among others, with the latter represented by bloodstock agent Manuel Viray, who bought breeding stock on behalf of clients in his home country. Among Viray’s purchases in the name of Triple T Ranch was the stallion Stately Victor, winner of Keeneland’s 2010 Toyota Blue Grass (G1), for $60,000.
“We took this opportunity to watch the Breeders’ Cup and at the same time bring some friends and show them what Keeneland has to offer,” Viray said. “About six of us were here. (The trip) opened their eyes, and they realized how much fun this whole process is.”
The top of the market continued to display strength as premium horses – young, graded stakes- producing mares, graded stakes-winning race fillies and mares and outstanding foals – were highly prized among buyers.
A total of 22 horses fetched seven-figure prices compared to 18 last November. Six sold for $2 million or more each and included champion Take Charge Brandi ($6 million) and Grade 1 stakes winners Photo Call (IRE) ($3 million) and Hard Not to Like ($2.2 million), as well as the top three highest-priced weanlings sold at public auction this year.
Those 22 seven-figure horses were purchased by 18 different buyers.
“Buyers remain very selective, even picky, but the money is there for the quality horses,” Russell said. “However, not all horses are desired by the market. Consignors who brought a top horse were well compensated.”
John G. Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm was active as both consignor and buyer. Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent, led the consignor rankings by gross, selling a total of 97 horses for $28,392,700. Among its offerings were eight horses that brought seven-figure prices, including the sale-topping Take Charge Brandi.
“The sale went very well for us; it was very gratifying,” Sikura said. “We brought a special group of horses and we were rewarded in the ring. It wasn’t completely surprising to us because we thought we had a very good group. You never know until it happens. We’re very happy with the way it turned out.”
Sikura expressed his thoughts about the overall market and echoed the view that buyers continue to be very discerning in their purchases.
“The criteria are the same in Books 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6; the only difference is price level,” he said. “With the obvious flaws or negatives – like very late cover dates or spotty produce records or middle-aged mares that haven’t produced yet – you’re severely punished. The barren mares no longer in foal are tough to sell because people want to get an immediate return.
“The November Sale sets the standard and the benchmark for the entire breeding season. It expresses confidence in the business because bloodstock are long-term investments so that when that market is healthy it portends a positive outlook on the future of the business.
“The underpinnings and stabilizing force of the business is the breeding industry, because we supply the product that people buy to be racehorses,” Sikura continued. “That’s too simplistic, but without that supply of horses you don’t have the business. The foundation of the business starts with the breeders, and they express confidence in the marketplace by buying new stock and they find out if that confidence was well placed depending on the future yearling sales. People make a prediction based on what they’ve experienced the previous September – and November is right around the corner – so you get a pretty immediate reaction from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and whether people want to move forward or not.
“I’ve been through the ups and downs, and I’ve seen these cycles so I know the good and the bad doesn’t last forever. It’s a very fluid, up-and-down cycle.”
Hill ‘n’ Dale consigned Take Charge Brandi, winner of the 2014 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Starlet (G1) and Delta Downs Princess (G3), for owner Willis D. Horton. In 2013, Horton purchased the Giant’s Causeway filly at Keeneland’s September Sale. Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine in turn purchased Take Charge Brandi for $6 million, as well as Grade 3 stakes winner Aurelia’s Belle for $1.8 million, in what Sikura called his ongoing effort to “acquire elite, first-class broodmares” for the farm’s breeding operation.
The purchase price for Take Charge Brandi was the highest at the November Sale since 2007, when John Ferguson Bloodstock bought Playful Act (IRE), consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent for Swettenham Stud, for the sale-record $10.5 million.
J.J. Crupi, in the name of his Crupi’s New Castle, purchased the sale’s second-highest priced mare, Photo Call (IRE), recent winner of the Rodeo Drive (G1) at Santa Anita, for $3 million.
Crupi’s New Castle led all buyers by gross expenditures, acquiring 26 horses for $10,059,000.
Brad Kelley’s Calumet ranked as leading buyer by total number of horses purchased, acquiring 71 horses for $8,717,000.
The market for quality foals remained robust among pinhookers and end-users both, with a Keeneland-record six weanlings commanding seven-figure prices.
“We featured a unique collection of foals that gave buyers the rare opportunity to acquire one-of-a-kind individuals from exclusive families,” Russell said.
Three weanlings, each by leading sire War Front, sold for $2 million or more.
Eaton Sales, agent, consigned a weanling filly out of Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady, who was hammered down to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm for $3.2 million, a North American record for a weanling sold at public auction. The price bested last year’s North American record of $3 million, also established at the November Sale, paid for a Tapit filly.
Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier paid $2.6 million, the second-highest price for a weanling colt in November Sale history, for a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Honor Code. A War Front filly out of Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria sold for $2 million to Willis Horton. Both foals were consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent.
Unique offerings drew attention from buyers throughout the sale. Royal Obsession, a 2-year-old Tapit filly currently in training, brought a final bid of $1.15 million from Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables to mark the first time since 2011 – and only the second time since 2005 – that a horse on Day 3 of the sale reached seven figures.
Trainers from New York and California were represented on Day 9 of the sale, which offered a strong contingent of racing prospects, highlighted by the sale of stakes winner Donworth for $550,000 to Dennis O’Neill.
Both Royal Obsession and Donworth were consigned by Three Chimneys Farm, agent for the complete dispersal of Nat Rea’s Regis Farms LP. The dispersal sold a total of 38 horses for $10,608,000, and included 2015 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) runner-up Shook Up, bought by Three Chimneys for $1.65 million.
“We thought it went quite well,” Three Chimneys Chief Commercial Officer Case Clay said. “At the end of the day, the Regis Farms dispersal grossed over $10.5 million, and we had it valued at about $10 million coming in.
“I thought it was a solid market,” Clay added about the November Sale overall. “Mares with some age had some trouble, and it seems that threshold age has come down, so if they’ve had some foals who haven’t got black type, it was a little bit tougher to sell those at what previously had been market value.”
The November Sale also featured the complete dispersal of the late Jerre Paxton’s Northwest Farms. Greenfield Farm (B.D. Gibbs Farm) was agent for the Northwest dispersal, which sold 40 horses for $4,285,000. Stakes winner Stopshoppingdebbie, a 5-year-old daughter of Curlin in foal to Medaglia d’Oro, brought the dispersal’s top price of $410,000 from Town & Country Horse Farms and Pollock Farms.
Keeneland’s next sale will be the 2016 January Horses of All Ages Sale, to be held Jan. 11-15.