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Steady as she goes on Day One at Keeneland

8 min read
The four-day Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale opened with a workmanlike session in Lexington as the industry continued to adjust to the market’s new pandemic-induced reality.

Cover image courtesy of Keeneland

At A Glance

A colt from the Hunter Valley Farm draft by Munnings (USA) was the day’s top-priced offering when selling for US$475,000 (AU616,500) to Larry Best’s OXO Equine.

WinStar Farm made the day’s second-highest bid when going to US$400,000 (AU$520,000) to acquire the Elite-consigned Royal Charlotte (USA) (Cairo Prince {USA}).

A total of 302 horses went through the sales ring with 207 selling for a gross of US$12,155,400 (AU$15.77 million).

The average of US$58,722 (AU$76,175) dipped 8.8 per cent from the 2020 January opener, while the median held steady at US$35,000 (AU$45,434).

With 95 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate for the session was 31.5 per cent.

Ten horses sold for US$200,000 (AU$260,000) or more during the session, compared to 18 reaching that mark during last year’s first session of the auction..

Satisfactory opening

“I think it was a continuation of the November Sale,” Keeneland’s Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said. “I think people have adjusted to the marketplace and I think it was a good, steady start to the January Sale. Consignors are very happy because they have adjusted to the new normal.”

From a catalogue of 407, a total of 302 horses went through the sales ring with 207 selling for a gross of US$12,155,400 (AU$15.77 million). The average of US$58,722 (AU$76,175) dipped 8.8 per cent from the 2020 January opener, while the median held steady at US$35,000 (AU$45,434). With 95 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate for the session was 31.5 per cent.

Ten horses sold for US$200,000 (AU$260,000) or more during the session, compared to 18 reaching that mark during last year’s first session of the auction.

Hip 26 - Munnings (USA) x Sea Shadow (Ire) (colt) | Image courtesy of Keeneland

A colt by Munnings (USA) (Hip 26) was the day’s top-priced offering when selling for US$475,000 (AU$616,500) to Larry Best’s OXO Equine.

“He was very highly touted beforehand,” Russell said. “Munnings is starting to get the recognition that he deserves. I think this was the highest-priced of any Munnings' progeny. There was very competitive bidding until the last two broke out among themselves. It was very exciting and to do so early in the Sale helped us to build some momentum.”

“It was very exciting and to do so early in the Sale helped us to build some momentum.” – Larry Best

WinStar Farm made the day’s second-highest bid when going to US$400,000 (AU$520,000) to acquire 2019 GII Prioress S. winner Royal Charlotte (USA) (Cairo Prince {USA}) (Hip 17). The 5-year-old mare, who sold as a racing or broodmare prospect, was consigned by Elite.

“It feels a little lighter to me than November,” Elite’s Liz Crow said of the January market. “There just isn’t quite as much energy. That being said, we did see a yearling bring US$475,000 (AU$616,500).

“Royal Charlotte sold well and I am sure the dispersal will help it pick up. We felt good about our results today and we were happy with the market. There have been people there for our horses, so the market seems steady.”

Hip 17 - Royal Charlotte (USA) | Image courtesy of Keeneland

Best makes quick start

Larry Best, who purchased 17 head for US$7,965,000 (AU$10.34 million) at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, was quick to get on the board at the January Horses of All Ages Sale, to secure the session-topper by Munnings (USA) (Hip 26) from the Hunter Valley Farm consignment.

The chestnut colt is out of stakes-winning Sea Shadow (USA) (Jump Start {USA}) and is a half-brother to stakes-placed Rising Seas (USA) (First Defence {USA}).

“I think he was the standout weanling in the first session." - Larry Best

“I think he was the standout weanling in the first session,” Best said of the colt. “I bought him based on the physical, but then when you add in the pedigree with Munnings and Speightstown – which has been performing pretty well – it all just fit together very well. He was very popular, I knew that. A lot of the larger buyers were on the horse, so it didn’t surprise me that the price got a little high.”

Best also went to US$320,000 (AU$415,400) to acquire a daughter of Munnings’s sire Speightstown (USA) from the Buck Pond Farm consignment.

Group 1 relative

Hip 378 is out of the unraced Our Smile (USA) (Medaglia D’Oro {USA}), a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Order Of St George (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). The dark bay filly was bred by La Bahia Stud, which purchased Our Smile for US$100,000 (AU$130,000) at the 2014 Keeneland January Sale.

Best also acquired a colt by Nyquist (USA) (Hip 107) for US$185,000 (AU$240,300). Consigned by South Point Sales Agency, he is out of Venturini (USA) (Bernardini {USA}), a daughter of multiple Grade I winner Ventura (USA) (Chester House {USA}). He was bred by Brushy Hill.

“I have a Nyquist who is about ready to race who I bought as a weanling two years ago and so far he looks like a runner,” Best said. “So the Nyquist sire line looks like it is starting to strengthen up and this was a nice specimen. I wasn’t going to go too high on the horse, but I was able to get him at a price that I thought was worth the bet.

“I am also buying mares, but I haven’t bought one here yet. Right now, I’m kind of in all facets of the industry. I have a couple stallions, that’s why I’m in the broodmare market.”

Nyquist (USA) | Standing at Darley America

Elkstone Group expands

Stuart Grant has experienced a lifetime of racing success, with his The Elkstone Group co-owning champions Monomoy Girl (USA) (Tapizar {USA}) and British Idiom (USA) (Flashback {USA}) and breeding Grade I winner Mor Spirit (USA) (Eskendereva {USA}), but the Delaware attorney recently embarked on a new challenge in the industry with the purchase of stallion shares.

Grant was shopping for mares for his new shares at Keeneland January when he purchased a pair of broodmares by Curlin (USA) for matching US$260,000 (AU$338,000) bids.

“I have bought a few shares in some stallions, nice ones, too, so I was looking for quality mares that would cross well with the stallion shares that I bought,” Grant said, while declining to name the specific stallions. “So that was what I was doing. These two happened to cross particularly well with both the stallions that I was looking for.”

The Elkstone Group first struck for the 11-year-old Theogony (USA) (Curlin {USA}) (Hip 80). The multiple Graded-placed mare sold in foal to Omaha Beach (USA) and was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.

Later in the session, the operation acquired Curlin’s Fox (UA) (Curlin {USA}) (Hip 203) from the Denali Stud consignment. The 9-year-old mare, a multiple stakes winner on the racetrack, sold in foal to Uncle Mo (USA).

“I sort of got both things,” Grant said. “They were quality mares and mares that will mate well to the stallions that I bought shares in. And they are also carrying what I thought were very attractive foals in utero.”

“They were quality mares and mares that will mate well to the stallions that I bought shares in.” – Stuart Grant

Grant said the plan would be to race the foals, but he added, “But you know everything is for sale, we are just talking price.”

While he paid more for Theogony than he expected and less than he expected for Curlin’s Fox, Grant said early returns from the January Sale might indicate a soft market.

“I think it has been a soft market, but that’s based on getting to see half of one day, so you’ve got to be careful drawing those conclusions,” he said. “When we get to see the whole day, we can see, but I didn’t think it looked that strong.”

Keeneland return likely

A yearling filly (Hip 310) by red-hot sire Into Mischief (USA) became the second-highest priced foal and highest-priced filly of the day when bringing US$210,000 (AU$273,000) from Beryl “Sonny” Stokes. The filly is likely to return to the Keeneland auction ring this September, according to horseman Hoby Kight, who purchased the youngster on Stokes’s behalf.

“She is by the right horse. He is the hottest sire in America. Her broodmare sire, Tapit, is the second or third hottest sire in America,” Kight said. “He will probably sell her back as a yearling, most likely in September.”

Stokes did not attend the Sale and instead remained home in Florida, saying the weather in Kentucky was too cold for him at this time of year.

“Hoby buys horses for me and we partner on them,” Stokes said. “He has the experience and the ability. I just buy them and get them into a good place to be trained and sell them at the next sale, usually. This will make 12 for this year, so this will probably be my last one for the season.”

Consigned by Hunter Valley Farm for breeder Capital Bloodstock, Hip 310 is out of the unraced Tapit (USA) mare Keesha (USA), who was purchased by Horse France for US$220,000 (AU$285,000) in foal to Into Mischief at the 2017 Keeneland November Sale.