Notable gains at Keeneland sale
Kentucky Oaks winner and champion Abel Tasman opened the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale by fetching a record-tying $5 million from Coolmore – and the action didn’t let up there. Four days of trade closed Thursday with across-the-board gains that exceeded expectations, including a record average price.
“With Abel Tasman, we kind of anticipated that Day 1 would be up from last year,” Keeneland’s director of sales Geoffrey Russell said. “But then you take her out, and it was still up, considerably. It’s just been really strong.”
Keeneland January concluded with 916 horses sold over the four sessions for total gross receipts of $46,759,600. That figure marked a 34 percent gain for revenues from last year’s four-day auction, when 909 horses sold for $34,996,000. It also finished as the auction’s highest gross since the $70,446,000 amassed in the 2008 edition, before the recession later that year. A robust demand for broodmares during this mixed sale season, which began last November, indicates optimism for the health of the recovered industry in the near future, as mares represent longer-term investments.
The cumulative average price finished at $51,048, edging the auction record of $50,182 established more than three decades ago in 1988. It also soared 33 percent from last year’s final average of $38,499. The median was $20,000, spiking 67 percent from $12,000 last year and equaling the record of $20,000 established at the 2014 auction.
The overall buyback rate finished at a realistic 22 percent in a selective market, improved from a cumulative 26 percent last year.
Abel Tasman was the only horse to crack the seven-figure ceiling at the auction, compared to two who did so during last year’s renewal, but there was plenty of market strength just behind her. Four horses sold for prices between $500,000 and $1 million, a price bracket no horses were in last year. The number of horses sold in the range between $250,000 and $500,000 improved to 23 from 18. The demand for quality continued late into the auction; in the third and fourth sessions, 11 horses topped six figures, compared to just two who did so in 2018.
“I think the market is very good – but as we said, it is quality” that sells, Russell said.
The undisputed star of the show was Abel Tasman, whose price during Monday’s opening session tied the $5 million Britton House Stud paid in 2000 for Grade 3 winner Mackie, a half-sister to Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero in foal to the great Mr. Prospector.
Dermot Ryan, manager of Coolmore’s Ashford Stud, said stallion plans were still in the process of being finalized for Abel Tasman’s first mating, which will come during the Northern Hemisphere breeding season beginning next month. Coolmore, of course, stands Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify.
Abel Tasman concluded her career with a record of 8-4-0 from 16 starts and earnings of $2,793,385. A six-time Grade 1 winner, including the 2017 Kentucky Oaks, she was the Eclipse Award champion 3-year-old filly and is a finalist for the 2018 older female title.
Abel Tasman was bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farm, with China Horse Club buying into the filly early in her 3-yearold season. The mare was consigned by Taylor Made Sales as agent for her owners.
Behind Abel Tasman, multiple graded stakes winner House Rules and the young stakes producer A Star Is Born each sold for $750,000.
WinStar Farm purchased House Rules, marking a return home for the daughter of WinStar stallion Distorted Humor who was bred by the farm in partnership with El Catorce Inc. She was sold for $90,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale to Leverett Miller, as agent, and raced for the late Joseph V. Shields Jr. and trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Shields died in October at age 80, and Keeneland January marked the first phase of a dispersal of his stock, handled by Blackwood Stables, as agent.
Multiple Grade 2-placed as a 3-year-old, House Rules emerged as a 4-year-old in 2015, winning the Grade 3 Rampart Stakes at Gulfstream, Grade 3 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct, and the Bal Harbour Handicap at Gulfstream. She placed in three graded stakes that season, including a thirdplace finish in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes.
House Rules sold carrying her second foal, to the cover of Quality Road.
A Star Is Born went to Summer Wind Farm. The winning Galileo mare’s first foal is Group 1-placed stakes winner Fleet Review, and she sold carrying a full sibling to that son of commercial standout War Front.
Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned A Star Is Born, who is a full sister to Group 1 winner Rip Van Winkle.
Among the newly turned yearlings on offer at Keeneland January, a colt by Union Rags led the way, fetching a price of $390,000 from Albert Racing. The colt, consigned by Indian Creek, as agent, is the first foal out of the Bernardini mare Zondaq, a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Discreet Dancer and stakes winners Travelin Man and Sweet N Discreet.
Rounding out the top three prices among yearlings were a $375,000 colt by leading juvenile sire Into Mischief sold to Ardfield Bloodstock, and a $330,000 colt from the second crop of American Pharoah sold to Brady Bloodstock.
With the breeding season kicking off in February, the mixed sale season is heading toward its conclusion. Remaining on the calendar are the CTBA January mixed sale on Wednesday, the OBS winter mixed sale on Jan. 29-30, and the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale on Feb. 4-5.