Keeneland ends with 12 per cent dip in average

Keeneland ends with 12 per cent dip in average By Ron Mitchell of Blood-Horse 2:10PM 14 JAN 2017

THE Keeneland January horses of all ages sale came to an end on Friday with across-the-board declines for the auction that was bereft of a depth of quality offerings.

With 1,893 horses cataloged and 492 withdrawn, Keeneland reported 961 were sold for $28,785,500, down 19 per cent compared to the $35,463,000 total paid for 1,040 during the 2016.

The 2017 average of $29,954 was 12 per cent off the $34,099 average last year, while the median declined five per cent from $11,000 last season to $10,500.

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The 440 horses that did not reach their reserve prices represented an not-sold rate of 31 per cent compared with 25 per cent in 2016, when 347 were bought back.

Last year's auction was highlighted by the partial dispersal of the Sarah J Leigh Estate, with Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud, agent, with six horses grossing $2,095,000.

Friday's finale was topped by Singsong, a winning four-year-old Unbridled's Song filly bought by Machmer Hall for $52,000 from the Buck Pond Farm consignment.

During the session, 171 horses were sold for $1,306,400, with the $7,640 average down 16 per cent from the $9,087 figure for the same day a year ago when 197 head changed hands for $1,790,100. The median was unchanged at $5,000, with a buyback rate of 32 per cent.

As one of the last public auctions before the start of the North American breeding season, the January sale provides a marketplace for some breeders wanting to move mares or bring in fresh stock to their operations. Others use it as venue for mares in foal to top-end stallions and just-turned yearlings.

In addition to lacking a dispersal, the sale lost some of its drawing power with the withdrawal of some top broodmare or racing prospects because they had recently been in Louisiana where an outbreak of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) ostensibly had an impact on this year's numbers.

After horses at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots tested positive for EHV-1, the Office of the Kentucky State Veterinarian imposed an embargo on any horses that have been at a Louisiana track or training facility since December 10 from shipping to any track or training facility in Kentucky. Keeneland placed restrictions on any horse that had been in Louisiana following that date.

Lack of dispersal fireworks

"This was a typical January sale without a dispersal," Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales operations, said. "Dispersals always do add a little flavour. I thought the quality offerings we had here sold really well and probably sold better than anticipated. There was good competitive bidding.

"The horses that met the market were very well rewarded. The horses that did not meet the market are being excused. People have strict criteria of what they want to buy and in this market if you don't meet that criteria they walk away. They don't drop to the next level."

Russell said the January sale was a continuation of trends seen in other sales throughout 2016 and that breeders should look at those results in relation to their programmes.

"This is nothing new. I would hope breeders would look at the sales season of 2016-17 and act accordingly," the sales executive said.

The sale topper was Siren Serenade, an 11-year-old Unbridled's Song mare bought by Don Alberto Corp for $1,025,000. The only mare in the sale in foal to leading sire Tapit , Siren Serenade is the dam of Grade 1-placed Luminance, a Tale Of The Cat filly bought by Don Alberto for $1 million at last November's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale.

Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales signed the ticket for Siren Serenade on behalf of Don Alberto.

The mare was the first horse to eclipse the seven-figure mark at the January sale since 2015 when the Galileo mare Up was sold for $2.2m.

Concerns over lots with no bids

While the quality mares and yearlings were in demand, at the other end of the spectrum, 86 horses went through the ring for which there were no bids. Last year, 38 did not attract a single bid.

"It's a sad situation where these horses don't meet the market and there's nobody there at all, but I think breeders and consignors need to take a look at that and start evaluating that at the time of entry," Russell said.

Leading consignor by gross was Taylor Made Sales Agency, with 100 horses bringing $4,740,800. Leading consignor by average (three or more sold) was Mulholland Springs, with 18 averaging $85,400.

International Equities Holding was top buyer, with 11 bought for $2,251,000.

Gainesway's Tapit was leading sire, with ten horses selling for $1,384,000. The sale-topper also made Tapit leading covering sire by gross.

Lane's End's Liam's Map was top covering sire by average price (three or more covered mares sold), with four mares averaging $95,050.

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