Keeneland November Closes With Gains in Gross and Average

Midnight BisouKeeneland


With the Breeders' Cup returning to Lexington for the third time, headlined by the mighty Flightline (Tapit), the buzz in Lexington was electric from late October all the way through the nearly two weeks of breeding stock sales that followed the World Championships. Combine that with a deep and diverse buying bench and high demand and the result was gains in both gross and average for the 10-day Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, which ran from Nov. 7-16.

“With the close of the November Breeding Stock Sale, Keeneland is nearing the end of a remarkable fall season, and we send a sincere thank you to everyone who supported our September and November Sales, Fall Meet and Breeders' Cup,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Since September, we have been hard at work to showcase the best in Thoroughbred racing and sales, and we are privileged to have had the opportunity to share Keeneland with a global audience. Our November Sale benefitted from the excitement of the Breeders' Cup, the sale of the Flightline interest and the fireworks of Book 1, creating positive experiences from start to finish.”

With the Horses of Racing Age Sale being separated into its own one-day auction, to be held Nov. 17, this year, 2,245 horses went through the ring over the last 10 days for gross receipts of $210,027,700. The 2022 November sale eclipsed the gross 2,470 horses achieved during 2021 of $203,585,500 on its eighth day. The cumulative average of $93,554 was up 13.5% from last year's average of $82,423, but the median was down a tick (5.41%) from $37,000 to $35,000. The RNA percentage also rose from 17.36% last year to 21.75% for 2022.

The November Sale was topped by champion Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), who summoned $5.5 million from Northern Farm's Katsumi Yoshida carrying her second foal by Tapit. She led a total of 12 seven-figure sellers, compared to seven in 2021, including three in Book 2, which previously had not seen a million-dollar horse since 2017.

“We really put an effort into building up the front end of the catalogue to make sure we have quality forward and the buyers were presented with the horses they expected to see and are here for,” said Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy. “I think everybody responded to that. We appreciate our consignors and breeders for supporting us in that endeavor. I think the buyers really responded. It allows us more confidence to do the things we feel are important to do and develop. We are only getting started. Without making major changes at any point, we want to make sure the tweaks we do make work. I think overall we are on the right track. We have a responsibility to the industry.”




Flying Into the Future

Keeneland kicked off the November Sale with a first-of-its-kind offering, a 2.5% interest in unbeaten superstar Flightline, who scored a breathtaking victory in the GI Longines Breeders' Cup Classic two days before the auction and was retired to the Lane's End stallion barn about 16 hours later. Keeneland and Lane's End employed virtual reality and the metaverse for this unique offering and buyers responded enthusiastically. Auctioned 30 minutes prior to the start of Book 1 in a jam-packed pavilion, the Flightline share summoned $4.6 million from Brookdale's Freddy Seitz, acting on behalf of “an undisclosed Seattle-based owner and client with interests in the coffee business,” Sid Fernando reported in his Taking Stock column Nov. 9. Coolmore was the immediate underbidder.

“We are trying to push boundaries all of the time,” Lacy said. “This is a situation where the stars aligned. Bill Farish mentioned that it might be a possibility and we were looking at virtual reality and the metaverse to bring a new customer base or at least a new fan base in. When Flightline won the Pacific Classic, things got real. Coming into the Breeders' Cup, the whole industry was absolutely in awe of what he was and what his future would be as a stallion. To be able to pull something together like that was a mammoth effort on the legal side, as well as the logistics side. It was exciting for us all to be involved in.”

Lane's End's Allaire Ryan expressed similar sentiments, “It was a really unique way to start out the sale and the energy that it brought to the pavilion that afternoon was really fantastic. It had a domino effect on the subsequent purchases made in the sale, when you factor in the number of mares that were purchased specifically to be bred to Flightline. There were a few out of our consignment alone, like Shamrock Rose, Edgeway, Bayerness. Even though he is retired from racing, he is already impacting the industry from a commercial breeder standpoint. That has been an exciting wave to ride for sure.”

As Ryan stated, the retirement of Flightline made quite the impact on the November market. The partners on the no-doubt Horse of the Year were busy scooping up mares to breed to their once-in-a-lifetime horse, as were several other breeders. For example, Flightline's breeder and part-owner Jane Lyon of Summer Wind Farm was third-leading buyer for the sale, acquiring four mares for her new stallion for $4.625 million with an average of $1,156,250. Her purchases were topped by the aforementioned MGSW and GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint runner-up Edgeway (Competitive Edge) for $1.7 million.

Flightline wasn't the only new stallion impacting the November market, however. The partners on MGISW 'Rising Star' Life Is Good (Into Mischief), who gave Flightline all he had through swift fractions for the first mile of the Classic, were also actively acquiring mares for WinStar's new addition. For instance, the China Horse Club bought five mares for a total of $1.75 million for an average of $350,000.

Lane's End Leads All Consignors

Even without the $4.6-million boost provided by Flightline, Lane's End took the title of leading consignor for this year's November Sale. The Farish family's operation sold a total of 129 head, including Flightline's fractional interest, for $23,460,400 with an average of $181,864. Even excepting the share, Lane's End was still the November Sale's top seller. Their top-selling mare was champion female sprinter Shamrock Rose (First Dude), who brought $3 million from Japan's KI Farm carrying a foal by Curlin and is set to meet Flightline next year.



“It is super gratifying for us to be leading consignor even without the big sale of the Flightline share, which was a really fun way to start out the sale,” Ryan said. “We had some really quality offerings in Book 1 and Book 2, which set us out on the right foot. Where there is quality, there is plenty of depth in the market. People that did bring good horses were rewarded for it, which was great to see. We had some nice broodmare prospects. We had some lovely in-foal mare and a couple of standout weanlings. It had a trickle down effect from there.”

Bisou On Top Again

An Eclipse winner in 2019 and Fasig-Tipton November topper in 2020, MGISW Midnight Bisou was at the head of the class again at this year's Keeneland November Sale. Purchased by Chuck and Lori Allen for $5 million at the aforementioned Fasig sale, she is headed to Japan after bringing $5.5 million from Katsumi Yoshida with a Tapit filly in utero. Midnight Bisou was offered by John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale at Xalapa, which also sold the $7-million Fasig-Tipton November topper, champion Gamine (Into Mischief), who went to Coolmore's M.V. Magnier in foal to Quality Road.

“It was a great thrill,” said Sikura. “We topped both the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland sales. All the credit to our team and the people who supplied us with a great draft of horses. It is all about quality and we were fortunate enough to have had a fantastic sale at both sales companies. This is the second consecutive year we topped Fasig-Tipton and it was nice to do it at Keeneland as well. Credit to the horses. We had a good strong market. People can't get enough of quality.”

He continued, “Everyone is very specific about what they like. There are different categories of mares, but if you are going to sell a $100,000 mare, you want it to be an early cover and in foal to the right horse. If you want to sell sale toppers, you need to have pedigree and good race records with those early covers and the right sire. I thought everybody who brought quality was well rewarded. This trend has continued for the last many years and it looks like it is here to stay. ”

Weanlings In High Demand

John Sikura | Keeneland

After a record-setting Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the weanling market was very strong and competitive at the November Sale, producing North America's top-priced weanling for the fourth consecutive year. That youngster was a Medaglia d'Oro filly out of SW Serena's Cat (Storm Cat), dam of champion Honor Code (A.P. Indy), who was purchased for $1.5 million by Magnier.

“In Book 1, we grossed 45% more for weanlings than we did last year,” said Keeneland's Directory of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach. “We really appreciate the support of the breeders and consignors. We depend on them heavily. Your sale is only as good as the catalogue. It's been a terrific collaboration. The market has been bullish. We are enjoying a good time in the industry.”

That trickled down into the later books, creating a stronger middle market for weanlings with varying pedigrees.

“It is quite hard to sell a mare that is 12-15 even if they had a stakes-placed horse and a few winners,” Sikura said. “If they are good foal, it doesn't matter who they are by, how old the mare is or what their up-close pedigree is. Obviously, the more you have of all of that criteria, the more they make of it. I've seen foals walk through and bring $180,000 and you look at the sire and think, who is this? The pendulum has swung now so much toward the physical horse. I think that is the determining factor at the yearling sales and also at the foal sales. They have to vet. They have to have the smooth physical and great walk. Those kinds, they chase them hard.”

“Where you have quality, you had plenty of people interested,” said Ryan. “If for some reason a mare or weanling didn't tick all the boxes, it felt thinner. It didn't take long for that feeling to set in. I think there was still plenty of good competition in the weanling market, especially for good physicals. People were rewarded at the yearling sales this year and they were looking to reinvest, but they weren't willing to take a lot of risk if it didn't have a top physical or had some vet issues.”

The leading sire of weanlings for the 10-day auction was MGISW 'TDN Rising Star' and new Gainesway sire McKinzie (Street Sense) with 23 members of his first crop bringing $3.162 million with an average of $137,478.

Tapit, Into Mischief Rule Keeneland

Buoyed by the sale of the 2.5% fractional interest in his star son Flightline, Tapit led all sires with a gross of $9,507,000 and average of $365,654. Taking the Flightline share out of the equation puts super sire Into Mischief on top with 31 head bringing $6,961,500 with an average of $224,565.

Hill 'n' Dale's new addition, MGISW 'Rising Star' Charlatan (Speightstown), was the sale's leading covering sire by gross with 27 mares carrying his first foals bringing $8.472 million and averaging $313,778. Lane's End stalwart Quality Road was second with 11 mares carrying his offspring summoning $7.675 million with an average of $697,727, easily tops among sires with five or more in-foal mares sold. Curlin and Tapit each averaged seven figures for their limited in-foal mares.

Charlatan covered a great book of mares,” Sikura said. “The most elite mares did not go to public auction. I think the momentum is building and we are looking forward to his first foals. He bred outstanding mares.”




Foreign Buyers Boost November Market

A treasure trove of foreign buyers, led by Japan, gave the November market a significant boost, creating even more depth and diversity in the buying bench. Japan's Katsumi Yoshida led all buyers by gross at $9.7 million and average at $3,233,333. Each of the three mares purchased by his bloodstock agent Shingo Hashimoto fetched seven figures, highlighted by sale-topping Midnight Bisou.

“The international market was a critical part of the outcome of this sale,” Lacy said. “Japanese buyers were extremely active, especially at the top, despite the swing in the exchange rate, which is not in their favor. That was extremely gratifying to see. We had buyers from 29 countries participate at the sale. That is on the high end of what we would expect. With the dollar being so strong, it is great to get that international support. It's a global marketplace and we work on that very heavily. We've seen 60 or 70 Australians here, which we haven't seen in years. We've seen Europeans here that have not been in here in six or seven years and they were back and were active. They are energized by what they see. That is very encouraging for us.”

The top 20 horses, including the Flightline share, were purchased by 15 individual buyers, three of which were from Japan.

Domestic buyers also remained active at the November Sale. In addition to the aforementioned Coolmore and Summer Wind Farm, one of the most active American buyers was Pin Oak Stud, recently purchased by Jim and Dana Bernhard. They scooped up 15 mares for their new farm for a total of $4.354 million. Bloodstock agent Chad Schumer bought the most horses during the 10-day auction, taking home 51 head for $3,385,500 with an average of $66,382.




Final Session Stats

Wednesday's 10th and final session of the Keeneland November Sale, which was the third session of Book 5, was topped by a pair of $45,000 weanlings. Upper Mill Stable took home a filly from the first crop of Honor A.P. (Hip 3514) and J. T. Vill purchased a colt by Kantharos (Hip 3545).

A total of 154 horses sold Wednesday for $1,148,600 with an average of $7,458 and median of $3,600. Thirty-three horses failed to meet their reserves for an RNA rate of 17.65%.

Racehorses Moved To A Separate Sale

Horses of racing age have been a traditional part of the Keeneland November Sale, typically being sold in the middle of auction, except for last year when it they were offered during the final session. This year, Keeneland separated that popular section out and made it its own single-day sale to be held Thursday after the conclusion of Breeding Stock Sale.

“For the first year it is its own sale, for several reasons,” Breathnach said. “One is the later entry deadline. It is a more dynamic catalogue. We can give it a greater online presence with more Form, figures and data associated with each offering. That is something that is a little difficult to do when you have an Aug. 1 deadline like we do with the breeding stock sale. We are also confined by the number of horses in each session. Those horses were catalogued in the second half during Book 3 or Book 4, which took up spots breeders wanted their mares or foals to be in.”

He continued, “It is its own sale so it can have its own identity and own dynamic and build a stronger catalogue. It allows it to go forward. The horses in training market is very strong. Our position in the calendar year is when people are transitioning to new locations for the winter, so they got a chance to buy or sell stock that will fit where they are going or be better off elsewhere.”

The HORA sale, which begins at noon, has a catalogue of 356 racehorses of varying ages, including several promising juveniles and an array of black-type competitors. Last year's HORA portion, which was part of a mixed final of 10 sessions, was topped by the 2-year-old colt Strava (Into Mischief), who brought $825,000.



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