by Jessica Martini & Christie DeBernardis
The Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale, propelled by a pair of power-packed dispersals and held in the shadow of the ongoing global pandemic, concluded its four-day run Thursday in Lexington. The dispersal of the Estate of the late Paul Pompa, Jr., which, along with the Sam-Son broodmare dispersal dominated much of Tuesday's action, provided the auction with one last round of fireworks late in the day Thursday with a bevy of high-priced racehorse prospects. Leading the way was Carillo (Union Rags) (hip 1566) who sold for $875,000 to bloodstock agent Lauren Carlisle, bidding on behalf of an undisclosed client. Tabbed a 'TDN Rising Star' just a week ago in his winning debut for trainer Chad Brown, the sophomore will be joining the barn of trainer Tom Amoss. West Point Thoroughbreds and D J Stable teamed up to purchase graded stakes winner Turned Aside (American Pharoah) (hip 1563) for $725,000. That 4-year-old colt is expected to join the barn of trainer Mark Casse.
“The January sale of 2021 went off very, very well,” said Keeneland's Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell. “We appreciate the trust given to us by the people who had dispersals. Mr. Pompa's racehorses today sold very well, which we expected. They were well-received in the marketplace. Overall, I thought the sale went very well.”
Over the course of four days, Keeneland sold 963 horses for a total of $45,522,100. The average was $47,271 and the median was $15,000. Forty-four horses sold for $200,000 or over.
During the five-day 2020 January sale, 1,050 horses sold for $40,453,300. The average was $38,527 and the median was $13,000. Forty-two horses sold for $200,000 or over a year ago, led by the $640,000 broodmare prospect Enaya Alrabb (Uncle Mo).
“The continued stability of the market is a testament to the hard work of all our sales participants, who have adjusted their operations and their expectations to meet the challenges of this unprecedented time,” Keeneland President, CEO and Interim Head of Sales Shannon Arvin said.
Held as it was in the midst of a pandemic and the ensuing travel restrictions and economic uncertainties, consignors seemed content just to be holding an auction.
“Whether we like it or not, we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” said Hunter Valley Farm's Adrian Regan. “And to be having a horse sale, one, is fantastic and then to have a market is even better. We wouldn't be complaining about the state of the market considering what is going on in the world.”
Hunter Valley sold the top-priced yearling of the auction and enjoyed strong Book 1 results, but Regan acknowledged demand fell off in Book 2.
“We would be slightly biased about how it all went in Book 1 for us because it was probably our best January sale ever really,” Regan said. “We felt going over there, we had good stock for Book 1. We were surprised by the amount of people that were there and the amount of views we had at the barn on Saturday and Sunday. In saying that, the market is very polarized still. Everybody seems to be landing on the same horse. When we got to Book 2, it was tough enough going. The middle to lower market is tough.”
As consignors adjusted expectations to account for the new realities of the market, the results seemed to follow.
“All things considered, I think it was a very fair market,” said Denali Stud's Conrad Bandoroff. “We had a near 100% clearance rate. I think if you had realistic expectations going up there, you were able to get horses moved at all levels. There seemed like there were willing buyers at every segment of the market. That is comforting and encouraging to see. If you went up there with a horse, who is maybe a lower-tier horse, you were able to get them moved. If you had a horse with veterinary issues or by an off-flavor sire, you were hoping you were going to get a bid and in most cases you did. The market for mares continued to have some strength and resiliency and surprise me. We had a few mares that either had a little age on them or had a few foals and I was pleasantly surprised that there was appetite for those kind of mares. I think about two years ago, you were struggling to recoup your stud fee with those mares, so to see people willing to buy them and to do so at the upper end of our appraisal value, was encouraging.”
Bloodstock agent Michael Slezak, buying on behalf of various New York clients, purchased seven horses for prices from $13,000 to $55,000. He said he was happy with the horses he was able to get bought at reasonable prices.
“My mindset is to always find bargain at any price range,” Slezak said after concluding his bidding at the auction Thursday afternoon. “After I buy a horse, I want to feel like there is a chance someone is going to call 9-1-1 and report a robbery. That's my buying philosophy. And I feel like I did that repeatedly at this sale. I did not do that in November. I had a hard time in November. I shopped exclusively for mares and in November I found that the mares that I liked were all going a little bit higher than I wanted them to, based on what I was expecting going in. I thought it was going to be a down market in November. I don't know if a lot of people would have called it a strong market, but I didn't want to pay that much for some of these mares.”
Slezak said that he found buyers more forgiving with less commercial covering sires than he had experienced at past sales.
“There were some mares in this sale who were in foal to sires I did not consider fashionable–maybe useful sires–and they were going to $30,000 or $40,000, sometimes higher than that,” Slezak said. “I've always found that people are shopping for the covering sire first and foremost. The prevailing philosophy is 'be in foal to something sexy or you're doomed.' But at this particular sale, January 2021, it seemed like if you had a beautiful page or a couple of interesting things in the pipeline, people were willing to overlook an unsexy covering stallion. Which surprised me a little bit.”
Internet Bidding Continues to Grow
The January sale was the third auction at which Keeneland offered buyers the chance to bid online. The innovation, originally necessitated by the pandemic, continues to gain in popularity. A total of 1,258 bids were received over the internet during the four days, with 109 horses sold online for gross receipts of $3,106,900.
“It did prove popular once again,” Arvin said of the internet bidding. “That technology is important in 2021 and beyond.”
Russell added he was looking forward to welcoming crowds back to the normally bustling Keeneland sales pavilion.
“While we appreciate the ability to offer internet bidding for people who can't be here, we are looking forward to the day when we can welcome everybody back to Keeneland,” he said. “We prefer them to be here. We enjoy their company and the hustle and the bustle it provides.”
Dispersals Draw a Crowd
Tuesday's second session of the auction was dominated by the dispersals of Sam-Son Farm and the estate of the late Paul Pompa, Jr. The two dispersals shared the co-top price of the auction, with Sam-Son Farm's Danceforthecause (Giant's Causeway) (hip 587) selling for $925,000 to Gainesway Farm and Peter Brant's White Birch Farm paying that same amount for Regal Glory (Animal Kingdom) (hip 587) from the Pompa dispersal. Eleven horses sold for $500,000 or over at the January sale and all were from the two dispersals.
A total of 21 Sam-Son broodmares sold for $6,733,000 and an average of $320,619.
“Mr. Samuel started Sam-Son Farm over 50 years ago and a lot of time and effort has been made by the operation in developing these strong families,” Russell said. “They very rarely get put on the public marketplace, so it was an opportunity for major breeders to get into those families. It's a great testament to them and to the longevity of the operation.”
The Pompa dispersal, handled by Lane's End Farm, was responsible for the top six offerings during Thursday's final session of the sale. Overall, 38 horses from the late owner's dispersal grossed $6,790,200 for an average of $178,689.
“The Sam-Son and Pompa dispersals are the legacies of two wonderful operations, and they infused a lot of positive energy into the January sale,” Arvin said. “Dispersals are always bittersweet, but we are honored that their families and connections entrusted Keeneland to present these dispersals and showcase their excellence.”
Lane's End Farm was the auction's leading consignor by gross, with 78 head sold for $8,741,200. Sam-Son Farm led consignors by average.
Quality Yearlings Remain In Demand
The demand for quality short yearlings remained strong, with a colt by Munnings bringing top price of $475,000 from Larry Best's OXO Equine LLC during the Monday's first session of the auction. The yearling was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.
“We were surprised to see him get the amount he made in the end,” admitted Hunter Valley's Adrian Regan. “It was the perfect storm. Two of the biggest players in town ended up battling for him. He was a very, very good horse.”
Ocala horseman Nick de Meric was active in the yearling market, purchasing eight horses on behalf of an undisclosed client.
“I would say there was a little bit less competition than we had in November,” de Meric said of the bidding on yearlings. “It is still never easy to buy the ones you want, but we did land a few of our top picks, which was difficult to do in November because it seemed like people were lining up for those horses.”
During the four-day January sale, 404 short yearlings sold for $14,565,600. The average was $36,053 and the median was $14,500.
In 2020, 462 short yearlings sold prior to the inclusion of post-sale transactions for $17,677,200. The average was $38,262 and the median was $13,000. A colt by Uncle Mo was the auction's top-priced yearling at $400,000. That colt resold for $550,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.
Carillo a Star in the Sales Ring As Well
It was just a week ago that Carillo (Union Rags) was tabbed a 'TDN Rising Star' following a gritty debut victory at Aqueduct for trainer Chad Brown. He followed that effort with a star turn in the sales ring at Keeneland Thursday, selling for a session-topping $875,000 to the bid of bloodstock agent Lauren Carlisle. Carlisle declined to name the client for whom she was buying, but said the Paul Pompa homebred will now head south to the New Orleans winter base of trainer Tom Amoss.
The agent agreed Carillo's debut (video) was a big draw.
“He didn't break great, got pinched at the start and took a ton of dirt during the race and made a middle move pretty impressively,” she said. “Obviously, when he got in the clear, he won pretty easily. At the beginning of the race, it didn't look like he had a shot and he definitely surprised, I'm sure, everyone being a first-time starter. To me that showed his raw talent that he was able to overcome that.”
Pompa purchased Carillo's unraced dam Proper Mad (Bernardini), with the future Rising Star in utero, for $185,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale. The yearling's third dam is Private Status (Alydar), dam of GI Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status.
“For just running last week and then coming on a van from New York for 12 hours, I thought he looked pretty good,” Carlisle said of her impressions of the colt at the sales barn. “He is a good-sized colt and fit. I would expect nothing less coming from Chad. He does a great job.”
Of Carillo's session-topping price, Carlisle said, “When you are shopping for a 3-year-old colt before the Derby who broke his maiden like that, they are not going to be cheap. We knew that. You always want to buy them for less when you are at a live auction, but I wasn't entirely surprised by the price.”
Peter Brant's White Birch Farm purchased Proper Mad for $260,000 during Tuesday's session of the Keeneland January sale.
Turned Aside A Hot Commodity at KEEJAN
Talented turf sprinter Turned Aside (American Pharoah) proved quite popular (as expected) at Keeneland Thursday, hammering for $725,000 after a spirited round of bidding. David Ingordo signed the ticket on Hip 1563 on behalf of a partnership between West Point Thoroughbreds and D J Stable.
“What a lovely horse,” West Point's Terry Finley said. “We are partners with D J Stable. This is the second horse that we've bought together. We bought a newly turned 3-year-old right before the turn of the year. They are wonderful people.”
Finley continued, “He will go to Mark Casse. When I said to Mark that he was a beautiful horse, he said, 'I know. I know. He beat me several times in the last year.' We are very excited.”
Consigned by Lane's End as part of the complete dispersal of the Estate of the late Paul Pompa, Jr., Turned Aside captured two of his five starts during his 2019 juvenile campaign and kicked off 2020 with a second in the Sir Cat S. at Belmont in June. A decisive winner of the GIII Quick Call S. next out in July, the Linda Rice trainee did not seem to take to the unconventional course at Kentucky Downs, finishing fifth in the GIII Franklin-Simpson S. in September. The Pompa homebred rebounded with another good-looking score in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship S. Nov. 28. His record currently stands at 9-4-2-1 with earnings of $241,967.
“I was always a huge fan of Paul Pompa's,” Finley said. “He was such a great guy and, year after year, he came up with runners. Like everybody else, I was heartbroken when he passed way too soon. I figured there would be a dispersal and it was in the back of my mind, the last couple of months, to try to get something to continue his legacy. So, it all just fell into place.”
He added, “It is very exciting. These are the types of horses we try to buy at the yearling and 2-year-old sales. You have to pay up. If they vet and carry themselves the right way. You aren't going to get them at a discount.”
Turned Aside's GSP dam Sustained (War Front) (Hip 463) sold during Tuesday's session, bringing $320,000 from Phil Schoenthal, acting as agent for Determined Stud. She sold in foal to Pompa's Grade I winner Connect and her 2020 Connect colt followed her into the ring, selling for $32,000 to bloodstock agent Steve Young (Hip 464).
A longtime friend of Pompa's who purchased several horses on his behalf, Young, bought a total of four horses from the Pompa dispersal, topped by the newly minted sophomore colt Untreated (Nyquist) (Hip 1564), who hammered for $300,000. The bloodstock agent purchased the horse on behalf of an undisclosed client, but did say the colt would be trained by Todd Pletcher. A son of GSP Fully Living (Unbridled's Song), the $550,000 KEESEP acquisition was hammered down to 4-5 favoritism for his Gulfstream unveiling Jan. 9, but failed to fire, finishing sixth.
“He was a horse that was always well liked, starting from the time he was in training with Eddie Woods,” Young said. “He trained very well for Eddie and went to Chad [Brown] and trained even better there. We are going to look past his first race and know that he is a good horse who just did not fire in his first start. American Pharoah and Secretariat didn't either.”
Reflecting on the dispersal and loss of his friend, Young said, “It is sad on many levels, for the business and personally, for myself. He was a special friend, who the more you knew about him, the more you liked him.”
The Pompa dispersal consisted of 39 horses, a mix of racehorses, broodmares and yearlings, who sold with no reserves. One horse did not receive any bids, but the other 38 sold for a gross of $6,790,200 for an average of $178,689. Pompa horses accounted for six of the top 11 sellers in the Keeneland January Sale, including $925,000 co-topper Regal Glory (Animal Kingdom) (Hip 403) and Thursday's $875,000 session topper Carillo (Union Rags) (Hip 1566). The other five horses in the top 11 came from the Sam-Son dispersal.
“Mr. Pompa's program has been meticulously managed and it shows,” Lane's End Sales Director Allaire Ryan said. “It is nice to see the top agents and buyers giving these horses the respect they deserve. Mr. Pompa would be pleased.” —@CDeBernardisTDN
De Meric Stays Busy at Keeneland
Nick de Meric was quite busy at Keeneland this week, securing a total of eight short yearlings for $905,000 total, an average of $113,125. The horseman was acting on behalf of an undisclosed client, signing for the yearlings under the name Sand Hill Stables.
“Those are largely on behalf of a client who races, but some will be pinhooked and we haven't quite decided which is which yet,” de Meric said. “Sometimes if you buy them in the name of someone who races, people assume the ones who end up back in the sale are culls, which is not the case.”
De Meric's purchases include a $200,000 colt by Maclean's Music (Hip 275); a $155,000 son of Ghostzapper (Hip 186); a $130,000 filly by top freshman sire Nyquist (Hip 357); a $130,000 daughter of Horse of the Year Gun Runner (Hip 800F); a $110,000 More Than Ready filly (Hip 3); a $90,000 Mastery colt (Hip 256); a $50,000 daughter of Lord Nelson (Hip 159); and a $40,000 filly by Mastery (Hip 775).
“We are looking for yearlings that are good athletes,” de Meric said. “No matter what you are doing, that is what you've got to start with. We have to see what pedigrees we can afford and there are certain sires we are fond of, but, at the end of the day, we are looking for athletes.”
He continued, “You probably saw I bought a couple of Masterys, a Gun Runner. Those kind of sires don't scare me if I am liking enough of them. In other words, second-crop sires that are consistently producing good individuals, I will take a shot with those. Very often, those are the ones who do jump up when there 2- or 3-year-olds get to the track. But the market, as we know, is not always kind to those sires, at least not initially, so that presents an opportunity in my view.” —@CDeBernardisTDN