Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale ended Thursday after four days of solid results that indicated the continued demand for quality individuals, from newly turned yearlings to successful race fillies and in-foal broodmares. Three horses – led by broodmare prospect Prank at $1.6 million – sold for $1 million or more, equaling the most seven-figure horses at the sale since 2013 and the first such sales since 2019.
“The January Sale continued the consistent and stable market environment we saw last fall,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Quality individuals were highly prized, and the competition from a global buying bench drove healthy results. We thank all our participants for their support and wish everyone a successful breeding season.”
Gross sales for horses sold through the ring during the auction, held Jan. 8-11, were $38,330,300 for 831 horses, down 15.59% from last year’s $45,408,300 for 962 horses. Cumulative average price of $46,126 dipped 2.28% from $47,202 in 2023. Median price declined 21.05% from $19,000 to $15,000. The RNA rate was 22.84% versus last year’s 22.92%.
“The January Sale has been a very fair, competitive market,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy said. “From the beginning, we saw stability and a lot of good trade. Buyers were focused on quality and willing to pay a premium for it. You see that in the numbers. Day 1 realized increases in gross and average. The median was down, but that is due to selectivity similar to what we saw at the November Breeding Stock Sale. Overall, we are satisfied with the results.”
Post-sale gross receipts (for horses who did not meet their reserve prices when offered in the ring but sold privately afterward) recorded at the close of the January Sale totaled $2,243,000 million for 27 horses compared to $1,870,900 for 38 horses in 2022. Topping private sales at $1.2 million was stakes-placed Star Act, dam of undefeated 2023 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner and Eclipse Award finalist Just F Y I. In foal to Life Is Good, the 13-year-old Street Cry (IRE) mare was purchased by Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa and Determined Stud.
“RNA to Sale activity is up significantly over last year,” Keeneland Director of Operations Cormac Breathnach said. “This trend is reflective of an active buyer base that is determined to buy quality. When buyers step back and think about what these horses are worth, they’re willing to reconsider, and in some cases spend significantly more than the RNA price in the ring. We’re grateful for that.”
The depth and diversity of the January Sale buying bench were evidenced by the fact that the top 15 highest-priced horses were bought by 13 different entities.
The sale recorded its most expensive horse since 2019 when Tom Wachman, grandson of Coolmore founder John Magnier, paid $1.6 million to acquire Prank for Coolmore. A 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, Prank is a half-sister to Belmont (G1) winner Mo Donegal and was an impressive debut winner at Saratoga. She was consigned by Gainesway, agent.
Japan’s K I Farm went to $1 million to purchase Canadian champion Curlin’s Voyage, a 7-year-old daughter of Curlin in foal to Flightline. Consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale at Xalapa, agent, Curlin’s Voyage was supplemented to the January Sale.
K I Farm’s Tomoyuki Nakamura traveled from Japan to attend the January Sale for the first time. Also active was Japan’s Shadai Farm, which acquired broodmare prospect Dolce Zel (FR), a multiple Grade 3 winner, for $400,000. In addition to Europe and Japan, buyers also represented Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Australia.
“There was very broad-based, global attention focused on this sale,” Lacy said. “Our sales team has been aggressive in traveling around the world, meeting people in person in their home countries to make sure they understand Keeneland is an international marketplace. We’ve had correspondence from people around the world during this sale in addition to the great buyer base who were here.”
“It’s very rewarding for our international outreach to result in buyer presence at the January Sale,” Breathnach added.
In addition to leading international buyers, prominent domestic breeders such as Pin Oak Stud, John Stewart, SF Bloodstock, Claiborne Farm, Hinkle Farms, Calumet Farm, WinStar Farm and Glencrest Farm enhanced their broodmare bands with January Sale purchases.
Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm paid $700,000 for Sebago Lake, a 5-year-old daughter of Tapit in foal to Justify, to top the second session. Through a private sale in that same session, Whisper Hill and Gainesway spent $300,000 to acquire the 8-year-old Pioneerof the Nile mare Egyptian Storm, a half-sister to Justify in foal to Candy Ride (ARG).
Steven W. Young, as agent for Ramona Bass, spent $2,185,000 for four mares, highlighted by 8-year-old stakes-placed Bridlewood Cat, in foal to leading sire Tapit, for $750,000. The purchases, which ranked Young atop the January Sale leading buyer list, were made to support the Bass family’s millionaire, Grade 1 winner Annapolis, who enters stud this year at Claiborne Farm.
“There were horses at all different levels, but the top-echelon mares at (the) January (Sale) were November Sale quality,” Young said. “I thought they were very nice mares, and that’s why we bought them. We were looking for quality mares with pedigree that would give (Annapolis) a chance to do what we think he’s capable of doing. There’s only one time to make a first impression. We think the horse – if he has the right mares – has no ceiling to what he can throw.”
Young also purchased Grade 1-placed Kaling for $650,000 and the Grade 3-placed Galileo (IRE) filly Juniper’s Moon for $625,000.
Kaling was one of five fillies campaigned by Aron Wellman’s Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners who were consigned to the January Sale as racing/broodmare prospects. Others to sell were Lady Lowery ($270,000), Divine Huntress ($170,000) and Lily Poo ($100,000).
“The January Sale offers a unique timing advantage for sellers with nice fillies, and the Eclipse Thoroughbred consignment is a great example,” Lacy said. “Sellers are able to take a little more time with some of these fillies and capitalize by racing them until the end of the year. Hopefully we’ll be able to build on that going forward.”
Breathnach agreed. “The entry deadline for the November Sale is Aug. 1. If you have a really good filly, the January Sale gives you a chance hit the pause button and get through Breeders’ Cup, maybe get in another race. The response to the quality in this year’s sale should be encouraging to people who have that decision to make.”
Justify was the leading covering sire with three or more in-foal mares sold. His four in-foal mares grossed $1,254,000.
The two most expensive yearlings at the January Sale each sold for $430,000. The first was a filly by Candy Ride (ARG) purchased by John Stewart’s Resolute Bloodstock from consigner Stone Farm, agent. The filly was bred by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Spearmaco. Cherry Knoll Farm paid $430,000 for a yearling colt by Not This Time consigned by Warrendale Sales, agent and bred by Petaluma Bloodstock.
Not This Time was the leading yearling sire at the January Sale with eight yearlings grossing $1,435,000.
In all, 42 yearlings sold for six figures, led by six that brought $300,000 or more.
“The yearlings that sold well sold very, very well,” Breathnach said. “People were surprised at the activity at the top end of the yearling market. Sellers were really happy with the results and the yearlings went to good homes. There’s a lot of money around for the good horses. That’s a great sign for the future and the health of the yearling market in the fall.”
Lacy noted several positive factors contributing to the demand for quality yearlings during the January Sale.
“There’s confidence in the September Yearling Sale market now,” he said. “Additionally, purse money is up around the country and there’s been a level of stability in the yearling market the past few years. There were a number of yearlings withdrawn on Day 2 of the sale, but that could be a delayed reaction to having had a good yearling sale, you don’t have to sell a nice yearling in January to cover expenses.”
Taylor Made Sales Agency was the January Sale’s leading consignor for the 21st time since 2001. Taylor Made sold 100 horses for $5,080,200.
On Thursday, Keeneland sold 204 horses for $2,358,700, for an average of $11,562 and a median of $6,750.
Sycamore Hall Farm/David Wade, agent, paid $120,000 for a yearling filly by Practical Joke to lead the final session. Consigned by Buck Pond Farm (Douglas S. Arnold), agent, the filly is out of the Tapit mare Mezah, a half-sister to Canadian champion and Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mine That Bird, multiple Grade 1 winner Dullahan and stakes winner Mine That Star.