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Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale Posts Solid Results Led by Strong Weanling Market

Keeneland’s 80th November Breeding Stock Sale concluded Thursday with solid results, which were driven by demand for quality from an internationally diverse buying bench that produced 12 seven-figure horses. The sale also featured a vibrant weanling market led by the eight highest-priced individuals sold at public auction in North America this year. 

“The November Sale demonstrated the stability of our market,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “Quality individuals continued to sell for a premium, but we did see a bit of a correction that primarily impacted the broodmare segment. As the sale moved forward, buyers and sellers adapted and found value and opportunity that strengthened the overall market and resulted in a solid sale. We thank all our participants for their hard work and support during this sale and throughout the fall season.” 

During the nine-day November Sale, held Nov. 8-16, Keeneland sold 2,128 horses through the ring for $176,571,000, a decrease of 15.47% when compared with last year, where 2,091 horses sold through the ring brought $208,879,100. Cumulative average price of $82,975 was down 16.94% from $99,894 recorded in 2022. Cumulative median price decreased 20% from $40,000 to $32,000.  

The RNA rate of 21.99% dipped 1.52% from last year’s 22.04%. 

Post-sale gross receipts (for horses who did not meet their reserve prices when offered in the ring but sold privately afterward) more than doubled, totaling $12.2 million compared to $6.4 million in 2022. Topping private sales at $2.9 million was stakes winner Puca, in foal to Good Magic with a full sibling to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Mage. Gavin O’Connor, agent, purchased Puca on behalf of John Stewart. 

“Overall, it’s been a very pragmatic, solid sale,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy said. “Demand for quality is extremely strong, probably as strong as ever, and that’s very encouraging. There’s a lot of stability in the market. With a slight correction, we’re down just 15% on most metrics, and that’s within expected parameters considering we’re dealing with increasing interest rates and a strong U.S. dollar. 

“Early in the sale, there was some protectionism from sellers who weren’t going to let nice horses go below a value they felt was reasonable,” Lacy continued. “And the market is more sensitive to mares that are a little more exposed. That’s not unreasonable. We saw that in September and in other markets. But the foal market was incredibly strong. As we went through the sessions, the clearance rate was very good (the RNA rate fell below 20% during Sessions 6-9). The middle market was extremely healthy. Sellers were pleased for the most part, and buyers found it tough to buy the quality stock.”

“There’s no denying there’s a little correction, which kind of mirrors the rest of the world,” said Gabriel “Spider” Duignan of Paramount Sales, which sold 124 horses through the ring for $8,979,200. “I thought the good foal market was business as usual; if you had a good foal, you got well-paid for him. With the mares, the horses they want – the young mares and broodmare prospects – they’re selling good. As a seller, it was a little sad that some of the mares that had just a little bit of exposure sold for cents on the dollar. The market just wants certain things and if you don’t fit into that category, you’re going to be penalized.”

The strength of the November Sale weanling market was evident in the results. Nineteen weanlings sold for $400,000 or more versus 10 last year. Ten of those weanlings brought $500,000 or more versus five last year. Eight of them, led by the Gun Runner colt from the family of Group 1 winner and French highweight Groom Dancer purchased for $750,000 by Shadwell Racing, brought the highest prices for weanlings at public auction in North America this year. The November Sale has achieved this milestone 12 of the past 13 years.  

“We’ve had a couple of record September Sales in recent years and the yearling market has been incredible,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach said. “The strength of the foal market is a reflection of confidence in the yearling market next year. Buyers saw an opportunity in the mare market. If they were getting shut out or having to spend 20% to 30% more than the same foal might have cost last year, they pivoted and began buying mares carrying those pregnancies.

“We’re satisfied with the sale overall, and grateful for the participation and support from buyers and sellers alike,” Breathnach added. “A few sessions into this sale, sellers recognized the market in front of them and were pragmatic in their approach. As a result, our RNA rate is better than last year’s sale. When you manage expectations and have a high clearance rate, typically average and median are going to come down as well. And we’re talking about ‘through the ring’ numbers. Our post-sale numbers are double what they were last year. Which is a sign that the market is still hungry, there’s still a lot of activity and horses being traded.”

Grade 1 winner Yaupon, whose first crop arrived this year, was the November Sale’s leading sire of weanlings with 31 sons and daughters bringing a total of $4,137,000. At $450,000, the most expensive was a colt out of the Bernardini mare Zetta Z who sold to Randy Hartley and Dean De Renzo’s AAA Thoroughbreds, the sale’s second-leading buyer with 18 purchases through the ring for $4.85 million.

Into Mischief was the leading sire of weanlings by average with three or more sold. His three weanlings averaged $433,333. 

The popularity of American bloodlines globally enhanced the worldwide appeal of the November Sale, with major domestic buyers competing alongside participants from Japan, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, Turkey and Korea. Keeneland employs a year-round strategy to recruit buyers from across North America and around the world, with sales team members and representatives traveling far and wide to build relationships with international clients.

“This is a sale that does Australia very well,” said Barry Bowditch, Keeneland’s Australasian representative. “The bloodlines have a good outcross, there’s good speed lines for Australia. That’s important. That’s what we’re looking for when we come to America, and we’ve found plenty of it this week. Finding an alternative market to bid in is important, and America is logical because of the diverse bloodlines, the big catalogs and the depth of the page here. It just gives us so many options. When you take these mares back to Australia, they do well both breeding and selling well in the sales ring, and then succeeding on the race track.”

The 12 highest-priced horses sold to 11 buyers representing the U.S., Europe and Japan. 

The leading buyer was West Bloodstock, agent for Mike Repole’s Repole Stables, which acquired nine horses for $5.22 million. Purchases were led by racing or broodmare prospects Interstatedaydream ($1.4 million) and Surprisingly ($1 million); Repole said he planned to return both fillies to the race track in 2024. 

The November Sale also featured the first mares offered at Keeneland in foal to 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline, who was represented by seven mares sold for $6,625,000 to lead covering sires by gross and rank second to Into Mischief by average with $946,429. The most expensive mare in foal to Flightline was Grade 1 winner Dalika (GER), who is carrying her first foal and sold for $1.65 million to Pursuit of Success LLC. 

Six mares in foal to Into Mischief averaged $985,000. Two mares – White Hot (IRE) and supplemental entry Ack Naughty – sold for seven figures apiece. BBA Ireland paid $2.1 million for White Hot, a daughter of Galileo (IRE) who is the dam of 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner Pizza Bianca. White Hot was the highest-priced horse sold through the ring. 

Juddmonte paid $1.8 million for Ack Naughty, a daughter of Afleet Alex who is the dam of 2023 Grade 1 winner Practical Move, by Into Mischief’s son Practical Joke.

At $1.8 million and $1.7 million, respectively, the highest-priced racing or broodmare prospects were Grade 2 winner Skims (GB), a daughter of Frankel purchased by Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Equine, and Grade 3 winner Three Witches, who six days earlier ran third in the PNC Bank Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita. Topping the third session, Three Witches sold to an international racing entity, Rifa Mustang Europe, which intends to race the Into Mischief filly in the U.S. next year.

Quality horses were found throughout the catalog. In Session 6, Avenue Bloodstock paid $610,000 for Act Now, a daughter of Street Sense whose 2-year-old colt, Coach Prime, won a Del Mar maiden special weight race by 7¼ lengths three days earlier. The amount was the highest price paid on Day 6 of the November Sale since 2001.

For the 26th time since 1987, Taylor Made Sales Agency was the November Sale’s leading consignor. Taylor Made sold 262 horses through the ring for $22,889,900, including the aforementioned sale-topping weanling.

At today’s ninth session, 255 horses sold through the ring for $2,645,700, for an average of $10,375 and a median of $7,000. 

Pacific Pink, an 11-year-old stakes-winning mare by Private Vow in foal to Volatile, topped the final session, selling for $85,000 to Coteau Grove Farms/Cary Bloodstock, agent. Out of the Robyn Dancer mare Truly Romantic, Pacific Pink is a half-sister to stakes winners Fearless Leader and Prospect of Love. She was consigned by Denali Stud, agent.