All things considered, it was a very strong opening night

All things considered, it was a very strong opening night

October 6, 2020

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The opening session of the 2020 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale was down 16.3 per cent in both average and gross compared to a year ago, which is understandable when selling horses in a pandemic and comparing numbers to the most successful sale in the company’s history. Still, the numbers prove Monday was the second best opening night in the sale’s history.

quotes by James Platz / story by Dave Briggs

Monday’s opening session of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Lexington, KY was down 16.3 per cent in both average and gross compared to 2019’s opening session. Yet, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fact that 2019 was the most successful sale in the company’s history, makes the two sessions difficult to compare.

“In light of everything, I don’t think you can compare to last year,” said David Reid, who manages the sale with Randy Manges. “History was made selling two million-dollar horses, but besides that we sold another one for $800,000. Also, the last three years down here, it’s been record after record after record, so you’ve really got to peel back and see where we are compared to maybe two or three years ago. That being said, the crowd was definitely a little less, but I think that the makeup of the buyers, from the trainers point of view and the owners that could come here tonight, it was a very good representation of the industry.”

Still, Monday’s average of $129,127 and gross of $15,237,000, while both down from the average of $154,288 and $18,206,000 from a year ago, both exceeded the 2018 average of $126,471 and the 2018 gross of $12,900,000.

That means Monday’s session, despite the pandemic, was the second best opening night in sale history.

“I was really pleased with the numbers tonight,” Manges said. “I thought we would be down, but I was thinking we would probably be down anyway if we didn’t have two million-dollar horses sell. We had so many big numbers last year.”

In 2017, the opening night average was $114,344 and the gross was $10,634,000.

Monday’s median price was $100,000. The median was $110,000 in 2019, $120,000 in 2018 and $100,000 in 2017.

This year and last, 118 yearlings were sold on opening night.

That any yearlings were sold this year at Lexington is a major accomplishment, Reid said.

“It was a beautiful sight to see people come to Lexington and attend a live sale. It’s been bantered back and forth all since the springtime, ‘How are you going to have a live sale? What are you going to do?’ and I think the staff of the sales company and the staff of the auction crew, the staff of the consignments and the breeders… deserve a lot of credit. It’s not easy for anybody, but to be able to hold the venue tonight, as we did — before I see any numbers — it felt healthy enough under the current environment and I think it’s something we can build from.”

Reid said he thought the, “Internet bidding platform worked very well and I would assume it’s going to be more popular as the week goes on.”

Manges said adjusting to online bidding was a bit of a challenge.

“We did it in Ohio, but with a different company,” Manges said. “It was kind of new for us to do this. We didn’t expect to have the number of people that signed up for online bidding that signed up. We added an additional 60 tonight after the sale started.”

Reid said he thinks in-person sale work best, “but we had to adjust to the marketplace and instituted the online and phone bidding and the expanded area around here. I think there’s more positives than negative. It sets the tone for the week and I think, operationally, it’s a credit to our staff and a credit to the whole team around the facility and the auction crew. I thought tonight was very well-handled in spite of everything and I’m actually quite proud of the whole organization.

Leading buyer Nancy Takter said, “the average horse maybe brought a little less than they normally would have, but the high-end horses, they brought what they were supposed to bring. Those ownership groups had their trainers and the trainers were qualified to buy and bid on those horses.”

Takter purchased eight yearlings on opening night, spending $1,292,000, total. She spent slightly more than Andy Miller, who spent $1,270,000, total, to buy four yearlings.

The session topper was Kadena (Hip #89), a daughter of first-crop sire Walner that is the second foal out of the scintillating mare Mission Brief. Kadena was bred by the Mission Brief Stable, consigned by Hunterton Farm of Paris, KY and sold for $725,000 to trainer Marcus Melander. Mission Brief’s first foal, a Father Patrick-sired filly named Adirondack, sold for $400,000 at last year’s Lexington sale to Diamond Creek Racing.

Melander purchased Kadena for Anders Ström’s Courant, Inc. and said he really liked the filly when he first saw her at Hunterton in June.

“Then, the second time at the farm, I still liked her and I told Anders that she was the best horse in the sale, in my opinion. Of course, I hadn’t seen all of them at that point… but we both thought she was the best-looking horse and she has a great gait, a good video… just several things that we’re looking for.

Melander said he thought she would sell closer to $600,000.

“I had Anders on the phone and we could’ve gone a little bit higher, but it was close,” Melander said. “I wanted to show that we were very serious about her. Like I said, it was our top pick and we’re happy to get her.”

Steve Stewart of Hunterton Farm said he predicted a year ago that Kadena would top the 2020 sale.

“I told Dave Reid a year ago,” Stewart said. “He was (inspecting) yearlings a year ago and I said, ‘I want to go show you next year’s sale topper.’ She was that nice when she was born, just a real classy filly all the way around.

“We had high expectations, but with COVID-19 and everything, you can’t assume anything. It could’ve been $400,000, $450,000, $500,000… but there was a tremendous amount of interest, obviously. To get those prices like that, what has to happen is that you have to have the page, but then you also have to have the individual and it doesn’t happen very often. Very rarely, and it happened with her. She’s a very special filly.”

Melander told the USTA’s Ken Weingartner that he thought opening night was, “very strong in my opinion. I thought you could find something you really liked for a bargain, but it was tough, which is very good. We bid on a couple horses that we didn’t get but I’m very happy with what we got. I can’t complain.”

The second-highest-priced yearling sold Monday was Hip #64 Bonanza, a Muscle Hill—Designed To Be half-brother to Greenshoe that sold for $600,000 to Takter, agent. Last year, Bonanza’s Farther Patrick-sired brother, Maverick, became the sport’s first million-dollar yearling sold at auction when he was purchased for $1.1 million. All three colts — Greenshoe, Maverick and Bonanza — were bred by Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz and consigned by Kentuckiana Farms.

“He’s a really nice individual, great pedigree,” Takter said. “I know that he’s been raised right… (He’s a) Muscle Hill and the mare has already produced one world champion out of Father Patrick. Like I’ve said earlier today, Maverick is a good horse. Personally, I think Tony (Alagna) is going to figure him out and he’ll be fine in the end. The way they’ve raved about the horse training down, I’m sure he’s going to be a good horse. And this one being a Muscle Hill, we just couldn’t pass on him.”

Takter said Bud Hatfield and Brixton Medical were the primary buyers of Bonanza.

Fresh off his win in the inaugural $1 million Mohawk Million with Venerate on Sept. 26 at Woodbine Mohawk Park, part-owner Andy Miller quickly reinvested buying two yearlings for $400,000 apiece three hips apart, both consigned by Kentuckiana Farms.

“That helps a little bit. Winning the Mohawk Million, words can’t really describe that,” Miller said. “Obviously, it’s not all our money here, we have owners, but it always helps to have a couple bucks.”

Miller signed the ticket for Hip #37 Knights Guard, a Muscle Hill colt out of Stubborn Belle and Hip #40 Trunk Bay, a Muscle Hill colt out of Sunshine Delight.

Knights Guard was bred by Al Libfeld and is a full-brother to $300,000+ winning filly Ms Savannah Belle.

Trunk Bay was bred by James Wilhite, Jr. of Lexington and is the first foal out of Sunshine Delight, a Credit Winner mare that earned $354,847 on the track.

Miller said he liked “everything” about the pair.

“We looked at them, we got them out, I walked them. We really loved them when we looked at them,” Miller said. “Then we walked them and turned them out in the paddock and they really moved nice, so we loved pretty much everything about them.

“We haven’t trained a lot out of these families, but we’ve raced against them.”

In all, 60 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more, including 20 that were sold for $200,000 or higher and nine at $300,000 or more. The number of six-figure yearlings was down eight from 2019 when 68 exceeded $100,000, 21 surpassed $200,000 and nine fetched $300,000 or more.

In 2018, 64 yearlings sold for $100,000 or more, including 17 over $200,000 and five over $300,000.

Hunterton Sales Agency, Inc. was the leading consignor by gross, as it was on opening night in 2019. This year, Hunterton grossed $2,939,000 for 18 yearlings sold, followed by Preferred Equine at $2,620,000 for 20 sold, Kentuckiana at $2,615,000 for 12 sold and Lexington newcomers Concord Stud Farm at $1,577,000 for nine sold.

On opening night in 2019, Hunterton sold28 yearlings for a total gross of $4,162,000, an average of $148,643.

Kentuckiana led all consignors by average on Monday with an average of $217,917, followed by Northwood Bloodstock at $195,000 for two yearlings sold, Concord at $175,222 and Hunterton at $163,278.

The sale session ended on a high note when Preferred sold two Captaintreacherous pacing fillies for $260,000 and $375,000. Hip #123 Treacherous Dragon, out of My Little Dragon, was purchased for $260,000 by trainer Brett Pelling. Hip #124 Lightnier, out of Mythical, went to David Menary, agent, for $375,000.

“Speaking on behalf of Preferred, I thought it was a very fair night and I thought it ended on a high note, selling those two pacing fillies for good money,” Reid said.

Manges said overall numbers help build momentum for the entire sale.

“I think it’s always good to have a strong first night,” Manges said. “People talk about it and readjust and if they’re going to get what they want they’re going to have to step up because there are buyers out there that will buy.”

Tonight’s (Oct. 6) second session of the Lexington Selected Yearling Sale will feature some 180 yearlings. It begins tonight at 7 p.m. at Fasig-Tipton. For more information about the sale, please visit: http://www.lexingtonselected.com.

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