Plum Pretty tops Keeneland sale at $4.2 million

awincze@herald-leader.comNovember 6, 2012 

From Mandy Pope's point of view, it costs her just as much on a daily basis to maintain the upkeep on a less successful commercial mare as it does on the highest quality of offerings.

So as long as Pope's Whisper Hill Farm is going to continue to be a significant player in the Thoroughbred industry, she figures she's better off putting her dollars into the very best from the start.

The upgrade of Pope's broodmare band undertook another successful mission Tuesday afternoon. Less than 24 hours after purchasing 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace for $10 million at Monday's Fasig-Tipton November sale, Pope went deep again to land 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty for a session-topping $4.2 million during the first day of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.

Like her soon-to-be barn mate Havre de Grace, Plum Pretty was consigned by Taylor Made Sales and won Pope over with her sweet demeanor, stellar race record and pedigree value.

The 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly saw the bidding hit $1 million seconds after she entered the ring, highlighting a day that saw five horses reach the seven-figure barrier.

"We are trying obviously to upgrade our broodmare band and making some big adjustments in the quality we have," Pope said. "She's going to be right there with Havre de Grace — they'll be graceful and pretty.

"She and Havre de Grace will go to Timber Town (Cathy and Wayne Sweezey) ... and I just may move into the stall between the two of them."

Out of the A.P. Indy mare Liszy, Plum Pretty was campaigned by John Fort's Peachtree Stable. The bay filly won the Grade I Apple Blossom to begin her 2012 season and retires with five wins from 12 starts and $1,688,746 in earnings under the guidance of trainer Bob Baffert.

Pope, who plans to sell about seven mares during this Keeneland sale, said her aim is to have a broodmare pack of about 15 with the focus more on quality than numbers.

"It's getting so expensive just to keep them and realizing how much money I'm spending on the lesser mares, we're going to change the program and have the high- quality mares," said Pope, who added she plans to breed Plum Pretty and Havre de Grace for commercial purposes. "So we're regrouping. Hopefully we'll get some nice colts on the ground, get them sold and then have a filly to keep (from Havre de Grace and Plum Pretty)."

While the overall numbers Tuesday were down compared to the corresponding session in 2011, last year's opener featured 63 horses and 11 seven-figure offerings from the Edward P. Evans dispersal, which ended up being the largest dispersal by total gross in history.

This year's gross of $27,665,000 is down 56.28 percent compared to 2011 while the average ($276,650) and median ($127,500) dipped by 35.73 and 44.57 percent, respectively.

If one takes the Evans dispersal out of last year's figures, however, the gross from the opening session in 2011 comes in at $22,572,000, the average at $268,952 and the median at $165,000.

"By and large, when you take the biggest dispersal that's ever been out of the day, I thought it was a pretty good day," said Walt Robertson, vice president of sales for Keeneland. "I thought it was better at the top than I expected and pretty much what I expected below that."

Considering the overall economic climate remains troubled, the action at the top end of the Thoroughbred market continues to surprise even optimistic standards.

While the 30 percent buyback rate in Tuesday's session reveals the selective nature of buyers, top-end prospects are producing numbers reminiscent of the heyday of 2006 and 2007.

"It's caught me a little off-guard. To see this kind of fervor is interesting because I don't think anyone expected quite this on these real Grade I mares," said Bill Farish of Lane's End, which sold the day's second- and third-highest priced horses in Grade I winners Harmonious ($2.8 million) and Zazu ($2.1 million).

"These real hard-to-find broodmares, there just aren't that many that have the pedigree and the race record," Farish said.

The sale continues through Nov. 16 with sessions beginning at 10 a.m. each day.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: Horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl

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