Though it takes place during the opening days of the New Year, the forecast for how good a performance the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale will give is often determined by the results of its celebrated sister auction that concludes two months earlier.
Seen as an extension of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale, this year's January exercise not only managed to pull from some its predecessor's positive trends, but injected a bit of strength in some lingering weaker areas.
Some emboldened bidding in the opening days allowed the sale to surpass last year's gross by just the conclusion of Wednesday's bidding. This year's five-day sale was one session longer than the 2012 version.
Even with a slight fall off in numbers during the fourth session, the January sale maintained across-the-board progress with the overall gross and average posting gains and the median staying even.
The total receipts of $45,207,300 from 1,105 sold were an increase of 18.99 percent over 2012 with the average of $40,912 up by 8.01 percent. The median of $15,000 was equal to last year.
The rate of horses not sold came in at 25.19 percent, a 50.61 percent increase from a year ago.
"(The market) is strong," said John Moynihan, agent for Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings which led all buyers with five horses purchased for $2,810,000. "It may be a touch lower for the same quality of horses (than in November), but they're still very expensive to get what you want to get."
Although total numbers for the November sale were down compared to the 2011 exercise, which featured two high-profile dispersals, vigorous competition at the top of the market meant there were several buyers still in search of quality mares and foals to fill gaps in their programs.
As a result, shoppers were all out to snag well-bred babies and desirable mares in January with three horses going for $1 million or more — the most since four topped the seven figure mark in 2008 — and ten breaking the $500,000 barrier.
Such zealousness was on display when a newly-turned yearling filly by Street Sense went to Canadian businessman Nat Rea for a sale-topping $1.45 million after consignor/co-breeder Alfred Nuckols had her pegged to go in the $300,000-$450,000 range.
"It's always the case of being the big fish in the little pond, and this is a smaller pond than November," said Kerry Cauthen of Four Star Sales, which consigned the graded stakes winning half sisters Keertana and Snow Top Mountain who sold for $1 million and $950,000, respectively. "A lot of times you'll try and ... hold back a few good bullets to throw into January because they'll sell very well.
"People still need to buy horses and this is their last real chance to buy foals."
The dispersal of stock from Fares Farm brought an added dose of quality to the January sale, accounting for $7,313,000 in gross from 78 horses sold. What jumped out to many, however, as an added sign of encouragement going forward is the fact that the sale produced an uptick with domestic buyers driving the bus.
European and Japanese buyers in particular, who were such an integral part of the November sale, were largely absent.
"It's sad to see Fares disperse and that money leave the game but then again we've seen two or three new buyers in here this week that haven't been around before," said James Keogh of Grovendale. "For the market to be as good as it is with no Japanese participation this week has to be a positive thing."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl