Among the litany of accomplishments the late William T. Young achieved in his lifetime was the development of one of the most illustrious broodmare bands in the Thoroughbred industry.
During Wednesday's second session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale, the enduring strength of that program came to the aid of the very market that once helped fuel Young's passion.
While the overall numbers continue to be down, Keeneland's November sale got a much-needed boost when four horses from the complete dispersal of Overbrook Farm — which Young founded — hit the seven-figure mark Wednesday, including the royally-bred Honest Pursuit who sold for a $3.1 million to Alain and Gerard Wertheimer of France.
Honest Pursuit's final price is the highest paid for a horse at public auction in North America this year.
Even in a depressed market, pretty mares with top pedigrees can still inspire fireworks. And with that criteria, 4-year-old Honest Pursuit was a standout.
The daughter of Storm Cat is out of the Grade I winning mare Honest Lady and is a half sister to Grade I winner First Defence.
Honest Lady comes from one of racing's most regal families as she is out of 2002 Broodmare of the Year Toussaud and is a half sister to fellow Grade I winners Empire Maker, Chester House, and Chiselling.
"Everything," Alain Wertheimer exclaimed when asked what he liked about Honest Pursuit. "Obviously if you could get that kind of family everyday, you wouldn't have to pay that amount of money. She will stay here (in the United States)."
In the days leading up the sale, Alain Wertheimer — who along with Gerard campaigns two-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner Goldikova — had expressed his strong desire to add Honest Pursuit to their staunch breeding program.
After the dark bay filly opened with a bid of $500,000, Wertheimer endured a drawn-out battle that appeared to stall out at $2.7 million, only to have it surge again in $100,000 increments before the final bid was hammered down.
"It's rewarding and I know (W. T. Young) would feel good about it if he were here," Ric Waldman, advisor to Overbrook, said of the way the mares were received. "We've spent a lot of time with these mares, a lot of years, a lot of energy. It's good the public is showing their appreciation for what we did."
Before Honest Pursuit's time in the ring, Grade I winner Cotton Blossom — also part of the Overbrook dispersal — had sold for $2.3 million to Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable.
Summer Raven and Dark Sky were the other seven-figure offerings, selling for $1.7 million and $1.3 million, respectively.
All the Overbrook horses are consigned by Eaton Sales and, on Wednesday, the dispersal accounted for $20,957,000 in gross sales.
"Of course (it's bittersweet), but they're selling well," said Chris Young, grandson of W. T. Young. "It's sad to see some of them go, but it's time for a new chapter."
Bolstered by the Overbrook horses and increased domestic participation, Keeneland's second session actually posted gains as the gross of $45,360,000 was a 7.98 percent improvement from the corresponding session in 2008.
The overall gross of $71,651,500 is down 20.41 percent from 2008. Tuesday's session ended down more than 45 percent.
The cumulative average ($242,886) and median ($160,000) also recovered, down 19.33 and 5.88 percent, respectively, while the rate of horses not sold came in at a solid 22.37 percent.
"The Overbrook dispersal we knew would be a major attraction to the November sale and the market has given a fitting response," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "Quality sells. There is still plenty of money for the right horse."