The presence of international buyers is paramount to the success of any major Thoroughbred auction. On Monday, one of the industry's most prominent global shoppers provided the biggest highlights of the opening session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
John Magnier's powerful Irish-based Coolmore Stud was responsible for the two largest purchases on the first day of the 13-day sale, securing multiple Grade I winner Society Selection and Golden Ballet, the dam of Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer, for $1.85 million and $1.4 million, respectively.
Strong participation from foreign buyers taking advantage of favorable exchange rates helped the opening session post solid gains in key areas compared to 2009.
With 183 horses sold — up from 126 last year — the gross of $38,970,000 jumped 48.22 percent from 2009 while the average of $212,951 increased 2.05 percent from last year's session.
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The median of $140,000 declined from $160,000 in 2009, but the rate of unsold horses showed great improvement, dropping to 19.38 percent compared to 31.89 percent a year ago.
"We felt going in it would be a very international marketplace, which it is," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "What has surprised most of us is the strength of the domestic. I feel like we're off to a solid start."
Coolmore had been relatively quiet in its spending during the past year, but it was diligent when it came to the battle for Society Selection. Representatives of the breeding and racing operation outlasted bloodstock agent Lincoln Collins to buy the 9-year-old mare, who is in foal to Darley stallion Medaglia d'Oro.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales as part of the Irving Cowan dispersal, Society Selection is out of the Grade III winning Dixieland Band mare Love That Jazz. The daughter of Coronado's Quest won the Grade I Frizette as a 2-year-old and went on to take the Grade I Alabama and Test Stakes during a career that saw her earn $1,984,200.
"You don't find many race mares like her," said Duncan Taylor of Taylor Made Sales. "She was definitely something special."
Where only one horse hit $1 million on the first day last year, Society Selection and Golden Ballet were joined by a third female Monday. Multiple Group III winner Carribean Sunset sold for $1 million to agent James Bester, who bought the mare on behalf of Australian-based Kia-Ora Stud.
"The bottom of (the market) is still pretty week, but from the middle on up it's plenty strong enough. I think," Claiborne Farm president Seth Hancock said.
The sale continues through Nov. 20.