It is often said that the first rule of show business is to always leave them wanting more.
The adage applies to keeping fans entertained, but it is also apparently a main ingredient in the Thoroughbred marketplace's recent recovery.
A sleeker, more streamlined Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale continues to build off the positive momentum of last season, surpassing the total gross receipts from its 2011 exercise on Tuesday — the second day of selling for its four-day auction.
One of the factors behind the market's downturn in 2008 was overproduction within the breeding industry. As the global economic crisis deepened, there simply weren't enough buyers with enough cash left to provide homes for all the horses going through the ring.
As a result of the correction, however, fewer commercial horses have been produced, and sales companies have responded by tightening their catalogs. In shortening its own sale by one day compared with last year's, the Keeneland January auction has helped prove how powerful the laws of supply and demand are.
The two-day gross of $30,115,300 from 487 horses sold is already better than the total of $25,250,350 generated by 1,021 horses sold last January. The gains were also huge for total average ($61,838) and median ($30,000), running 23.67 and 50 percent, respectively, better than in 2011.
"It's economics 101: When you get supply and demand at the right juncture, prices will go up," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "All we've dropped off is the lower-end horses, and we're still cleaning out some of those. But the quality horses are still there."
And when there are fewer horses on the block, those top-quality individuals become more obvious. Such was the case with Magnificent Honour, a full sister to champion Rags to Riches, who sold to agent Tom Goff of Blandford Bloodstock for a session-topping $600,000 Tuesday.
Consigned by Paramount Sales, Magnificent Honour gave buyers a chance to buy into one of the best female families in the game. The 10-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy is out of 2007 Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour and is a half-sibling to 2006 Belmont Stakes winner Jazil and graded-stakes winner Casino Drive.
"It's probably one of the best families in the American stud book in my humble opinion," said Goff, who purchased the mare on behalf of an undisclosed, Europe-based client. "The obvious ones stick out like a sore thumb; it doesn't take a genius now."
Goff added that Magnificent Honour would remain in Kentucky and likely be bred back to Coolmore stallion Giant's Causeway, to whom she is currently in foal. Coolmore also campaigned Rags to Riches, who defeated eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Belmont Stakes.
"It's a good market for good stock," said Pat Costello of Paramount. "There are fewer and fewer out there, and that's what's driving (the market) right now."
While the Keeneland January sale is typically driven by domestic buyers, foreign interests have provided a substantial boost. One day after Grade I producer Topliner sold to Katsumi Yoshida's Northern Farm for $1.4 million, another coveted broodmare ended up bound for Japan when graded-stakes winner Cozi Rosie went to representatives of Teruya Yoshida's Shadai Farm for $525,000.
"There seems to be quite a bit of activity from foreign buyers," said Bill Farish of Lane's End, which consigned Cozi Rosie. "It's interesting because I wondered if this catalog would necessarily pull them in, but it has. There is just not as much good product on the market; that's probably why it's been stronger."