The statistics that determine an auction's success were still hours away from being completed for the day. But as Alfred Nuckols Jr. brushed away a few joyful tears Tuesday afternoon, the longtime horseman ranked the second session of the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale as the best of his days in the Thoroughbred industry.
The marketplace Tuesday saluted more than one well-respected breeding program, not the least of which was Nuckols' Hurstland Farm, which co-owned, bred and consigned the Street Sense yearling filly that sold for $1.45 million. The sale paced an energized day of across-the-board gains.
The Street Sense filly brought the top price through the sale's first two days and the second-highest-priced yearling filly ever to sell at the Keeneland January exercise, and it became Nuckols' highest-priced horse to be sold at auction. Nat Rea's Regis Farm landed the winning bid.
The dark bay filly had one of the better pedigrees in the catalog — out of the stakes-winning mare Please Sign In and a half-sister to Grade I winner Cry and Catch Me as well as undefeated Group I winner Certify — but Nuckols had capped his expectations just below the $500,000 range.
"I thought coming up here she was a $300,000-$450,000 type filly," said an emotional Nuckols, who bred the filly with William Kartozian and Darley. "The longer I had her up here, everyone was interested. I've had the family for four generations and ... it's been a very special family for Hurstland Farm.
"I've never had this happen before. I didn't think it would happen today. This is the best day of my life. It's just a very special day for Hurstland and the Nuckols family."
Rea, a Canadian businessman, declined repeated requests for comment.
The strong equine families cultivated by the late Barbara Hunter and Fares Farm, respectively, also spurred Tuesday's action. The cumulative gross of $35,345,100 is now 17.37 percent ahead of the 2012 numbers. The the average ($78,720) is up 27.30 percent, and the median ($35,000) is up 16.67 percent.
Hunter, who died in November, owned and campaigned the graded stakes winning duo of Keertana and her half-sister Snow Top Mountain. Consigned by Four Star Sales, Keertana — who was in foal to Arch but aborted in December — went to Denali Stud for $1 million on behalf of an undisclosed client, while Virginia-based Audley Farm, breeders of Grade I winner Bodemeister, secured Snow Top Mountain, in foal to Blame, for $950,000.
"The family really has never been a family that has been sold. It's been an heirloom of Barbara's, and it's a credit to her and her legacy," said Four Star's Tony Lacy, who also managed Hunter's racing operation. "It's very bittersweet. Two great fillies — it's just an honor to be around them. These are families that have been nurtured for 50-60 years."
The January sale features the complete dispersal of stock from Issam Fares' Fares Farm, breeder of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. Led by the Empire Maker mare Supreme, who sold in foal to Giant's Causeway to Stonestreet Farms for $800,000, the Fares dispersal accounted for $6,736,000 in gross from 54 horses sold Tuesday.
"Based on past years, anytime there is a dispersal, those horses always outsell themselves," said John Moynihan, agent for Stonestreet. "Who knows why. But I think you bring horses in without reserve and ... this isn't that crazy money, but it's still really, really healthy."
The Keeneland January sale continues through Friday, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m.