Initial session-to-session statistical comparisons for the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale have been rendered moot thanks to an altered Book 1 format.
But whether one measures the auction's first handful of days by its emotional pulse or economic indicators, the consensus is that trade is taking place at a better-than-expected pace.
Halfway through its four-day Book 1 catalog, the telltale auction of the Thoroughbred marketplace has yielded eight seven-figure sales — one more than for the entire sale last year. Four took place during Tuesday's session.
(A caveat must be applied to the September statistics because the 2012 sale featured one boutique session followed by three days of selling from the Book 2 catalog. This year, officials spread the select Book 1 portion of the catalog over four days.)
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The two-day gross of $69,621,000 is running 11.34 percent ahead of the cumulative total from this point last year, with the average ($258,814) and median ($200,000) up 8.03 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively.
Eleven horses sold for $500,000 or more Tuesday, headlined by a half-sister to champion Proud Spell, purchased by Texas-based Baumann Stables for $1.3 million.
"The fact there are eight million-dollar horses so far is very rewarding, and I would say that's probably because the market has improved," said Geoffrey Russell, Keene land's director of sales. "There is a high demand for high quality animals, and people are willing to spend when they find that horse that is a special horse — and there is a premium on the fillies.
"There are families people want to get into, and when the physicals match those pedigrees ... (the buyers) are happy to give premium prices."
The female family of the session-topping filly holds particular significance for former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones. The $1.3 million Bernardini filly is out of the Langfuhr mare Pacific Spell, who also produced Proud Spell, Jones' champion 3-year-old filly in 2008.
Letting a member of the family go was emotional, but the bidding war for the bay was exactly what the owner of Airdrie Stud had foreseen.
"I really thought she would bring a million or better because she's that type of filly," said Jones, who also consigned the yearling. "Even with the heat, she never got exhausted. She always walked like a great athlete ... and she always looked at you with a bright eye.
"I still have her mother and access to her father so ... it just made sense to put some money in the bank and pay off some bills, build some fence and kind of keep everything going."
Lane Seliger of Baumann Stables purchased Grade I winner Nereid for $1.3 million at this year's Keeneland January sale and relished the chance to buy into another pedigree with such residual value.
"The bloodline was very, very attractive, very deep, and I think it will be well supported in the future," Seliger, whose operation is based in Amarillo, Texas, but boards mares at Winchester Farm in Lexington, said of the Bernardini filly. "I think the price was a little higher than what we wanted to spend, but we're not disappointed."
A total of 105 horses have failed to meet their reserves, or minimum prices, the first two days, but the buyers who have purchased 269 head in two days comprise a broad mix of international and domestic shoppers.
"I like the new format, I really do. I think it's going to provide strength the whole first week," said Tom VanMeter of VanMeter Sales, whose operation sold its first-ever seven-figure horse Tuesday when it consigned a Tapit colt that sold to representatives of Coolmore Stud for $1 million. "We don't know where those good horses are, so every day should be equal, theoretically. It might even be better today than it was" Monday.
The sale continues at noon Wednesday.