Even after the Keeneland January horses-of-all-ages sale got off to a bullish start Monday, the tenuous state of the market kept officials and participants from rejoicing too much.
Sure enough, Tuesday's session of the first major Thoroughbred sale of the year delivered the dose of reality many were expecting. Even as the spending slowed, however, there were still signs of encouragement to be found in a mercurial marketplace.
One day after buying Grade I winner Ave for $1.4 million, Teruya Yoshida's Japan-based Shadai Farm picked up another top broodmare prospect when it paid $540,000 for multiple graded-stakes winner Secret Gypsy to pace the second session.
The quality in Tuesday's portion of the catalog was not considered as strong as Monday's session, when three Grade I winners sold for a combined $2,825,000 and gross was up more than 62 percent.
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Although the gross for Tuesday's session was down 10.09 percent from the corresponding date in 2010, overall numbers remained ahead of last year's pace. The cumulative gross of $19,600,200 is up 8.93 percent from 2010, with the average of $50,001 up 12.82 percent.
The median of $20,000 was equal to that of a year ago.
"With mixed sales you don't know where the horses are going to fall in the two days," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "Last year the second day was stronger than the first day. But overall the whole Book 1 is now up. That is a very successful start to the sale. I think there is a consistency in the market now that is good. We lacked a little bit of fireworks today, but from start to finish it was good."
The chance to take home better quality stock for reasonable prices has not been lost on the buyers, especially the international spenders.
Shadai Farm demonstrated that again when it bought Secret Gypsy, who had the all-important combination of race record and pedigree working in her favor.
A consistent performer on the track, the 6-year-old daughter of Sea of Secrets is out of the Rahy mare Miss Utada and earned nearly $600,000 during her career.
Representatives of Shadai said Secret Gypsy would be retired and sent to Japan to be bred.
"I thought she sold very well," said Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales, which consigned the mare. "It probably helped that she was in the second day of the sale because a few other horses had gone. She's a multiple Grade II winner and she did it the hard way. Apparently she had issues throughout her career and she ran through that and won a lot of money.
"I think (Shadai) got a great buy. I'm sorry to see so many good fillies leaving the country, but it's nice to have a good sale."
Grade II winner Alpha Kitten elicited the second-highest price of the session when she was bought by B. Wayne Hughes' Spendthrift Farm for $405,000.
The first two sessions might have offered their share of positives to draw from, but getting horses sold — much less getting them sold for a profit — figures to become more difficult as the catalog moves away from its select offerings during the next three days.
A handful of horses received no bids Tuesday, and more than a few struggled to get the $1,000 minimum.
"It's certainly good if you've got the right article," said bloodstock agent Lincoln Collins, who bought the stakes-winning mare Princess Janie on behalf of an undisclosed client for $330,000. "People don't want a horse just to have a horse at the moment. They want something that has some quality and some potential, and other people's castoffs aren't finding any buyers."