Edward Evans garnered numerous accolades for his top-class breeding program — no shock considering his boutique operation has produced more than 100 stakes winners.
Nearly 11 months after the death of the longtime Virginia-based owner, buyers at Keeneland paid one last homage to the man on Monday.
Horses consigned by Lane's End as part of the complete dispersal of Evans' Spring Hill Farm stock spearheaded a spectacular day of bidding at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale as overall numbers rocketed past opening-day totals from 2010.
Evans died Dec. 31, 2010, from acute myeloid leukemia, but his elite horses have ensured his continued impact on the industry he so enjoyed.
The 14 horses that sold for $1 million or more Monday surpassed last year's total of eight for the entire sale and are the most since 28 reached that mark on the first day of selling in 2007. Of the 14 million-dollar stars, 11 came from Evans' dispersal, including Grade I winner Christmas Kid who sold to representatives of Coolmore Stud for a session-topping $4.2 million.
"It just shows how much respect people had for what Mr. Evans did as a breeder," said Chris Baker, manager of Evans' Spring Hill Farm, which offered more than 200 horses between the already concluded Keeneland September auction and the current November sale. "What we were able to put together ... to see them going into capable hands, that's as good as it can get from where we are right now.
"Twenty years, 30 years from now, we'll still be reading about horses from these families that are running. To not be able to do it ourselves is certainly bittersweet. But if they go on and do something, we can continue to be proud of them."
Domestic and international buyers spent $40,684,500 for the 63 horses sold from the Spring Hill dispersal.
Those hearty figures contributed to an overall gross of $63,276,500 from 147 horses sold, an increase of 62.37 percent from the corresponding session in 2010. The average of $430,452 was the most impressive statistic, 102.14 percent ahead of last year's pace, and the median of $230,000 soared 64.29 percent from a year ago.
Of all the determined shoppers, Ben Leon's Besilu Stables was most prolific. The noted Paso Fino breeder obtained six horses for a total of $11.4 million, including two half-sisters to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam: Quiet Giant, for $3 million, and a weaning filly for $2.6 million — a record price for a weaning filly at the November auction.
"For those of us like myself that are passionate about breeding, (these horses) are very tempting," Leon said. "In any dispersal, you have the opportunity to purchase some quality mares that otherwise have not been available. But I wish Mr. Evans was here instead of this opportunity."
On a day that saw many well-pedigreed beauties go through the ring, Christmas Kid stood out.
The bay daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of the multiple graded-stakes-winning mare Christmas Gift was sold in foal to Darley sire Bernardini. Aisling Duignan, director of bloodstock for Coolmore's American-based Ashford Stud, said the bay mare would be sent to Coolmore stallion Galileo — currently the top sire in the world — for the 2012 season.
"(The price) was probably a little bit more than expected, but she was so good-looking," Duignan said.
Champion Blind Luck's final price of $2.5 million got somewhat lost in the shuffle, but she generated her share of attention when she went through as the last horse in the ring.
Mark DeDomenico, who owned 50 percent of Blind Luck going in, bought out his partners to keep the 2010 Eclipse Award winner for 3-year-old fillies.
"We just want to let her be a horse for a little bit, let the smoke clear and then decide who to breed her to," said Mark Puhich, trainer for DeDomenico's Pegasus Equine Rehabilitation Center.
The November sale continues Tuesday at the Keeneland sales pavilion at 10 a.m. and runs through Nov. 17. With horses from the estate of the late Prince Saud bin Khaled, including Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Royal Delta, set to disperse in the coming days, the fireworks are expected to continue.
"We still have ten more days ... but this is a terrific start to the sale," said Walt Robertson, vice president of sales for Keeneland.