Even without the aid of a high-profile dispersal in its catalog as was the case last year, the 2014 Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale concluded its 11-day run on Friday with numbers that reflected a broad range of strength both within the Thoroughbred marketplace and in its offerings.
"The overall word is quality," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "Quality of every level of the market is well rewarded. We've seen that early and we've seen it all the way through."
For the second time since the 2008 recession, Keeneland November topped $200 million in receipts with its overall gross of $205,899,500 from 2,512 sold representing a 4.42 percent increase over last year — surpassing 2013's total receipts on the eighth day of selling.
The upsurge was felt in all the key figures as the average of $81,966 increased 2.13 percent over the 12 months prior with the median coming in at a record-tying $35,000.
Just as a successful yearling market sets the stage for the breeding stock sale, the top end of the market established a tone that held in each successive session. Eighteen horses cracked the seven-figure mark — four more than in 2013, including Mandy Pope's sale-topping $3.9 million purchase of the Galileo mare Aloof and a Tapit filly out of the top producing mare Serena's Cat that established a North American record for highest-priced weanling when she sold to Bridlewood Farm for $3 million.
Domestic buyers and international shoppers were nearly equally represented during the boutique Book 1 sessions while both end-users and those looking to resell were going after foals aggressively.
"We thought we had a very good catalog and the market reacted positively to it. The buyers that came to play, especially those guys at the top end, they really came to play," Russell said.
"The pinhookers (resellers) have had three good years and we had a lot of end-users that partook in the foal market as well. What you're also seeing this sale is the commercial breeder reinvesting, which we haven't seen for a while. And that again was on all levels of the market."
Don Alberto Corp. led all buyers in landing nine horses for $8,575,000 while Taylor Made Sales topped all consignors by gross for a third straight year, selling 260 head for $28,048,900.
Many sellers were unwilling to part easily with their range of unique broodmares. The rate of horses not sold came in at 21.8 percent, up from 14.5 percent in 2013.
"There were obviously moments of great glory and fantastic highs. There have been a few spots where no one was home and you were surprised by the other side of it," said Kerry Cauthen of Four Star Sales, which sold the Giant's Causeway mare Ciao Bella to Don Alberto for $1.6 million. "But the end result is we have an average that is better and throughout the whole market we sold more horses for more money than last year. You have to be delighted."
The yearling, juvenile and breeding stock sales have been improving in recent years, something Keeneland officials expect to hold true in 2015 as buyers seek to fill inventory in the face of a shrinking foal crop.
The 2015 Keeneland November sale is already slated to be one with new challenges as it is slated to begin on Monday, Nov. 2 after the track hosts the Breeders' Cup on October 30-31.