Keeneland January sale holds steady in discerning market

The buyers perusing the Keeneland grounds during the Book 1 portion of the January Horses of All Ages sale could generally find offerings to fit whatever orders they were looking to fill.

The problem many shoppers encountered was that quality is obvious. Hence, those intent on obtaining their desired product needed to be ready to have a busted budget brought on by a slew of competition.

The all-or-nothing trend of the Thoroughbred marketplace prevailed in the Keeneland sales pavilion Tuesday as the Book 1 portion of the catalog wrapped up.

Grovendale’s James Keogh consigned the Empire Maker mare Team for $300,000 — the fifth-highest price of the session — and secured the stakes-winning mare Roan Inish for a session-topping $500,000 on behalf of client Evelyn Benoit’s Star Guitar Inc.

The price for Roan Inish “was considerably more than we thought we were going to have to give for her, but when Ms. Benoit sets her mind on something it’s very hard to stop her,” Keogh said. “The nice mares are getting harder to get. It was a stretch, but she’s a lovely mare and we’re delighted to have her.”

Benoit’s drive for quality is spurred on by her desire to obtain mares to support her Louisiana-bred stallion Star Guitar, a winner of more than $1.7 million in his career who currently stands for $4,000 at Clear Creek Stud in Louisiana.

Consigned by Mill Ridge Sales on behalf of Robert J. Costigan, Roan Inish was tabbed as Benoit’s pick of the sale. The 9-year-old daughter of Elusive Quality is out of Canadian champion Inish Glora, and she was sold in foal to Claiborne Farm sire Arch.

Last year’s comparative session boasted the sale of the Galileo mare Up for $2.2 million to Ran Jan Racing. There were no seven-figure fireworks in Book 1 this year, with the Arch mare Summer Solo holding as the top price overall having sold to Payson Stud for $700,000 on Monday. Beyond that, however, the market remains largely on par with a year ago.

The cumulative gross of $26,651,600 generated by 375 head sold is down 4.13 percent from the $27,798,400 brought in by 452 sold to this point in 2015.

Average ($71,071) and median ($35,000) enjoyed double-digit gains, though, improving 15.56 and 16.67 percent over last year’s figures, respectively.

“I think (the market) is very good. If you have what they want you get paid,” said agent Mike Ryan after going to $460,000 to purchase the Distorted Humor mare Veracity.

The rate of horses not sold is tracking along at 29.51 percent. The critical eye isn’t expected to change as the sale continues on Wednesday with its first Book 2 session beginning at 10 a.m.

“Some of the foal buyers have been saying it’s very difficult out there and when they think they’ve stumbled upon something no one else has, they find out they’re one of many,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “You can’t hide a good horse, never have, never will.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: 859-231-1676, @horseracinghl