The dam of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Mage took centre stage during Book 1 of the Keeneland November Sale in Kentucky on Wednesday. While the sale took time to gather momentum – it wasn’t until midway through the session that the million dollar mark was reached – the day was ultimately underpinned by a competitive trade for the better offerings that was highlighted by 11 seven-figure lots. Puca, the dam of Mage, initially wasn’t one of them when bidding stalled in the ring at $2.8 million but the stakes-winning daughter of Big Brown later sold privately to Gavin O’Connor on behalf of big new spender John Stewart for $2.9 million.

Not including Puca’s private sale, Keeneland sold 120 horses through the ring for $54,340,000, for an average of $452,833 and a median of $375,000. The gross was down 18.87 per cent from $66,980,000 from the first session last year, and the average dipped 8.05 per cent from $492,500. The median rose by 29.31 per cent from $290,000. Just over 35 per cent horses offered failed to change hands in the ring; they included Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Caravel who was bought back on a bid of $2.4 million.

“We were very pleased with the session overall,” Keeneland President and CEO Shannon Arvin said. “The theme of the century seems to be that quality sells, and there was very high demand for quality. The foal market was especially strong today. We had double the number of foals sell for $400,000 or more compared to last year. There was great international participation but plenty of domestic participation as well. There was a real diversity among the buyers.”

“It was a strong market today, especially for foals, but we saw a really competitive environment for any horses that were perceived to have elevated desirability,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy said. “That was something that was very evident. Buyers found it hard to buy the stock that they wanted to buy. There were a lot of people here from many sectors of the world, and there was a lot of confidence in the breeding industry. I felt very encouraged, and we look forward to tomorrow.”

White Hot: sold for $2.1 million to become the most expensive horse sold in the ring at Keeneland on Wednesday. Photo – Keeneland

Still only 11-years-old, Puca was originally bought by Grandview Equine for $475,000 and is already an important producer with Mage the highlight of three stakes horses from her first three foals. The trio also includes her two-year-old Dornoch while her yearling colt by McKinzie lit up the Keeneland September Sale at $1.2 million. Back in foal to Mage’s sire Good Magic, she sold through Case Clay Thoroughbred Management, for whom it capped a sparkling sales debut; Clay also sold the German-bred Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes winner Dalika for $1.65 million to Pursuit Of Success LLC.

In the ring, BBA Ireland paid $2.1 million for the Galileo mare White Hot, the dam of 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Pizza Bianca in foal to leading sire Into Mischief. Part of a sizeable draft of horses catalogued to sell this winter by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, in this case from Stone Farm, the mare is a half-sister to Derby winner Pour Moi. 

“She’s a Galileo mare,” said the BBA Ireland’s Michael Donohoe. “She’s a dam of a Grade 1-winning juvenile. She’s in foal to a champion stallion. It made a lot of sense; it’s a great family. Those Galileo mares, you can see what they can do. We were very happy to get her. We’ll probably leave her here and foal her out.”

“Obviously, great sale, but she’s a lovely mare,” said Lynn Hancock, Stone Farm’s Director of Sales and Racing. “Beautiful, looks the part. Her first foal is a Breeders’ Cup champion, so you can’t ask any more of a mare than that. I think she’s worth every penny of (her purchase price). She’s a lovely mare, she’s beautiful. She acted like a queen in the back ring.”

Summer Wind Equine, meanwhile, came away with the Grade 2-winning Frankel filly Skims at $1.8 million. Consigned by Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services, she is a half-sister to Group 2 winner War Decree and from the family of Grade 1 winner Ticker Tape.

“I’m excited about getting this filly,” Summer Wind owner Jane Lyon said. “I am a Frankel lover. I had one filly (by Frankel), who unfortunately is not going to be a race filly, but when I saw this filly, I was so excited to have her.”

Juddmonte also paid $1.8 million for Ack Naughty, dam of this year’s Grade 1 winner Practical Move. Sold in foal to that colt’s grandsire Into Mischief, the 11-year-old stakes-placed daughter of Afleet Alex was consigned by Sequel New York, agent for Chester and Mary Broman.

“Top end (of the market) is just killer strong,” Juddmonte General Manager Garrett O’Rourke said. “It’s like people buying art or something in a hot market. It’s hard to put a value on them at this level. And if you want them, you have to pay for them. I’m delighted to have something really nice to bring home and add to the Juddmonte broodmare band.”

Those European-based interests active included Barronstown Stud, who paid $1.45 million for Champagne Lady, a stakes-placed Uncle Mo sister to Coolmore sire Mo Town in foal to Flightline. Ecurie des Monceaux were also busy, going to $675,000 for Irish Listed winner Perotan. The daughter of Churchill is not only a sister to this year’s Dante Stakes winner The Foxes but also a half-sister to the high-class Matterhorn and Bangkok. She was offered by Four Star Sales in foal to Justify.

Japanese interests such as J.S. Company, Shadai Farm, Lake Villa Farm and Koji Maeda were also on the board. For his part, Keisuke Onishi of the J.S. Company paid $1 million for the Grade 1-performing Kingman filly Technical Analysis out of the ELiTE consignment.

As at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale, Shadwell Racing were busy shopping for foals. That operation wound up with three bought for a total of $1.56 million including the session’s top-priced youngster, a colt by Gun Runner out of the winning Galileo mare Sea Hill for whom they gave $750,000.

“Beautiful Gun Runner, good family, very impressed,” said Jonathan Smyth on behalf of Shadwell. “A new addition to the farm and fingers crossed it goes well. I thought it was a good price. We had a budget in mind, and we were happy.”

Arthur Hancock of Stone Farm congratulates Michael Donohoe following the sale of White Hot. Photo – Keeneland