Underpinned by strong interest from a diverse cross-section of Japanese buyers, the Keeneland November Sale opened in Kentucky on Monday in solid fashion that provided plenty of encouragement for the days of trading ahead.

It might have lacked the blockbuster names of Fasig-Tipton’s star-studded November Sale the night before but in keeping with that auction, it witnessed a market that bore little reflection of the Covid-stricken world beyond the bloodstock bubble.

Led by the $1.95 million filly Concrete Rose, eight horses changed hands for a million dollars or more. In turn, they contributed to gross sales of $49,775,000 for 128 horses sold at an average of $388,867. The median was $280,000.

Total sales dropped markedly from the $70,449,500 realised in 2019, although that was achieved off a significantly bigger catalogue that featured the sale of 163 horses. While the average also represented a reduction, that fell by only 10%, while the median was down by just 6.7%.

“Overall, we are really happy with how the day went,” Keeneland President-Elect and Interim Head of Sales Shannon Arvin said, noting that the energy created by this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland carried over to the November Sale.

“It was a solid day of trade. We were pleased with the broad domestic and international participation. Japanese buyers bought three of the day’s top-priced horses.”

Online bidding continued to gain popularity with buyers. During the session, 62 bids were placed via the internet, resulting in nine purchases led by the $1.65 million paid by K I Farm for Ollie’s Candy, and gross sales of more than $6 million.

“It was very good to see the different platforms we put out there – internet bidding, phone bidding and the three different bidding areas on the sales grounds – were well utilised today,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said.

“One of the benefits of internet bidding is that the principal is back in control; they may go a little further than the agent would have been authorised to go. It’s a different way of doing commerce in 2020, but we’re all learning how to play with technology and get the best benefit out of it.”

American owner Larry Best of OXO Equine LLC swooped to land the day’s top two offerings in Concrete Rose and Indian Miss.

Concrete Rose was an outstanding turf performer for trainer Rusty Arnold, winning six of seven starts including the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks and Grade 3 Edgewood Stakes, the latter at the shock expense of champion Newspaperofrecord.

Now a rising five-year-old, the daughter of Twirling Candy was offered by Lane’s End as agent for Ashbrook Farm and BBN Racing.

“I didn’t want to go quite that high, but honestly I didn’t think I’d touch her below $2 million,” said Best. “She’s a beautiful horse and you can’t take away that record from her. I’m just thrilled to have her. I have admired Concrete Rose for a long time. I have a multiple Grade 1 winner, Cambier Parc, and Concrete Rose beat her [in the Belmont Oaks] and I said, ‘Wow, what a horse.’”

Meanwhile, elite producer Indian Miss was purchased for $1.9 million with an eye on bolstering the first book of Best’s one-time Classic hope Instagrand. The Grade 2-winning son of Into Mischief was recently retired to stand at Taylor Made Stallions in Kentucky.

Indian Miss, an 11-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie, is the dam of five winners from as many foals to race led by champion American sprinter Mitole and Hot Rod Charlie, who ran second in Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. She was sold by Hill ’n’ Dale Sales Agency in foal to champion sire elect Into Mischief.

“That’s my strategy: try to get Instagrand going, and hopefully we’ll get a nice Into Mischief foal, too,” Best said.

As noted by Arvin, the day featured a welcome demand from Japanese interests. By my reckoning, they spent approximately $11 million on broodmares and broodmare prospects capped by the $1.85 million paid by Emmanuel de Seroux’s Narvick International for Cherokee Maiden. De Seroux was acting on behalf of Yoshiyuki Ito’s Grand Farm.

Offered by Bedouin Bloodstock, the winning three-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor is out of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies heroine Folklore, the granddam of none other than current Japanese phenomenon Contrail. It is an extremely active family that is also responsible for Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Essential Quality.

K I Farm also came away with Grade 1 winner Ollie’s Candy at $1.65 million online while Shadai Farm went to $1.6 million for the top Irish-bred turf filly Lady Prancealot. The latter, one of a number of American success stories for former Tally-Ho stallion Sir Prancealot, was once a €9,500 yearling when purchased at Tattersalls Ireland by trainer Eoghan O’Neill.

Both were sold on Monday by Taylor Made Sales Agency.

“I thought Ollie’s Candy would bring that with the way the market has been going on high-end mares,” said Mark Taylor, Taylor’s Made’s Vice President of Marketing and Public Sales Operations. “She was only about three lengths off from winning three additional three Grade 1 [races]. If she had won a couple more that she had rough trips in, she could have brought twice that.”

The sale continues on Tuesday with the first of two sessions for Book 2.