A welcome stability to the marketplace was identified as a key element behind the solid trade that drove this year’s Keeneland November Sale in Kentucky. The marathon sale drew to a close on Wednesday following ten days of selling that featured strong participation from both domestic and foreign buyers.

When all was done and dusted, Keeneland reported that 2,286 horses sold for total sales of $157,815,300. That figure represented a drop of 21% from 2019, although it must be remembered that last year’s auction was staged over 12 days and featured the sale of 2,671 horses.

The average also dropped by eight per cent to $69,036. However, the median remained stable at $25,000.

Nine horses sold for $1 million or more led by the top turf filly Concrete Rose, who realised $1.95 million to Larry Best’s OXO Equine LLC. Best also purchased the second most expensive offering, elite producer Indian Miss, for $1.9 million. Overall, he spent $7,965,000 on 17 horses to end the sale as leading buyer.

“Keeneland ends this fall with a sense of gratitude for the hard work of everyone who participated in the success of the September Yearling and November Breeding Stock Sales, the fall race meet and Breeders’ Cup,” said Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason, who will retire on December  31 after a decade of service to Keeneland.

“Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global horse industry, the fact that we were able to conduct our fall events on the dates originally scheduled is a major accomplishment that should be celebrated by all involved.”

Shannon Arvin, Keeneland President-Elect and Interim Head of Sales, added: “We owe the strength of the September and November Sales to the tremendous efforts of our consignors, buyers and their staffs, who, despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, brought quality horses to market and fully participated at every level.

“We have all moved mountains this fall, and during these tough times, we are pleased that so many buyers from around the world made arrangements to be here or be represented and that they took advantage of the various bidding platforms Keeneland made available to them.”

Concrete Rose: topped the Keeneland November Sale at $1.95 million. Photo: Keeneland

Millionaire leads online interest

Online bidding continued to gain popularity as 279 horses sold over the internet for $16,274,300. They included Grade 1 winner Ollie’s Candy, who sold to K I Farm of Japan for $1.65 million.

“One of the silver linings of this unprecedented time has been the innovations we’ve successfully implemented with regard to internet bidding and enhanced phone bidding,” Arvin said. “People have found creative ways to participate in the sale and see the horses when they can’t be right here in the way in which we are accustomed.”

International activity

Despite ongoing travel issues related to Covid-19, the sale was able to attract a deep bench of international participants, notably those from Japan, Europe and the Middle East.

Japanese interests were particularly active during the opening session, when they spent approximately $11 million on stock between them.

“The enthusiasm for quality horses and the participation of major domestic and foreign buyers, many of whom remained active well into the second week of the sale, is a testament to the resiliency of this industry,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said. “There was a healthy mix of U.S. and international interests representing Europe, Japan, Korea, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, among others, as well as several new buyers emerging on the scene. Hats off to consignors, who were very good about marketing their horses, either directly or via Keeneland’s website, to remote buyers. We know this hasn’t been an easy environment to navigate, and we appreciate the efforts all have made to participate either in person or through use of the available technology.”

Justify leads the way

Coolmore’s Justify was the leading sire of weanlings by average with five colts averaging $427,000. They also included the top-priced weanlings of the second ($475,000) and third sessions ($435,000).

Justify: Triple Crown winner led all first-crop sires

“Fewer foals were catalogued this year, and the bidding for them was more competitive,” said Russell. “The strength of the foal market surprised many consignors who didn’t enter their foals in the November Sale. Several major end users are now participating in the foal market, and that has pushed the pinhookers back a little. They probably haven’t fulfilled all their orders, so we hope to see them at the January Horses of All Ages Sale.”

The leading covering sire by average was Quality Road, whose three in-foal mares averaged $911,667.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the sale’s leading consignor for the fourth consecutive year and the 24th time since 1987. Taylor Made sold 208 horses for $18,957,600, including the aforementioned Ollie’s Candy.