One of the biggest horse sales in North America, the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, ended its 10-day run Wednesday with a modest, COVID-19-related drop in sales from 2019. At the same time, nine horses sold for at least $1 million each.

Expo Gold-Keeneland Sale
Expo Gold, in foal to multiple Grade 1 winner Catholic Boy, sold for $950,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. The 12-year-old mare is better known as the dam of Preakness Stakes champion Swiss Skydiver. (Image: Keeneland)

The Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale is one of the most important sales of the season because it spotlights the broodmares – some already with foals – stallion prospects, weanlings, and horses of racing age. Many of the horses hitting the auction ring are champions, and many will give birth to the champions of the 2020s.

Keeneland announced gross sales of $151,019,300, with 2,198 horses selling for an average of $68,708 and a median selling price of $23,000. That’s a 14% drop in horses-sold from 2019’s 2,570 horses sold. Those 2,570 horses sold for $193,316,100, an average of $75,220 and a median price of $25,000.

Noteworthy among the sales was the fact 279 horses – 12.6% — sold via online bidding. More horses sold online during the second week of the sale than the first. The 279 horses sold online for $16,274,300.

Ollie’s Candy Sells for a Sweet Price

The most notable online purchase was Grade 1 winner Ollie’s Candy, who went for $1.65 million to KI Farm in Japan. The 5-year-old sold two days after she finished eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

“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,” Keeneland president-elect and interim head of sales Shannon Arvin said in a release. “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.”

Toward that end, Keeneland instituted safety protocols similar to those from its September sale. Aside from the online bidding, Keeneland officials allowed onsite buyers to bid from the facility’s outdoor Show Barn. Located behind the Sales Pavilion, the Show Barn created greater social distancing.

Despite Pandemic, International Buyers Played Key Roles

The online and phone bidding allowed international buyers – always a mainstay of this sale – to participate. This, despite pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“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 resilience of this industry,” Keeneland director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said.

That resilience manifested itself domestically during the premier Book 1 on the sale’s first day. Nine horses went for more than $1 million that day, paced by OXO Equine’s Larry Best. The auction’s leading buyer, Best spent $1.95 million on Grade 1 winner Concrete Rose and $1.9 million on 11-year-old Indian Miss, who is in foal to Into Mischief.

Concrete Rose-Keeneland Sale
Concrete Rose, who won five of six races and $1.2 million, was the most expensive purchase at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. The 4-year-old filly sold for $1.95 million to OXO Equine. (Image: Keeneland)

Indian Miss is the dam of champion sprinter Mitole and up-and-coming juvenile Hot Rod Charlie. He finished second in the just-concluded Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Triple Crown Winner Justify’s First Crop Hits the Ring

Best, the former CFO of Boston Scientific and chairman of OXO Capital LLC, bought 17 horses for $7,965,000. Eight of those were weanlings.

Speaking of weanlings, the most expensive weanlings were colts sired by the last two Triple Crown winners, American Pharoah and Justify. Both went for $600,000, with the son of Justify going to bloodstock agent Donati Lanni. M.V. Magnier purchased the American Pharoah weanling, who is a half-brother to juvenile standout Jackie’s Warrior.

Justify was the leading sire of weanlings, with the five colts from his first crop averaging $427,000.

Other seven-figure horses included Irish mare Lady Prancelot for $1.6 million to Japan’s Shadai Farm and Canadian champion Holy Helena, who is in foal to Quality Road ($1.5 million to Spendthrift Farm). Australian Houtzen, in foal to Curlin ($1.5 million to Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings), and Gingham ($1 million to Claiborne Farm) rounded out the million-dollar club.

“The market in both September and November was a lot deeper than we – and many others – thought it would be,” Keeneland director of sales development Mark Maronde said. “But horsemen are optimistic. They see the end of this pandemic coming and they wanted to continue to participate. They still bought bloodstock because of blue sky ahead.”