Heather Benson: ‘If I had a million dollars… I still couldn’t buy these horses’

The big checkbooks come out to play each year at the Keeneland fall sales. Our new racing blogger shows us the money.

Top: Careless Jewel, who sold for $1.85 million. Photo by Michelle Pitts.

From Heather:

If I had a million dollars… I still couldn’t buy these horses.

I addictively watch the major sales of Thoroughbreds online. Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Ocala…you will find me tuned in,drooling over the horses and being continually floored by all the money changing hands. It never ceases to boggle my mind at the easy exchange the buyers and sellers have of $100,000, $500,000 and multi-million dollar horses… one after another, after another.I cringe when I write any horse-related check over $1,000… I can’t even imagine adding several more zeroes to that and yet it happens every few minutes during these sales!

The first few days of this week have seen the cream of Thoroughbred racing breeding stock sold at the two major auction houses in Lexington, KY. Monday night saw the Fasig-Tipton November Mixed sale which is always filled with a star-studded book of horses. I always like to watch for horses I know or relatives of horses I know and see how they do. Here are a few highlights:

Fasig-Tipton November Mixed Sale (11/4/2013):

129 horses sold for a total of $73,859,000 (yes, that number of zeroes is correct!)

Sale Topper: The 4 year-old broodmare prospect (that’s right, she hasn’t even had a single foal be born yet, much less race!) Betterbetterbetter who sold for $5.2 million. Mandy Pope of Whispering Hill Farm bought her. Mandy, a horse loving gal if there ever was one, is no stranger to shelling out the big bucks… she went to $10 million last year (a world record price for a broodmare) to get Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year.

Mizdirection, the winner of both the 2012 and 2013 Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint over the boys sold for $2.7 million.


Mizdirection, who sold for $2.7 million. Photo by Michelle Pitts.

Love and Pride, who won two Grade 1 races and happens to be one of the few mares to have ever beat Champion Royal Delta, sold for $4.9 million, in foal to Distorted Humor.

In Lingerie, a multiple graded stakes winner, sold as one of the first mares to ever be offered at public auction to the great English champion Frankel. She brought $2.4 million.

Other big names in the book were Canadian Champion Inglorious ($1.35 million), Champion Awesome Feather ($1.9 million), Palace Rumor, dam of this year’s Belmont winner, Palace Malice ($1.1 million) and stakes winners like Pure Fun ($1.35 million), Careless Jewel ($1.85 million), Joyful Victory ($2.0 million), Mi Sueno ($1.9 million), Champagne d’Oro ($2.7 million) and Authenticity ($1.2 million).

Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale (11/5/2013 – 11/14/2013)

Highlights from first two days:

While not the sales topper, the most exciting horse to go through the ring at Keeneland so far has been Groupie Doll, the two-time Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Spring winner. She brought a final bid of $3.1 million, going again to Mandy Pope.

Graded stakes abounded with Awesome Maria ($4 million) topping the first day and then mares like Broadway’s Alibi ($2.15 million), Star Billing ($2.6 million), R Heat Lightning ($1.6 million), Lady of Shamrock ($2.0 million) and Diamondrella ($1.5 million).

Baby half-sisters also proved popular. Zenyatta’s baby half-sister, Eblouissante, sold for a tidy $2 million and is happily going back to the racetrack with Zenyatta’s old trainer, John Shirreffs. Reigning Horse of the Year, Wise Dan, also had a half-sibling go through when half-sister Courting Elaine got a final bid of $270,000. That sum, while huge to most of us, was not enough to meet her reserve price and she went back home with sellers Adena Springs.

If you have never taken the time to watch a sale, I encourage you to tune in this week to the remaining days of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale being held in Lexington, KY. It runs through November 14 and can be watched live online starting at 10 a.m. EST each day. Go to keeneland.com to get the link. Sure, the last week of the sale has a lot of the “cheaper” horses, but cheap in the racing world means $50,000 instead of $5,000,000 and there are few things more drool-worthy than gorgeous, sale-prepped Thoroughbreds.

*And on a secondary note, after I look back at all the amazing mares that Mandy Pope has bought the past two years, I can’t help but wish she would make me her new best friend so I could get a farm tour. What a bunch of classy ladies who are lucky enough to be owned by one classy lady… can’t wait to see what foals come down the road!

Heather Benson is a former racetrack executive, professional handicapping analyst and owner of a Triple Crown winner (well, at least a horse that played one in a movie). But far more importantly, she is a is still that girl who gets giddy when the starting gate opens and cries every time she watches a replay of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes. Join her each month as she takes you on a journey through the world of horse racing, from top to bottom, with a little bit of everything in between! Heather also operates Back Forty Media and Marketing, a full service marketing firm focusing on telling story of equine ventures around the country. Go to her website for more info and to follow her on Facebook at www.backfortymarketing.com


Heather: “Me and my ‘Triple Crown winner,’ a.k.a. Cyclone Larry, taken at the North Dakota Horse Park in 2009. He was a racing prospect I owned that failed utterly as a racehorse but was cast in the role of ‘Secretariat’ in the 2010 Disney movie by the same name.”


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