The Monday session of the Keeneland Sales proved to be another spend happy day, with Virginia Kraft Payson doing her best to make the most of an interesting opportunity.
The theme of horse racing seems to be diverting more towards quality over quantity. During Monday’s session, a total of 182 horses were moved for a sum of $13,631,200, creating an average of $74,897 per horse. This is up a significant amount from last year’s sale where 204 horses were sold for $12,607,200 with an average of $61,800 poor horse. Less might be more in some sense, but it’s going to cost you these days.
Geoffrey Russell, the director of Keeneland sales, reinforced this sentiment as he watched horses eclipse the $400,000 top sale from the previous year. “We had five horses bring more than the top price last year, obviously bolstered by those three horses of the dispersals. But overall, it gets to be an old adage, but quality sells. If you bring the right product to market, you are fully rewarded. And I think we saw that very much in 2015, and I guess so far in 2016, that’s continued on. People are willing to spend good money on horses and pay top dollar for them if it’s perceived to have some quality.”
Topping the sales was Summer Solo, a five-year old mare who placed third at the Belmont Oaks in 2014. She went for a hefty $700,000 and is already carrying the offspring of Ghostzapper, an icon in 2004 who went undefeated in four races that included a win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Woodward Stakes. Ghostzapper last competed at the Metropolitan Stakes in 2005, crossing the line first and sailing in to retirement. Those factors probably helped boost Summer Solo’s value at the Keeneland Sales event.
Virginia Kraft Payson’s relentless bidding tactics were also a big contributor to the eventual price tag. Payson ended up making three big purchases on the day. Summer Solo was her first, and she also purchased another of Ghostzapper’s yearlings at a price of $300,000. Her total spendings for Monday’s Keeneland Sales was a whopping $1.7 million.
Those around the industry echoed the fitting sentiment of Payson aggressively purchasing the dispersals of the late Leigh estate. Payson and Gerald Leigh were head-to-head rivals before the iconic owner passed away from complications related to cancer in 2002. The estate was then handled by his daughter, Sarah Jane Leigh, who also passed away. The Keeneland Sales provided a “passing of the torch” ceremony to occur by coincidence and Payson definitely felt the historic importance of it all.
“I haven’t bid on a horse myself in years, probably 30 years. I’m a nervous wreck. I’ve always had a friend of mine bid on the horse, but I didn’t have anyone, and I kept going.”