The opening session of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale got the 10-day auction rolling on a high note, finishing with significant improvements across the key economic indicators.

Tuesday’s selling closed with 113 horses moved for revenues of $42,255,000, an increase of 53 percent compared with last year’s first-session total of $27,665,000 from 100 sold. The average sale price increased 35 percent to $373,938 after finishing at $276,650 in 2012, while the median rose 73 percent, from $127,500 to $220,000. The buyback rate dropped significantly, from 30 percent to 21 percent.

“The sale was very strong, especially at the top,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “ It was a continuation of the market we’ve seen, with the quality of stock, and there’s plenty of money for it.”

The number of seven-figure horses during the auction’s opening session increased by one, going from five to six. The top ten-priced horses drew a diverse group of buyers, with representation in from American, Irish, French, Japanese, and Australian interests.

“It’s good to see that the buyers at the top end are spread around, and to see the depth of buyers at the top end,” Russell said.

Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria brought the hammer down at $4 million to top the opening session, with M.V. Magnier signing the ticket on behalf of Coolmore clients.

The 6-year-old Maria’s Mon mare was among the highlights of the E. Paul Robsham Stables dispersal. Lane’s End, as agent, is handling the dispersal of the successful operation operated by the late Paul Robsham and his wife, Joyce.

Awesome Maria won nine of 16 career starts – winning or placing in 13 stakes –for earnings of $1,114,875. The mare won six consecutive graded stakes races from 2011 into early 2012, including the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap.

Awesome Maria, retired last year with a tendon injury, was offered carrying her first foal, by Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway stands at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., where Awesome Maria will now be boarded.

“She’s a lovely mare and was a very good racehorse,” Magnier said. She comes from a fantastic family. She was a very nice mare, and she’s being bought for friends of ours. When I meet them later on, we’ll decide as to what [stallion] she’s going to [for her 2014 breeding]. We haven’t decided yet. We’ll see what the Giant’s Causeway looks like.”

Awesome Maria is one of two winners from as many starters out of her dam, the unraced Discreetly Awesome. The 11-year-old Awesome Again mare – a half-sister to Grade 1 winners Discreet Cat and Discreetly Mine – was sold later during Tuesday’s session for $675,000, purchased by prominent international owners/breeders Gerard and Alain Wertheimer. The mare is in foal to Malibu Moon.

Also selling on Tuesday was Eblouissante, a winning half-sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, who will remain in the barn of trainer John Shirreffs after selling to Ian Banwell’s St. George Farm Racing for $2.1 million.

The 4-year-old Bernardini filly was the centerpiece offering for the dispersal of the late Eric Kronfeld’s racing and breeding operation, handled as agent by Winter Quarter Farm. Kronfeld, who died in May, campaigned Eblouissante during her first three career starts in 2012 and 2013. The filly was trained by Shirreffs, who also famously conditioned half-sister Zenyatta.

Eblouissante won her first two career starts, both in California, before finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap July 20 at Saratoga Race Course. She has posted four workouts since.

The weanling market was led by a son of War Front, secured for $800,000 by Coolmore-affiliated Aisling Duignan from the consignment of Claiborne Farm, agent.

The colt is out of the Pulpit mare Treasure Trail, a daughter of acclaimed broodmare Vertigineux and thus a half-sister to the aforementioned Eblouissante and Zenyatta.

“The weanling-to-yearling pinhookers did very well last year, so we anticipated that they would be back buying again, and they are,” Russell said. “The good weanlings sold very well.”

Lane’s End Farm was the opening session’s leading consignor, helped greatly by the Robsham dispersal, with 15 horses sold for a combined $13,970,000, led by the session-topper.

M.V. Magnier’s lone purchase of Awesome Maria made him the day’s leading buyer.

Book 1 of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale will conclude on Wednesday, Nov. 6 with the session beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern. The sale continues through Nov. 14.

For hip-by-hip results, click here. To read the full article, click here.

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