Monday, November 21, 2011


The dispersal of the Thoroughbred breeding stock of the late Edward P. Evans’ concluded last Wednesday with a final auction tally for all the Virginia breeder’s horses of $62,347,000.  The unofficial November numbers were a gross of $55,820,000 with an average of $336,265.  Back in September, 50 yearlings sold for 50 horses for $6,527,000, averaging $130,540 each.

The total for the breeding stock and the total for all the stock represent records for a dispersal conducted at public auction.  At the just completed Keeneland sale, 12 Spring Hill Farm horses (11 broodmares, 1 weanling) drew six figure bids.  Those 12 horses, led by former Virginia-bred Horse Of The Year and Grade 1 Stakes winner Christmas Kid. accounted for $26,250,000 of the final tally.

Of the 166 lots offered (according to our unofficial figures), 24 horses brought $500,000 or more and 104 sold for a price tag of $100,000 or more.  Only four horses sold for less than $10,000.

The yearling dispersal was led by a full brother to multiple Grade 1 winner, track record setter and $2.2 million plus earner Quality Road who sold for $650,000 and a $500,000 half-sister to Grade 1 stakes winner Malibu Prayer.  Malibu Prayer sold at Keeneland November for $2 million and Quality Road remains the property of the Edward P. Evans Foundation while standing at stud at Lane’s End Farm in Kentucky.

Highest Prices:
78   B.M. Christmas Kid - Aisling Duignan - $4,200,000
203 B.F. Quiet Giant - Besilu Stables - $3,000,000
201 DB/BR.F. Medaglia d'Oro -- Quiet Dance - Besilu Stables - $2,600,000
63   B.F. Buster's Ready - Wertheimer Et Frere - $2,400,000
69   B.M. Cat Moves - Adena Springs - $2,400,000
41   CH.M. Weekend Strike - Barronstown Stud - $2,300,000
92   GR/RO.F. Dance Quietly - Besilu Stables - $2,000,000
161 B.M. Malibu Prayer - Besilu Stables - $2,000,000
805 GR/RO.M. Quiet Now - Claiborne Farm - $1,850,000
95   CH.M. Dark Sky - Summerwind Farm  - $1,500,000
125 B.M. Grand Prayer - Besilu Stables - $1,000,000
204 DB/BR.F. Smart Strike -- Raging Fever - Stonestreet Stables & George Bolton - $1,000,000

The Evans dispersal eclipsed a number of records held by the Newstead Farm dispersal at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky in 1985.  The sale of the horses belonging to that famous Upperville nursery was a first of its kind as the previous major dispersals had been those of breeders focused on racing.  Newstead’s primary focus had long been the commercial market.

While the fall breeding stock sales had seen the dispersals of well-known breeders with names like Mayer, Woodward, DuPont and Widener which produced the likes of Busher, Nashua and Arts and Letters, Newstead offered breeders a chance to buy the production machinery of a very successful commercial operation.  The Evans dispersal offered breeders a bit of both.

At the time of the Newstead sale, the industry was booming.  It was the mid-eighties and the overall industry had experienced major growth that would be sustained until tax law changes and other factors caused a substantial downturn and correction starting in 1988.  Evans’ Spring Hill horses entered a market showing a bit life, but still burdened by a lukewarm Thoroughbred market and ongoing world-wide recession.

Happily for the Edward P. Evans foundation, and the Newstead Farm trustees and their families, buyers view dispersals differently no matter the economic framework.  As Kent Hollingsworth said in his Blood-Horse editorial of November 16, 1985, “Complete dispersals are different from your usual fall breeding stock auctions.  They attract buyers ready to pay more than they would for the same stock offered in an ordinary auction, and buyers are looking for the grand producer and her progeny that would not be placed on the market but for the complete dispersal.”

SCHWAB, HORKAN AND HARDIN (Anne M. Eberhardt Photo)
Newstead and its horses, unlike Spring Hill, had heirs.  Unfortunately, Taylor Hardin, who founded and developed the farm, decided to place the property in the hands of a three man trust – his son Mark Hardin, his friend and attorney George Horkan, and investment advisor Herman (Gus) Schwab.  

We would assume the senior Hardin liked all three of these men, but the three, quite frankly, didn’t care much for one another.  Theirs was an uneasy truce in spite of the ongoing success of the horses and property they managed.  Socially, with their families in the mix, they were oil, water and a bit of fire.

When the relationships grew unbearable, it was decided it was time to take advantage of the very strong market and to liquidate the trust’s assets.  So, on Tuesday November 5, 1985, five horse vans headed to Lexington carrying what would soon be recognized as some of the most valuable horses in the country.

Fasig-Tipton conducted the sale on Sunday, November 10, 1985.  The last consignment to represent one of the most successful commercial operations included 42 horses and stallion shares.  The actual auction took a mere 150 minutes to complete.  Folks bid faster and in larger increments than the teeth-pulling style we see today.

MISS OCEANA (Anne M. Eberhardt Photo)
For example, the bidding on Miss Oceana opened at $2.5 million – play time was over.  It increased in $500,000 increments until it reached $6.5 million from Texan George Aubin of the Wichita Land and Cattle Co. before Carl Icahn and Peter Brant bid $7 million.  The bidding was concluded in less than two minutes.

When the session ended, 17 mares, one two-year-old, two yearlings and 17 foals had sold for $37,186,000 for an incredible average of $885,381.  The broodmares averaged an extravagant $1,473,535 each and the weanlings $505,235. 

Carl Icahn and Peter Brandt formed a partnership called Foxfield to purchase Miss Oceana in foal to Northern Dancer.  The price was a new world record. They also purchased another young graded stakes winner, Larida, a half-sister to Miss Oceana, for $4 million, a price believed to be a record for a barren mare. Tom complete the triple, the new partners purchased  Newstead’s share in the venerable Northern Dancer.

The list of stallion shares was equally impressive grossing $9,802,000 for an average of $490,100.  The group included a share in Seattle Slew ($2.4 million), Nijinski ($1.25 million), the great Northern Dancer ($1.075 million), Conquistador Cielo ($725,000), Fappiano ($725,000) Devil’s Bag ($700,000), The Minstrel ($500,000) and the then under-appreciated Pleasant Colony ($270,000).  These shares were a key component to Newstead's overall success as the farm rarely needed to buy inflated seasons to commercially popular stallions.  Considering the time period, all they lacked was a share in Mr. Prospector and a life-time breeding right in the ill-fated Alydar.

CHRISTMAS KID (Keeneland Photo)
One mare, Lost Horizon, slipped her foal after the catalog was published and was withdrawn.  According to Fasig-Tipton, she was sold privately driving the cumulative gross receipts over $47 million.  Fasig president John M. S. Finney predicted $50 million and deemed the event “an outstanding success.”  It was a watershed moment for the sale company fiercely competing with the bigger, stronger Keeneland across town.

In those days, major icons still strode aisles of the sales barns at Saratoga, Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Kentucky.  A powerful group of buyers descended on the dispersal and the hammer fell to owners, breeders and bloodstock agents who were Thoroughbred household names at the time.

BBA (England), Allen Paulson, Nick Zito, Darley, Francis Genter, Stavros Niarchos, Ogden Phipps, Will Farish and Paul Mellon were all among the buyers.

Virginia outfits also made purchases. Joe Allbritton's Lazy Lane Farm, then operating as Mint Tree Stable, under the guidance then as now of Frank Shipp, purchased Kittiwake (in foal to Alydar) for $3.8 million, Gull's Cry for $675,000, Easy Virtue for $80,000 and a share in Gruastark for $120,000.  John and Helen Wallace's Red  Hill Farm purchased the weanling filly by Forli, out of the stakes winner Debby's Turn (which they had bred and raced), for $110,000.  Robert Smith's Heronwood Farm purchased Faultless Tudor for $385,000, a weanling filly by Sir Ivor, out of Toot's Image for $150,000 and stallion shares in Alleged ($385,000) and Al Nasr ($200,000).  EMO Stables purchased the stakes winner Sunelianne in foal to Forli for $260,000 and Hester Bateman in foal to Fappiano (after a bidding duel with another Virginian) for $610,000.   

Both dispersals would see big receipts from one family. In the case of Newstead, it was Kittiwake and her offspring.  Kittiwake, her Alydar colt, Miss Oceana, Larida and Larida’s Seattle Slew filly brought final bids of $18,250,000 of the $37,186,000 spent on actual horses. That’s almost half the proceeds at 49 per cent.

The Evans’ dispersal was powered by the family of Quiet Dance, the dam of $2.4+ million earner, Breeders Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year St. Liam, graded stakes winners Congresionalhonor and Quiet Giant, stakes winner Dance Quietly and G1 stakes producer Beatem Buster (Buster’s Ready). This family generated final bids of $10,975,000 or just under 20% of the $55,820,000 Spring Hill gross at the Keeneland November sale.

It would seem that Evans’ Spring Hill Farm dispersal did not enjoy such a list of buyers, nor a booming Thoroughbred market in a thriving economy.  Had Robert Sangster joined the fray and launched a few Coolmore v. Darley bidding wars, the prices for Newstead’s horses might have been even higher in 1985, but Spring Hill also enjoyed no such spirited rivalry in 2011.

Newstead posted a remarkable average for their 42 horses and stallion shares, while it would simply have been impossible for Evans’ Spring Hill to duplicate such a high number while selling almost four times as many lots. That said, if market conditions had been the same, the impressive group of Spring Hill horses may well have topped $100 million – unless, of course, everybody simply ran out of money.

The evidence to support such a bold assertion comes from simply comparing the two multi-million dollar producing families.  Newstead’s Kittiwake produced Miss Oceana, a millionaire winner of six Grade 1 races; Larida, a Grade 3 winner on the turf of over $325,000; Ivory Wings a stakes winner in France and a stakes producer (who, coincidentally, is also the great grandam of the 2011 Edward P. Evans All Along G3 winner Aruna) and the stakes placed Rissa.  Kittiwake would later produce the top European horse Kitwood, but that was some years after the Newstead dispersal.

Miss Oceana’s final price of $7 million was driven in part by the fact that she was in foal to Northern Dancer who at the time had a $1 million stud fee.  There was no sire with such commercial impact available to Evans (such as Storm Cat or A.P. Indy), and, if there were, it seems contrary to Evans’ patterns that he might have bred to such an expensive stud.

Spring Hill’s Quiet Dance, at the time of the auction, had produced Horse of the Year St. Liam, two graded stakes winners, another stakes winner and a Grade 1 stakes producer.  Both families are spectacular, but it would seem the Horse of the Year and Breeders Cup Classic trumps six Grade 1 wins.  If Quiet Giant stays sound, she seems a good candidate to capture a Grade 1 next year, further padding her dams already impressive resume.

(Anne M. Eberhardt Photo) 
The old saying “timing is everything” continues to ring true. The point is simply that while the Evans’ dispersal is the largest ever conducted at a public auction, had the conditions in both the world economy and the thoroughbred industry matched those of 1985, the Spring Hill horses likely would have sold for much more.

Newstead established a new record for gross and average with a very select band of horses in foal to commercially popular stallions at exactly the right time.  Their average will likely never be topped.  Evans’ impressive band of horses entered a tenuous world-wide economy and what appears to be a Thoroughbred market making a modest recovery and still managed to post record results for gross receipts. 

One Virginia farm's dispersal marked the beginning of the end of the 1980's boom market, and the other the end of an era.

Here in the Commonwealth, it seems unlikely we will ever see the likes of these two again. -- Glenn Petty

(Editor's Note: I attended the Newstead dispersal and was part of the EMO Stables group that purchased two mares.  When Ernie Oare, the EMO managing partner, signed the $610,000 ticket for Hester Bateman, I remember thinking "that's four times more than my house is worth"  as I passed the slip back to the Fasig-Tipton representative.  The prices were unworldly -- but that was the booming 1980s.  While I now have my share of "senior moments,"  the events of that day in 1985 remain remarkably clear.  That said, I could not have produced this with any accuracy without the help of The Blood-Horse magazine of November 16, 1985 and a very helpful email from Lazy Lane manager Frank Shipp.) 

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