We visited the barn area at Keeneland Race Course on Saturday, January 10, to see 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri who was up for auction on Monday in the Keeneland January Horses-of-All-Ages Sale. The barn area was a beehive of activity as the various agencies were prepping their horses for the sales which started on the Monday and needless to say Azeri was a popular lady with the visitors. She was consigned for owner the Allen Paulson Liing Trust by Hill 'N' Dale Farm and they had a nice display with posters and commemorative saddle cloths from all 11 of Azeri's Grade 1 wins beside her stall.
In 2002 as a four-year-old, she won 7 of 8 starts including the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park, earning her Horse of the Year honors, only the third female to win the award. Her lifetime record was 17 wins (11 Grade 1 wins) in 24 starts with over $4 million in earnings.
Michael Paulson of the Allen Paulson Living Trust entered her in the sale while in foal to Ghostzapper in hopes of getting a big price, but she was bought back for $4.4 million after failing to meet the reserve during the opening session of the auction on Monday. Interestingly, Paulson bought back her first foal, Vallenzeri, for a world record $7.7 million in the 2008 Keeneland September yearling auction.
After the auction, Paulson said, "Right now we're inclined to just keep Azeri in our inventory. She's a four-time Eclipse Award champion (with three divisional titles in addition to her Horse of the Year honor), and we gave everybody an opportunity to buy a horse like that. It came real close, but it just didn't happen. For some reason, it didn't happen, so I see that as an omen that obviously we're supposed to keep her. We set a very fair reserve, and the market and us were real close. She's due to foal here in about three months, so we'll see where it goes from there, but it can't be too bad having a mare like that in your barn."
Another top broodmare up for sale was Island Fashion who also drew a crowd at the barn of Crestwood Farm. The Petionville mare won 5 graded stakes and earned $2,037,970 on the track. Like Azeri, she is also in foal to Ghostzapper and was up for sale as part of the Everest Stables reduction. She previously went in the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall select sale where she was bought back for $2 million. This time, she did sell but for only $950,000 to Katsumi Yoshida who will bring her back to Japan.
Yoshida's representative Naohiro Hosoda said, "She simply is a good racemare and she is still young, not so young, but still young, and she is carrying a Ghostzapper. If she's going to be not so much money, we were going to try for her, and Mr. Yoshida said go."
Pope McLean, owner of Crestwood said, "In today's market maybe that's a fair price. She's an extremely nice mare, and I think they made a good purchase. I think they'll come out on her. She's a good investment. We have mixed emotions because we had her the whole time, and she's such a nice, hard-knocking genuine mare. It's sad to see her go. Anyway, she's got a good home, and we wish nothing but the best for her."