Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale ended Sunday with solid results driven by a competitive market and active participation from the world’s deepest buying bench. The sale produced nine yearlings that commanded $1 million or more, led by a Scat Daddy colt sold for $3 million to be the highest-priced horse sold at public auction anywhere in the world this year.
During the 13-day auction, held Sept. 12-25, Keeneland sold 2,792 horses for $272,890,500, a dip of 3.06 percent compared to last year’s 12-day sale when 2,745 horses brought $281,496,100. The cumulative average of $97,740 was down 4.69 percent from last year’s $102,549. The median decreased 20 percent from $50,000 to $40,000.
“This was a very good sale from start to finish,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “The results demonstrate the influence of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. In many respects, this is the world’s marketplace. Buyers know they can get good value here, that this is where you come to buy the most competitive horses available at any price and level of the market.”
The strength of Book 1, the opening three-day portion of the September Sale, created momentum that carried forward to positively impact the middle market and beyond. Cumulatively, the Book 1 average of $347,471 rose nearly 15 percent over 2015, while the median of $300,000 spiked 20 percent despite 117 fewer horses cataloged this year.
Nine yearlings sold for $1 million or more; six of those were by leading sires Tapit and War Front. A testament to the strength of the upper and middle markets is the fact that 84 yearlings sold in the range of $500,000 to $999,000 versus 58 last year.
Book 1 succeeded in raising the market for subsequent sessions. Gross sales exceeded comparable 2015 figures for six of the eight sessions comprising Books 2-5. Significant gains also were realized in average and median prices in Books 2-4.
“Buyers were here in the beginning (for Book 1), but they stayed longer than anticipated, well into the second week,” Elliston said. “The traffic in the barns was extraordinarily busy throughout the sale.”
Globally acknowledged as the bellwether sale in the Thoroughbred industry, the September Sale stands apart from other all other auctions owing to several factors: a critical mass of quality yearlings at all levels of the market; the largest and most diverse buying bench in the world and the proven success of its sales graduates at the highest levels of racing worldwide.
To date in 2016, September Sale graduates have won 38 Grade/Group 1 stakes, accounting for all three Triple Crown classics; major 2-year-old stakes at Saratoga and Del Mar; group stakes in Europe, Dubai and Japan; and the Russian Derby.
That record of success coupled with Keeneland’s year-round recruitment strategy to engage buyers in the U.S. and in established and emerging racing markets around the world make Keeneland the gold standard among Thoroughbred auction companies.
“Keeneland spends 52 weeks a year recruiting buyers and promoting the Thoroughbred industry and our sales,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said. “Sales team members personally travel across the U.S. and to the far reaches of the world, and we are supported by full-time representatives in Europe, Australasia and most recently China. It’s gratifying to see these efforts bear fruit.”
“The Keeneland Sales team works very hard the entire year to ensure a deep bench of buyers at every level for those who put their consignments here,” Elliston added.
Buyers from five continents were active in the September Sale, led by major North American owners, trainers and pinhookers and their counterparts from Europe, Central and South America, Australia and Asia.
“There were multiple bidders on many horses and it created excitement,” Keeneland Director of Auctioneers Ryan Mahan said. “That churn of bidders really fed the energy in the ring and around the grounds.”
Prominent foreign and U.S. buyers made their presence known at the top of the market with interests occasionally teaming to become the successful bidder. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who attended the sale and bought in the name of his Shadwell Estate Company Ltd., topped the buyers’ list by gross expenditures, paying $10,750,000 for 15 yearlings, led by two War Front colts for $1.9 million and $1.3 million each. Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier acquired five yearlings for a total of $5,525,000, including the $3 million Scat Daddy colt and a $1 million Medaglia d’Oro colt in his name, and partnered with John and Leslie Malone’s Bridlewood Farm on a $2 million Tapit colt.
China was represented by two buyers: China Horse Club, who joined with prominent U.S.-based Maverick Racing to purchase 11 yearlings for $4,170,000, and Yulong Investments, which bought yearlings through BBA (Ireland). The Fung family’s Aquis Farm of Australia, purchasing via Bluesky Bloodstock, made a successful first foray to the September Sale, buying five yearlings for a total of $1,185,000. Aquis also bought a Kitten’s Joy colt for $450,000 in partnership with Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables.
Major North American buyers, several of whom stepped up their activity this year, were among September Sale leaders. J.J. Crupi, a Florida-based bloodstock agent who acts on behalf of a number of interests including such major owners as Vincent Viola’s St. Elias Stable and Mike Repole acquired 44 yearlings for a total of $9,700,000. Crupi began buying horses on opening day of the September Sale and continued into Book 5. Among his purchases was a $1.2 million colt by Tapit out of Grade 1 winner Hooh Why, the session topper on the sale’s second day. Fifteen of Crupi’s purchases were in the 10th session.
“I thought it was great sale. You got value,” Crupi said. (My participation early in the sale is) not saying you can’t buy a good horse from Book 4 or Book 5 because I have. You might not have as much pedigree as (horses offered in) Book 1, but horses make their own pedigrees.”
Other leading domestic buyers included Mike Ryan, who as agent paid $6,525,000 for 29 horses. Will Farish’s Lane’s End was both a leading consignor and buyer, selling 209 yearlings for $22,820,900, while buying 10 yearlings for $5,510,000. Among other notables were Ben Glass, as agent for Gary and Mary West, Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds, Don Adam’s Courtlandt Farm, Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hills Farm, Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, Ahmad Zayat’s Zayat Stables, Steven Young and Tom Haughey’s PTK.
A who’s who of the world’s top trainers shopped at the September Sale for future stable stars: Racing Hall of Famers Steve Asmussen, Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas and Bill Mott; Eclipse Award winners Todd Pletcher and Dale Romans; Chad Brown, Mark Casse, Larry Jones, Jerry Hollendorder, Richard Mandella, Wesley Ward, Dallas Stewart, Mark Hennig and Gary Contessa; and noted European trainers Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden.
“When they’re coming for September, (buyers) know they can camp out here for two weeks and they’re going to find some horses,” said Neal Clarke of Bedouin Bloodstock, which sold 11 horses for an average of $136,000. “That’s very appealing to these buyers, and Keeneland is the destination.
“At the end of the day, we’re farmers bringing our crop to market,” Clarke added. “We’re fortunate enough to have this sales ground in our own backyards that brings buyers from all over the country and all over the world. You talk about a wonderful marketplace to come to as a breeder; Keeneland is it.”
“Keeneland really is the backbone of everything in the North American market,” said Andrew Cary, general manager and partner of Select Sales, which sold 117 yearlings for $7,026,400. “Most buyers know if they’re going to go to one sale, this is the sale to go to. There’s no doubt that by far it’s our most important sale. Keeneland does a great job of getting people here from all over the world.”
The $3 million sale-topping colt is a half-brother to multiple champion Beholder and Grade 1 winner and sire Into Mischief. He is highest-priced yearling sold at the September Sale since 2010. This is the seventh consecutive year Keeneland has sold the top-priced yearling at public auction in North America.
Fred Mitchell, whose Clarkland Farm bred and consigned the colt, has been selling horses at Keeneland for more than 30 years.
“I’ve been in the business a long time, and that was always one of my goals: Consign the top-priced colt or filly in Book 1,” Mitchell said. “We accomplished that goal, and it was quite satisfying.”
For the 18th time since 1988, Taylor Made Sales Agency led all consignors, selling 282 horses for $32,899,300. Taylor Made’s consignment was highlighted by the sale of three seven-figure yearlings: two Tapit fillies sold to Mandy Pope for $1.4 million and $1.1 million and a $1 million Medaglia d’Oro colt bought by M.V. Magnier.
For the fifth consecutive year, leading North American sire Tapit was the September Sale’s top sire by gross. His 31 yearlings grossed $19,835,000 and averaged $639,839, the highest average for a sire represented by three or more yearlings since 2006, when 12 yearlings by Danzig averaged $1,465,833.
During Sunday’s final session, 147 horses sold for $1,036,600, for an average of $7,052 and a median of $3,200. There was no comparable session in 2015. A colt from the first crop of Grade 1 winner Morning Line out of the stakes-winning Cape Canaveral mare Angel Trumpet brought $45,000 from Royal Flush Racing to be the day’s top price.
Keeneland’s upcoming Fall Meet will be held Oct. 7-29 and kicks off with its signature Fall Stars Weekend highlighted by nine graded stakes, seven of which are Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In events. Keeneland’s next auction will be the November Breeding Stock Sale, to be held Nov. 8-20.