The bullish market at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale continued to generate strong trade among a global contingent of buyers on Thursday, producing healthy results and the sale of two fillies for $1 million each.
Keeneland sold 198 yearlings for a total of $47,231,000, an average of $238,540 and a median of $175,000 on Thursday, which marked the final day of the premier Week 1 portion of the September Sale. Through the first four days, Keeneland has sold 681 horses for gross sales of $196,645,000, for an average of $288,759 and a median of $200,000. Thirteen horses have sold for $1 million or more thus far compared to nine during last year’s entire September Sale.
Keeneland reformatted Week 1 of the September Sale this year to open with a select, single-session Book 1 followed by a three-day Book 2 versus last year’s three-day Book 1. The format change was designed to create momentum from the beginning that would carry through the entire auction, and to put as many top-quality horses before the world’s major buyers as possible during the first week.
“The goals we set out before the sale have been accomplished,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operation Geoffrey Russell said. “We wanted to engage buyers early and Monday showed that with great highlights. We wanted the momentum from Monday to carry through this week. The table has been very well set for the rest of the sale based on this week.
“We have sold million-dollar horses throughout the week, which shows the strength of the market,” Russell added. “There is a hunger for top-end horses.”
Thursday’s two session-toppers sold within minutes of each other. The first, consigned by Brereton C. Jones/Airdrie Stud, agent, is a filly by leading sire Tapit out of Jones’ Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Believe You Can, by Proud Citizen. She was purchased for $1 million by Don Alberto Corporation.
“First of all, she’s a Tapit,” Liliana Solari of Don Alberto said. “We had Proud Citizen at our farm in Chile. He was a wonderful horse and he sired very good fillies and colts. (This filly) had very nice lines – not too big, not too strong, but nice lines. So we want to have good horses (from) her.”
“All the smart people have told us that the filly looks exactly like all the really good Tapits,” Bret Jones of Airdrie said. “She is not a great big robust filly, but she is a well put-together filly and gives you the feeling she is going to give everything she has on the race track.”
Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock bought the second million-dollar filly, who is from the last crop of Scat Daddy. Consigned by Gainesway, agent, she is out of the graded stakes-placed Ghostzapper mare Beloveda, a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Golden Mystery.
“This was my favorite horse in the whole sale,” Radcliffe said. “I saw her on Sunday and I knew I wasn’t going home without her. In my eyes, she is the best horse in the sale. She is a queen and hopefully she will be in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2 at Royal Ascot) next year.”
“(The filly) rose to the occasion here,” Gainesway’s director of sales Michael Hernon said. “She was shown over 220 times; she was just as strong at the end. And she came along really well, I’d say in the last six weeks. She attracted all the top buyers, as she deserved to do. We think she’s a Royal Ascot filly. There was a lot of across-the-board interest from major buyers. And you know the cream rises to the top. We think she’s a really good horse, and we’re delighted with the result.”
Eric Fein paid $900,000 for a colt by Tapit who is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Taris, Grade 3 winner Theatre Star and stakes winner Stoweshoe. Out of the Theatrical (IRE) mare Comedy, he was consigned by Denali Stud, agent for Stonestreet Bred & Raised.
“We priced him anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million,” said Ian Brennan, who signed the ticket. “Good Tapit colts are bringing that kind of money. I’ve seen him for the last six, seven months and I’ve loved him. He’s done everything right.”
A colt by Curlin sold for $850,000 to trainer Kenny McPeek for Paul Fireman’s Fern Circle, whose runners include Senior Investment, winner of Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3) in April.
“We’re just stepping up, trying to find stock that can compete at the highest level,” McPeek said.
Consigned by Clarkland Farm, the colt is a half-brother to stakes winners Imply and Dancinginthecircle and from the family of Racing Hall of Famer Holy Bull.
McPeek has unique insight into the colt.
“I know the guy that bought Curlin as a yearling; I know him pretty well,” McPeek, who purchased Curlin for $57,000 at the 2005 September Sale, said jokingly. “And I think that he was as much that type of horse as I’ve ever seen from the stallion. He just really stamped this colt. This colt vetted perfect, and he was a man among boys today.
“(We) expected (to pay) $600,000, $700,000, $800,000. (Fireman and I were) on the phone and he said, ‘Go ahead.’ We’re real lucky to have a horse in the barn like this.”
Two yearlings sold for $800,000 each.
Kempton/Berkelhammer, agent for Albaugh Family Stable, bought the first, a colt by Curlin who is a half-brother to English highweight Hawkbill, scheduled to make his first North American start in Saturday’s Northern Dancer Turf (G1) at Woodbine, and Free Drop Billy, second in the recent Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga. Free Drop Billy races for Albaugh Family Stable, which purchased him for $200,000 at the 2016 September Sale. The colt was consigned by Gainesway, agent.
“He just had beautiful balance, very clean angles. He was an athletic horse from a profile – just had so much class and presence,” Steve Castagnola, bloodstock manager for Albaugh Family Stable, said. “I think he was a better individual than Free Drop Billy was at this time last year when we bought him. And you know you can’t say enough about Curlin. The mare’s a fantastic mare. The more we looked at him, you could just see it. Sometimes they hit you right between the eyes, and he was one of them.”
John C. Oxley paid $800,000 for a daughter of Pioneerof the Nile from the consignment of Blandford Stud, agent. The filly is out of the winning Touch Gold mare All Mettle, half-sister to 2017 multiple Grade 1 winner Paulassilverlining.
“She is gorgeous and I love (her sire) Pioneerof the Nile,” Oxley said. “She had the same look as (his son Triple Crown winner) American Pharoah. She was too attractive to pass up, so I had to stay in there and win. That was a little more than I thought she would go for and quite a bit more than I hoped she would go for.”
Hinkle Farms consigned a colt by Pioneerof the Nile who sold to Marchmont Stable for $775,000. Out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Accessorize, he is from the family of French highweight Mubtaker.
“I am thrilled that he is going to a great home,” Tom Hinkle said. “I knew he was popular and I knew there was a chance he might break out a little bit. We had a very reasonable reserve on him. There were some very fine racing stables interested him. We are delighted with where he is going.”
“Hopefully they will be running in classic dirt races on Saturday afternoons,” Walker Hancock, president of Claiborne Farm, said about the horses bought in the Marchmont Stable name. “That is what our clients have asked us to find, and I think we have done that. Ideally, these horses will become stallions at Claiborne Farm.”
Robert and Lawana Low paid $750,000 for No Joke, a filly by Distorted Humor, who is a half-sister to recent Del Mar Debutante (G1) winner Moonshine Memories and stakes winner Indian Evening and from the family of Horse of the Year Favorite Trick. She was consigned by Lane’s End, agent.
“I said to Mr. Low, ‘It’s the perfect recipe for success for a filly to bring a lot of money,’ ” said Jacob West, who signed the ticket for the filly. “She’s an outstanding physical, incredible pedigree behind her, updates in the pedigree, so it was a recipe for success. She’ll go to (trainer) Todd Pletcher.
“(The market)’s strong; it’s incredibly strong,” West added. “You have a number in your head and you better be prepared to give 25, sometimes 50 percent more. (High prices are) good for the breeders. It’s hard to get (the yearlings) through all the hoops and get them in here, so when you do that you need to get rewarded. I’m happy that these breeders are getting rewarded.”
Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm was the leading buyer on Thursday, spending $1,675,000 for seven yearlings.
The leading consignor was Taylor Made Sales Agency, which sold 33 horses for $6,617,000.
No sale will be held Friday, Sept. 15. The sale resumes Saturday. Remaining sessions begin at 10 a.m. ET. The entire sale, which concludes Saturday, Sept. 23, is streamed live at Keeneland.com.