For the past month or more, talk and anticipation has focused on the commercial prospects of breeders at the Keeneland September yearling sale, and the principal trends and buying indicators at the September sale, which started yesterday in Lexington, were concentrated on blue-chip stock.
Superior specimens of the yearling Thoroughbred by proven sires and out of deep families proved that they are as reliable as any form of income-producing asset.
Just a few years ago, when the economy was in the pit of despair, the super-select yearling was profitable and brought good money. Today, they are in greater demand and bring better money.
There were four lots selling for $1 million or more at Monday's Keeneland September sale, Session 1. The session leader was a filly by top-class Medaglia d'Oro from the Too Chic family that Emory Hamilton has cultivated so successfully. For her, it has produced champion Queena, Grade 1 stakes winner Brahms, and current G1 star Verrazano, as well as the session-topping filly.
A big, scopey bay out of the A.P. Indy mare Flying Passage, the top-priced yearling on the first day of sales was Hip 19 and was consigned by Gainesway, agent. Alan Cooper bought her for $1.5 million for the Niarchos family's Flaxman Stables Ireland, Ltd.
The half-sister to graded stakes winners Hungry Island and Soaring Empire would be worth a significant portion of that just as a broodmare, but she is an enticing racing prospect. She has the scope and walk of a two-turn racer, allied with the substance and size of an athlete who might be able to perform early.
With three white feet to mark her fancy paces, the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro captivated buyers' interest more than any yearling on the day.
The lot preceding the session-topping filly into the ring was a colt also from the Gainesway consignment and from the same family as the Medaglia d'Oro filly. A Candy Ride colt out of Flying Dixie (Dixieland Band), this rangy bay has great size and scope that goes well with his dominant personality.
Standing nearly 16 hands already, the Candy Ride colt has a great length of hip and walks over the ground really well. The bay yearling sold to Nat Rea's Regis Farms for $700,000.
The second-highest price of the day came for a filly consigned by Hill ‘n' Dale Sales Agency, agent. Bred in Kentucky by George Krikorian, the yearling was already named Miss Hollywood, and she is a daughter of Malibu Moon out of multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Hollywood Story (by Wild Rush).
A May 15 foal, the Malibu Moon filly was very robustly developed. She had a great depth of body and well-defined muscling.
As a yearling months younger than some of the other top prospects in Book 1, she was not tall, but this filly was not taking second place in attitude or personality.
Giuseppe Iadisernia's Northwest Stud of Ocala, Fla., bought the filly for $1.35 million.
Other elite specimens included a Bernardini half-brother to champion Stevie Wonderboy as Hip 67. The strong and lengthy bay out of the Summer Squall mare Heat Lightning was consigned by Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services (John Stuart), and the colt brought $650,000 from Whisper Hill Farm LLC.
These are the sort of horses that brought high returns for their breeders and consignors on Monday, and the trend is expected to continue through the week. The truly superior specimens by the best sires in the breed and out of the best families are worth a great deal to buyers.
However, a careful perusal of the returns indicates just how selective buyers and their advisers truly are. Yearlings that are just a smidge off the premium level were selling for a major discount, considering the stud fees and other expenses required to bring a top yearling to auction.
One of the obvious culprits in this problem is the oversupply of yearlings by certain sires. There are literally dozens of yearlings by many of the elite stallions, and even among the nicer prospects, the ones that are biggest, brightest, and most developed on the day outshine the rest. And then the rest don't sell as well.
Giant's Causeway is a perfect example of this. The chestnut son of Storm Cat is one of the most popular stallions in the world, and breeders all want one. When they come to sell them, however, there are actually a dozen or more really top prospects by the sire in the first couple of days at the September sale.
As a result, all the yearlings are diminished a little.
Pauls Mill, as agent, sold the half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and to multiple G1 winner Dullahan. The yearling is a gorgeous, massively constructed chestnut by Giant's Causeway.
For all the colt's many excellent qualities and appealing aspects, he brought “only” $675,000 at the end of a lively spate of bidding. The buyer was Zayat Stables, and in another type of market, the colt could have been expected to bring a hefty multiple of that price.
This is, however, the market that mega-books, shuttling, and other economic factors have brought us. During the sale's first session, 130 yearlings sold for $34,735,000, for an average of $267,192 and a median of $200,000.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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