The opening session of Book 2 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale showed there was still plenty of money left in the market after Book 1 uncorked a week-long run of high-level activity, with Saturday's trade being led by a $1-million Uncle Mo colt.
Following a four-day run of Book 1 sessions and Friday's traditional “dark day” of no selling, Keeneland's director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said keeping the momentum of quality horseflesh going was key heading into the weekend's trade, and sellers understood this point.
“For a lot of consignors, the weekend is a very important book for them, regardless if it's Book 2 or 3, wherever the weekend falls,” he said. “They like to sell right after the break.
“Going back many years ago, Tommy [Thornbury, Keeneland consultant and former associate director of sales] and I always stressed to people that this should be a very strong conformation-class book, because people have plenty of time to look at them,” Russell continued. “Through Tommy's persuasion and mine, we've always kept on pushing that to them, that we need good, strong physicals here. That's what sold back then, and it sold today.”
Though books are not comparable from year-to-year, with this year's fifth session falling in Book 2, and last year's in Book 3, simply comparing the fifth sessions of the 2017 and 2018 sales produced stellar improvements.
Saturday's session finished with 284 horses sold for revenues of $51,059,700, up 63 percent from last year's fifth session, when 253 horses brought $31,392,500. The average sale price grew 45 percent to $179,788 from $124,081, while the median rose 40 percent to $140,000 from $100,000. The day's buyback rate finished at an impressive 22 percent compared with 30 percent last year.
“Walking around yesterday, I was talking to a lot of people who said they hadn't bought anything yet, and I saw several of them on the page today, so that was good,” Russell said. “We kind of anticipated that today would be strong. I would have to say it was much stronger than I anticipated.”
At the end of five sessions, a total of 880 horses have brought $267,872,700, up 17 percent from the same point last year when 934 horses sold for $228,037,500. The cumulative gross is already tracking closely to the final figure of $272.8 million in 2016, and it appears well on course to challenge last year's final total of $307.8 million.
The five-day average of $304,401 was up 25 percent from $244,151, and the median was ahead 39 percent to $240,000 from $172,500. The buyback rate improved to 26 percent from 32 percent.
China Horse Club, WinStar Farm Team Up On $1-Million Uncle Mo Colt
After purchasing a seven-figure horse in Book 1, the partnership of China Horse Club and WinStar Farm CEO Elliott Walden's Maverick Racing landed another on Saturday with session-topper Hip 1206, an Uncle Mo colt secured for $1 million.
The bay colt, named Wall Street Lion, is the second foal out of the Grade 2-placed Street Cry mare Sweet Bliss, from the family of champion Sweet Catomine, Grade 1 winners Life Is Sweet and Pirate's Revenge, and 2009 Broodmare of the Year Strive.
“There's a lot of good blood on the page,” said Mick Flanagan, China Horse Club's European bloodstock adviser. “There's Giant's Causeway, there's Street Cry, there's Machiavellian, there's even a bit of Arch in there. He's got a mix of all those good values. He's got the physique. His dam was very good, obviously. She could run a bit, too, so we were happy to get the colt.”
Lane's End consigned the colt as agent for Wygod Equine.
“He was really well received in this group,” said Allaire Ryan, sales director for Lane's End. “We knew he was extremely popular. It exceeded our expectations, but we did have high hopes for him, of all the horses that we're bringing up here today.
Ryan said a concerted effort toward catalog placement worked to the colt's benefit, helping him be a standout offering in Book 2, instead of potentially getting shuffled into the pack in Book 1.
“We were thinking all along on the farm that he could use it, just to mature a little more and stand out a little more,” Ryan said. “We wanted to put him in the right spot. It kind of goes along with our strategy with the sale overall this year. We really streamlined what we put in Book 1 to strengthen Books 2 and 3, so it really had a trickle down effect on our whole consignment, and it's really paying off.”
Lows Nab Tapit Colt For $850,000
Saturday's second-highest price came near the end of the session, when Robert and Lawana Low bought Hip 1372, a Tapit colt for $850,000.
The gray or roan colt is the second foal out of the stakes-placed Giant's Causeway mare Flores Island. The extended page is highlighted by champion Heavenly Prize, Grade 1 winners Good Reward, Furlough, Dancing Spree, and Oh What a Windfall, and Grade 2 winners Annual Report and Blitey.
“We'd kind of gotten outrun on some big colts in Book 1, and just kind of saved our powder for this colt in Book 2, and we're pretty happy to get him,” said Jacob West, who signed the ticket on behalf of the Lows. “I loved him from the day I saw him. I was down there [in the barns], and one of the grooms and showmen told me he'd groomed him since he'd come over to the yearling side, and he said, ‘Jake, this horse is a total racehorse,' so I had to go with that and trust my gut.”
Earlier in the week, West said the Lows' priority at this year's sale was finding potential two-turn colts, and their purchase on Saturday fit the profile.
“We just thought that if we get lucky enough, he's got a stallion's pedigree, and that's what we're shooting for,” West said. “The Lows love Oaklawn Park, so you hope you just bought the Arkansas Derby winner.”
Gainesway consigned the colt, as agent.
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