It's been a while since Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum has made an appearance at the Keeneland September yearling sale, but he made his presence known in a big way on Monday, buying a pair of seven-figure horses during the opening session of the Keeneland September Yearling sale.
The ruler of Dubai and proprietor of the Godolphin operation was in attendance throughout the day with his family, inspecting horses in the barns and the back ring. Godolphin, along with Godolphin Japan, accounted for 11 purchases on Monday totaling $7.28 million, which in one day threatened to eclipse the $8,065,000 the operation spent during the entirety of last year's sale.
“He's a very busy man, and everybody – the staff and the farm – are so excited for him to come over here and have the opportunity to go through the farm and see the yearlings,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Darley America. “He just enjoys the horses so much and the sales.”
Year-to-year sessions are difficult to compare between this year's auction and the 2017 renewal due to the sale's select Book 1 being expanded to four days from last year's single boutique evening. However, the five purchases at the seven-figure mark made up significant ground against the eight that hit the mark in last year's first book.
Monday's session finished with 138 horses sold for revenues of $48,620,000. The average sale price finished at $352,319, the median closed at $260,000, and the buyback rate finished at 35 percent.
Bob Elliston, Keeneland's vice president of racing and sales, acknowledged the impact Sheikh Mohammed's presence had on both the atmosphere of the sale and its bottom line.
“Every year, we all have hopes [that he'll attend],” he said. “It really is an honor for us when Sheikh Mohammed can clear his schedule to come here. It's been about 10 years since he was last here. He's been such a huge support of Keeneland and the Keeneland September sale, so to see him on the grounds and stepping up to participate like he did today is just very rewarding for all of us here at Keeneland.”
Monday's session started two hours later than originally scheduled after heavy rains washed out much of Sunday's pre-sale inspection time for potential buyers. Each of the first four sessions will begin at 1 p.m. Eastern instead of the originally-planned 11 a.m., and Elliston said the change has been universally welcomed from both sides of the sale ring.
“Yesterday was just a deluge, and folks just couldn't see the horses,” he said. “The format has caused us to spread this four-day grouping of horses over the whole barn area, so they're not right together. You have to travel some distance over the 49 barns that we have, so that coupled with the rain, I think the buyers were particularly appreciative of us giving them more time to get at it.”
A colt by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah achieved the highest price paid at North American public auction this year, dropping the hammer to Godolphin for $2.2 million to lead the opening session.
The chestnut colt, Hip 91, is the second foal out of the Grade 2-placed stakes-winning Indian Charlie mare Kindle. His extended family includes French champion Play It Safe and Australian Group 3 winner Tonopah.
Woods Edge Farm consigned the colt, as agent. The Daily Racing Form reported Coolmore was the underbidder on the colt.
“He's a smashing horse,” said Peter O'Callaghan of Woods Edge. “He was a smashing horse the day we bought him, and he did everything he needed to do in the meantime. He stayed healthy, grew well, and got strong, and turned into a beautiful yearling, by the most special horse I've seen in my lifetime. I just hope he can be a good racehorse now.”
O'Callaghan bought the colt as a weanling for $400,000 at last year's Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“It was the most I ever paid for a foal, and probably the most I ever will pay for a foal,” he said. “There's a lot of worry in that year. We followed the horse and we didn't think we'd get him, and we got him. He was just meant to be our lucky horse. There are some horses you get, some horses you don't, and you need them to be lucky for you when you get them, and this fella was.”
The colt was bred by HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing, advised by Carl McEntee.
“She was a lovely racemare,” McEntee said about Kindle. “She got beat a whisker by Mizdirection [in the Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes]. I wanted dirt speed and classic distance on top, and it just hooked up really nice. $400,000 was a good number for him at the time, and obviously he's gone on an ring an absolute bell. The mare has a Pioneerof the Nile on the ground, so obviously we like that mating.
“My clients are absolutely thrilled,” McEntee continued. “It helps make the mare. We kept her first Tiznow foal as a 2-year-old in training [the colt Made in America], and we've got the Pioneerof the Nile now, so it looks like we'll have some fun.”
Godolphin rounded out its busy session with the $1.3-million purchase of Hip 218, a Medaglia d'Oro colt out of the Grade 2-winning Curlin mare Moulin de Mougin. He is the first foal out of the mare, from the family of Group 1 winner Roaring Lion.
“These very good ones just show themselves,” Bell said. “They step up, step out every time, and this one had a great walk, a great presence, great behavior, all the things you want to see. Sheikh Mohammed loved him from the first time he saw him, followed him up here, and he's happy to have him.”
Lane's End consigned the colt, as agent.
A half-brother to two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome sold to the Coolmore partnership for $1.1 million.
The gray or roan Tapit colt, Hip 141, is out of the winning Not For Love mare Love the Chase, who is the dam of three winners from four foals to race. The colt sold Monday was in-utero when Love the Chase sold for $1.95 million at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Selected Mixed Sale.
“Michael Tabor, when he saw him, was really taken by him,” said Coolmore's M.V. Magnier. “The mare is a very good producer, and he's a brother to a very good horse. He's going to stay here and go to Todd Pletcher, so let's hope he's good.”
Bedouin Bloodstock consigned the colt, as agent.
Next to eclipse the seven-figure mark was Hip 203, a Tapit filly out of the Grade 3-winning Trippi mare Miss Macy Sue who sold to Don Alberto Corp. for $1.4 million.
The gray or roan filly is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Liam's Map, Grade 3 winner Not This Time, and Grade 2-placed stakes winner Taylor S.
“We liked the pedigree – Tapit,” Liliana Solari of Don Alberto. “We have Unique Bella, who is the same [by Tapit]. We like good pedigrees in mares.”
The filly was bred by Albaugh Family Stables, which bought Miss Macy Sue privately during her on-track career. Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned the filly, as agent.
“Sometimes you've got to make that tough decision to sell, and we wanted to buy a lot of colts this sale.” said Albaugh Family Stables general manager Jason Loutsch. “It was a tough decision, but she's going to a good home. It's a great family, and that mare has done so much for us. We can't be more grateful.”
The bay colt is the first foal out of Molly Morgan, from the family of Canadian champion Wavering Girl, Grade 1 winner Military, and Grade 2 winners Tricky Creek and Parade Ground.
“I know some of the underbidders and I thought they'd take it over $2 million,” Best said. “All I know is I got the horse I wanted. I hope and pray he can run. The horse vetted out perfectly. I don't have a Curlin and I always wanted a quality Curlin. Now I've found one.”
Summerfield Sales consigned the colt as agent for Stonestreet Farm's “Bred and Raised” program.
“We knew he was a very fancy horse and people liked him,” said Summerfield's Francis Vanlangendonck. “Everybody's buying the quality like that and his mother was a great racehorse.”
To view the full results from Monday's session, click here.
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