Keeneland September's opening night saw eight horses bring $1 million or more, with War Front and Tapit emerging the stars of the session, accounting for all but one of those seven-figure yearlings amongst a generally strong session.
Keeneland changed the format of the early part of the sale this year as compared to 2016, when Book 1 was larger and held over multiple sessions. Gross receipts for this year's one-session Book 1 finished at $54,175,000 with an average of $570,263 for the 95 head sold. The median finished at $500,000. Comparing opening sessions from 2016 and 2017, gross sales were up 57 percent, average 78 percent and median 86 percent. In 2016, the opening session saw 108 yearlings sell for $34,531,000, an average of $319,731 and median of $267,500.
RNA rate for Book 1 was 34 percent, similar to the 36 percent for last year's first session.
“By far, it exceeded our expectations. We had a couple of goals for this new format; first and foremost was to create momentum from the very beginning we could take through the entire sale. The second was to have as many international horses as we could before the break,” said Bob Elliston, vice president of racing and sales at Keeneland.
“It's a select environment. There have been other select sales in the U.S. this year; if you look just at the select market, this sale at [average price of] $570,000 was 68 percent over the August select sale that took place up in New York.”
Taylor Made was the session's top consignor and Shadwell its top buyer by receipts.
Hip 69, a Tapit filly out of Pretty 'n Smart, was the sale's most expensive horse, raising $2.7 million from Coolmore for consignor VanMeter-Gentry sales.
The filly is from the family of Cupid, Heart Ashley, Indianapolis, and Ashley's Kitty.
Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm was the purchaser of a $2.6 million Tapit colt from the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Gun Runner. Pope admitted it was a little unusual for her to go to such a high price on a colt.
“I just really believe in this family, which is evident by what I bought out of it last year. This is the most I've spent on a colt, so he's got to run,” said Pope, who is better known for purchasing broodmare prospects or young fillies for great sums, with the intent of selling the colts they produce. “He's a very strong horse. There's a little bit more to him than some of the Tapits. He's got good bone. He seems to be good-minded; Tapits can be a little fragile in the brain sometimes.
“Obviously I love Tapits as I buy them, breed them, and also sell them. I think Tapit is the best stallion we have in this country.”
Taylor Made consigned the son of Miss Besilu, whose dam also produced Horse of the Year Saint Liam and Congressionalhonor. This was her first foal.
Pope reported there were a few downed trees and fencing at her facility in Florida, but all horses, people, and buildings had emerged from Hurricane Irma unscathed.
Earlier in the sale, the first colt out of multiple graded stakes winner Iotapa started things off with a bang, dropping the hammer at $1.9 million an hour into the auction. The colt, by War Front, was consigned by Taylor Made and purchased by Donato Lanni on behalf of an undisclosed client.
Additionally, racing newcomer Larry Best went to $1.25 million for Hip 82, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro and Sealy Hill. The filly from the family of Hillaby, Belle Hill, and Gale Force was consigned via Gainesway. Best also picked up Hip 128, a War Front filly out of Galileo mare Aloof, for $1.6 million. Wayne Sweezey's Timber Town Farm consigned the filly for Mandy Pope, who paid $3.9 million for Aloof in 2014.
One of the last hips to go through the ring brought another seven-figure price as Kerri Radcliffe signed a $1.1 million ticket for Hip 165, a War Front half-brother to graded stakes winner Parranda. VanMeter/Gentry consigned the colt.
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