Book 1 of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale had a distinctly pre-recession feel to it during the 2018 renewal.
Principals for Godolphin and Coolmore were in attendance and battling for what became a hefty ledger of seven-figure horses, throwing back to their epic battles in the early aughts, while a global variety of buyers filled out the rest of the book's top offerings. Godolphin finished the four sessions of Book 1 with seven yearlings in the million-dollar range, and Coolmore closed Thursday's trade with three, including the $2.4-million War Front colt that topped the select portion of the catalog.
In total, 26 yearlings reached the seven-figure range in Book 1, doubling the number to do so last year, and posting the highest return in that category since 32 hit that mark in 2007. If that number goes unchanged for the rest of the sale, it would tie for the seventh-most in the September sale's history. The record is 40 sold in 2005.
Book 1 of the September Sale underwent a major overhaul in 2018, expanding to nearly 1,000 yearlings after last year's auction featured a one-evening first book of 168 entries. Horses in each of the four sessions were spread through barns 1-49 throughout the Keeneland backstretch, but Keeneland's director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said giving the consignments space worked to their advantage.
“The new format, I think worked very well,” he said. “Our goal going in was to reduce the number of horses in Book 1 [showing in a specific area], to give buyers a chance to get around to look at them all, and to be able to show them in a less cramped area than last year. I think it worked very well from start to finish.”
The format saw an unexpected new wrinkle when heavy rains washed out opportunities for most to inspect horses on the Sunday prior to the sale. In response, Keeneland executives pushed the start time for all four Book 1 sessions back from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“It's something we didn't want to do, obviously, but it was a very necessary thing for us to do,” Russell said. “It was very important to give buyers a chance to look at these horses. With Book 1, we consider those horses to be the cream of the North American crop, so they need to be showcased like that.
“Some people questioned if we should have kept it going for Wednesday or Thursday, but this morning,” he continued. “We've had a lot of people starting to work on Book 2, so they got a little head start on the weekend, and I don't think it changed the momentum of the sale.”
After four days of trade, a total of 596 horses had changed hands for revenues of $216,813,000, up 10 percent from the four-day point in 2017 when 681 horses brought $196,645,000. The cumulative average rose 26 percent to $363,780 from $288,759, while the median grew 50 percent to $300,000 from $200,000. The four-day buyback rate sat at 28 percent compared with 33 percent last year.
Thursday's session finished with 139 horses sold for $49,475,000. The average landed at $355,935, the median closed at $300,000, and the buyback rate was 29 percent.
“I think the tax bill will have some effect, probably more in the next book or two,” Russell said. “There is a hunger for top-quality horses. People are looking for the “Saturday horse.” That's what our business is founded on, and at the moment, I think we have a good, strong group of top-end buyers who are willing to pay top prices for these horses. I heard more complaints about people not being able to buy what they wanted to buy because they were surprised with how much they brought, and these are people that have the wherewithal to do it.”
Stonestreet, Medaglia d'Oro Dominate Thursday's Trade
Stonestreet Farm knows how to get the most out of a Medaglia d'Oro offspring, as evidenced by 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. That union carried into Thursday's session, where the operation sold a pair of seven-figure lots by the resident of Darley America.
Phoenix Thoroughbreds struck on a $2.1-million colt by Medaglia d'Oro, Hip 899, Thursday's session-topper and the auction's third-highest overall price thus far.
The dark bay or brown colt is out of the Grade 3-placed stakes-winning Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom, making him a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria. Irish Group 2 winner Van Beethoven is in the extended family.
“It's a tough game, we do our work and the ultimate answer and compliment comes at stage is who you're competing against and how much you're willing to stretch,” said Tom Ludt, head of U.S. operations for Phoenix Thoroughbreds. “I know David Ingordo was the underbidder, I know Donato [Lanni] was on him, I know Chad Brown was on him. Those are great people to compete against, and you ultimately make a decision. [Phoenix CEO Amer Abdulaziz Salman] really wanted him, and I know Bob Baffert loved him, and obviously he gets a lot of our good horses.”
Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned the colt as agent for Stonestreet's “Bred and Raised” program.
Earlier in the day, the Godolphin operation went to $1.6 million for a Medaglia d'Oro colt out of champion Dayatthespa, Hip 823. Godolphin's number of seven-figure purchases at this year's Keeneland September sale currently sits at seven.
The bay colt is the second foal out of Dayatthespa, following a Curlin colt who is training toward his first start at Belmont Park. Dayatthespa, the champion turf female of 2014, was purchased by Stonestreet Farm as a broodmare prospect for $2.1 million at the that year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Selected Mixed Sale.
“He's very much the horse we wanted today,” said John Gosden who signed the ticket on behalf of the Godolphin operation. “He stuck at $900,000, and they made a speech [from the auctioneer's stand]. We thought he had him at $900,000, but he was the one horse we wanted all day, so we were really keen to get him.”
Gosden said he expected the colt to join Godolphin's European string.
Gainesway consigned the colt as agent for Stonestreet.
Stonestreet also bred and sold Hip 915, a Speightstown colt out of Grade 2 winner Fiftyshadesofhay who went to the partnership of China Horse Club and WinStar Farm CEO Elliott Walden's Maverick Racing for $750,000.
“Those were three of the best colts we've raised all year long,” said Stonestreet bloodstock adviser John Moynihan. “They just happened to all fall on this day, but we loved those horses, all of them. You're fortunate to get those good physicals that also have those good mares, it all just sort of added up for us this year – the physicals also met the pedigrees.”
Products of the Stonestreet program are cataloged at auction with “Stonestreet Bred & Raised” in the property line at the top of the page following the consignor. Listing an owner in the property line is only mildly uncommon at Thoroughbred auctions, but Stonestreet has used the designator as a marketing tool to brand its product across a variety of different consignors.
“With us, we're extremely proud of what we do,” Moynihan said. “We put a lot of thought process into every aspect of this. Barbara is all about best practices, and she gives us the resources to do it the best way possible that we can do it.
“Regarding the Stonestreet brand, we raise them the right way,” he continued. “These horses are outside, they're raised tough, and we're extremely proud of that fact. It makes you feel good when it comes full circle, and the horses go through here and bring a lot of money, and the buyers feel the same way about what we produce as we do.”
Godolphin Buys Medaglia d'Oro Filly For $1 Million
An active day for both Godolphin and Medaglia d'Oro continued on Thursday, when the operation landed a filly, Hip 893, for $1 million.
The first foal out of the unraced Street Cry mare Esprit de Vie hails from the family of Group 1 winner Royal Diamond, Group 2 winner Princess Highway, and Group 3 winners Irresistible Jewel and Mad About You.
Thursday's transaction was the kind of reward Runnymede Farm and Haras d'Etreham were looking for when they bought the empty, unraced Esprit de Vie for $500,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. Her first mating under the new ownership produced the seven-figure filly.
“I don't think you ever expect this, but we were quite pleased with her,” said Brutus Clay III of Runnymede Farm, which also consigned the filly. “She looks the part of a horse that could go on and be quite professional on the track.”
“This being our second horse in one sale to sell for over a million dollars, it's been a long time coming,” he continued. “I think it was 2004. We're absolutely delighted.”
First-Ever Seven Figure Into Mischief Yearling Goes To OXO Equine For $1.2 Million
Spendthrift Farm resident Into Mischief surpassed another milestone on Thursday when Larry Best's OXO Equine bought one his colts for $1.2 million, making him the first Into Mischief yearling to crack the seven-figure mark.
Best has quickly found high-level success with sons of Into Mischief, highlighted by Instagrand, who Best bought for $1.2 million at this year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Select Sale of 2-Year-Olds In Training and has campaigned to a win in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes.
The colt that sold on Thursday is out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Gaudete, whose runners include the multiple Group 3-placed Snowboarder. Grade 2 winner and sire Munnings is in the immediate family.
“Into Mischief has been very good for me,” Best said. “I love the power of them. This horse looks the part. He needs some work, but I think with some training, he'll be a good prospect.”
“I was told there was about 27 vets on the horse, which means probably scopes, and that's unusual. I also became aware that the people that own the sire were on the horse. What better data point than that? They're good guys and I knew they'd take it up on me. I'm quite comfortable, though, with the price.”
Best said a decision on a trainer would be made later, but the colt would be sent to Florida-based Eddie Woods to begin his education.
Castle Park Farm consigned the colt, as agent.
Lows Land $1.05-Million Curlin Filly
Consigned by Stone Farm, agent, the chestnut filly's extended family includes Grade/Group 1 winners Mrs. Lindsay and Unaccounted For.
“They've made an exerted effort to get some two-turn dirt horses, and that's exactly what this filly made me think she was,” said Jacob West, who signed the ticket for the Lows. “She didn't look like a first foal. She actually to me looked like a colt. She's big, strong, good-boned. She just happened to have ovaries, so we just hope she goes on and maybe she makes it into the broodmare band.”
West said the filly would go to trainer Todd Pletcher, who also conditioned Dame Dorothy, winner of the Grade 1 Humana Distaff Stakes at Churchill Downs.
“Todd told me Dame Dorothy was probably one of his best 2-year-olds,” West said. “She had a little setback, but he said that filly was very, very fast. We kind of figured that was going to be the price, and we got it done.
Bloodstock Agent Dugen Buys $1.05-million Pioneerof the Nile Filly
The last horse past the seven-figure point of Book 1 was Hip 977, a Pioneerof the Nile filly who sold to bloodstock agent Shawn Dugan on behalf of an unnamed client for $1.05 million.
All five foals to race out of the filly's dam, the Grade 3-winning Graeme Hall mare Graeme Six, are winners, including Grade 3 winners Cali Star and Delightful Joy and stakes winner Seymourdini.
“There's always a residual value with a filly, and this filly has everything going for her,” Dugan said. “The mare has a Tapit foal on the ground who Michael Hernon [of Gainesway] tells me is absolutely stunning, and then she's in foal to Tapit, and we know Tapit's one of the best stallions in America. We're just delighted to participate.”
Gainesway consigned the filly, as agent.
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