The close of Book 2 at the Keeneland September carried on a continued run of accelerated trade that put the auction on the precipice of surpassing last year's final gross in just six sessions.
With six days in the books, a total of 1,144 horses changed hands for $303,926,700, up 19 percent from the same point of last year's sale, when 1,179 yearlings brought $254,913,000. The 2017 sale finished with a gross of $307,845,400 from 2,555 horses sold over the course of 12 sessions, leaving the current renewal just under $4 million to make up.
“We thought last year was very good all the way through to the end, and to have $307 million at the end of the sale, we were delighted to break the $300-million number last year,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. “To do it now, six days in, just shows the strength of this market.”
Presuming the previous year's gross is eclipsed on Monday, the next target would be the 2004 edition, when 4,891 offerings generated $324,904,300, the fifth-highest gross in the bellwether auction's history. The all-time record was set in 2006, when 5,161 horses sold for a combined $399,791,800.
The cumulative average sale price at the six-day point was $265,670, up 23 percent from $216,211 at the same point last year. The median sat at $200,000, up 33 percent from $150,000, while the buyback rate fell to 27 percent from 32 percent.
The second and final day of Book 2 finished on Sunday with 264 horses sold for $36,054,000, an improvement of 34 percent from last year's sixth session. Sunday's average of $136,568 marked a 25 percent improvement from the previous year, while the median grew 47 percent to $117,500. Sunday's buyback rate was 29 percent.
With the auction moving further from the select sessions into the middle market, the buyers that occupied the six- and seven-figure stratosphere of the first week have begun to thin out, replaced by incoming buyers and those who stuck around after getting outbid earlier in the week. Russell said he expected that transition to continue as the sale passes its halfway point.
“There were a lot of people that said goodbye to me today,” he said. “For people like Bob [Baffert] and Chad Brown and all those to last this long, into the weekend, just shows the quality of horses that have continued on from Book 1 into Book 2. They were both very busy buying horses.”
Winchell, Phoenix Thoroughbreds Team Up On $875,000 Half To Creator
Phoenix Thoroughbreds has kept to itself when it comes to buying at this year's Keeneland September sale, but it reached across the aisle to team up with Winchell Thoroughbreds on Hip 1510, an Uncle Mo colt whose siblings include the 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator.
The bay colt is out of the two-time Peruvian champion Privately Held mare Morena, whose most notable runner from her three foals to race is the classic-winning son of Tapit, who now stands at stud in Japan. Creator also won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.
As might be expected from a page that starts with a Peruvian champion as the first dam, the extended family has a distinctively South American tilt to it. Second dam Charytin is a two-time Peruvian Broodmare of the Year, while Peruvian Group 3 winners La Querella and La Consulta can be found further down the page.
Ron Winchell of Winchell Thoroughbreds said the colt would be trained by Steve Asmussen.
“This sale has been very strong,” he said. “I have been very good at getting outbid.”
The colt was consigned by Mt. Brilliant Farm, as agent. The farm's owner, Greg Goodman, bought Morena privately on the racetrack in south Florida after the mare had been imported from South America. She raced in her native country for soccer star Claudio Pizarro's Haras El Catorce.
“This one and Creator were both great,” Goodman said. “This one was as good as Creator, I don't want to say 'better,' but this was a really nice Uncle Mo.
“This horse just does it all,” Goodman continued. “He's got the mind, he x-rays perfect, scopes perfect. There's just nothing wrong with this horse. He looks fast, he has a huge heart in the heart scans. There just weren't any knocks in him.”
On Saturday, Allaire Ryan of consignor Lane's End said the conscious decision to place their session-topper, a $1-million colt also by Uncle Mo, in Book 2 paid dividends in terms of exposure. Goodman echoed that sentiment with Sunday's topper, and the results validated his strategy.
“We thought we were going to put him in Book 2 when the catalogs were what they were before [one session of Book 1, followed by three days of Book 2], and we just kept him in Book 2 when they changed it,” he said. “He would have been a Book 1 horse too, but I think he stands out here. He's a great-looking horse.”
Zayat Stables Buys American Pharoah Colt, Half To Secret Circle, For $800,000
After campaigning American Pharoah to a future Hall of Fame career, Zayat Stables bought back in for a son of their greatest runner on Sunday, going to $800,000 for Hip 1558, a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle.
The bay colt is out of the stakes-winning Dixieland Band mare Ragtime Hope, whose three winners from five runners is highlighted by Secret Circle, who also won the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on the Dubai World Cup undercard. Grade 3 winners Really Polish, Cheshire Kitten and Alabama Rain are in the extended family.
Warrendale Sales consigned the colt as agent for Stonestreet's “Bred & Raised” program. Stonestreet Farm bought Ragtime Hope, in foal to Arch, for $675,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
“He was very well-received the last three days he was here,” said Hunter Simms of Warrendale Sales. “He had a great walk and a great physical on him. He's a half to a Breeders' Cup horse in Secret Circle, and he looked very much like his sire. He was highly regarded at the barn.”
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