After the glitzy prices and pedigrees of Book 1 and the auction's traditional “Dark Day” to give everyone time to catch their breath and catch up on inspections, the heart of the trade in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale started beating on Friday with the start of Book 2. At the section's halfway point, the pulse remained strong, led by a $1-million Union Rags colt.
The session-topping colt capped off an active day of buying for the partnership of SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing, and Sol Kumin's Madaket Stables – two of the partners in Triple Crown winner Justify and the principal of another.
The triumvirate spoke for five yearlings on Friday for a combined $3,975,000, making them the session's leading buyers by gross.
“It's been a tough week to buy,” said SF Bloodstock's Tom Ryan. “We bought no horses the first day, three the second day, none the third day and now here we are in the first day of the second book. There's a great selection of horses in here today to work with. When their pedigree comes together, their physical and everything works out veterinary wise that's where we are.”
Friday's session-topper was Hip 920, a Union Rags colt out of the winning Smart Strike mare Miss Squeal. His extended family includes Grade 1 winners Dream Deal, Creme Fraiche, Clear Mandate, Strong Mandate, and Romantic Vision.
“He's a big obvious horse, and competition was strong from all over the ring as I could see,” Ryan said. “We found ourselves in the position where that's what we had to give if we wanted to buy him.”
The colt was consigned by Lane's End, agent, which was Friday's leading consignor by gross, with 29 horses sold for $9,450,000. The operation handled four of the day's five most expensive horses.
Courtlandt Farm Lands American Pharoah Filly For $975,000
If there were ever a horse with a Triple Crown pedigree, it was Hip 923, a filly out of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, out of a half-sister to the dam of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify.
The bay filly was purchased by Courtlandt Farm for $975,000 shortly after the session-topper went through the ring, further punctuating a late flurry of high-priced offerings on Friday evening. She is the first foal out of the winning Indian Charlie mare Momentary Magic, who is a half-sister to the Grade 3-placed Stage Magic, dam of Justify and Grade 3 winner The Lieutenant.
“She was actually our top horse, even out of Book 1,” said farm Ernie Retamoza. “We thought she was Book 1 quality. She's definitely the kind of horse Mr. Adam is looking to buy. We were hoping it wouldn't go to the million, which we feel great about getting her for the number that we finally did.”
Retamoza said the filly would first be sent to Retamoza at Courtlandt Farm in Ocala, Fla., for breaking and training, then she'd go to trainer Mark Hennig to begin her racing career.
Lane's End consigned the filly, as agent for Dixiana Farms.
Durant Buys Quality Road Colt For $950,000
The session leader for most of the day on Friday was Hip 646, a Quality Road colt who sold to Tom Durant for $950,000.
The bay colt is out of the winning Storm Cat mare Storm Showers, who is the dam of one winner from two runners. His third dam is the 1992 Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, putting him in the same family as Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, Preakness Stakes winner Summer Squall, Canadian cha,pion Moonlight Promise, and Grade 1 winner Court Vision.
“Quality Road is one of the best out there now,” said bloodstock agent Josh Stevens, who signed the ticket for Durant. “We tried on some early and we just realized how strong it was going to get, so after a couple days of watching the prices, and we just decided to find a couple that we really love and go after them. Tom gives me the orders, and I follow them.
“When you look at the page and you look at the physicals and you appraise them right now in the market, you might as well double that,” he continued, assessing the marketplace. “We knew he could get there, and there are a lot of guys who haven't signed their names yet this sale, so you know there's plenty of money left. For horses like this, you have to step up and pay for him.”
Lane's End also consigned this colt, as agent.
Busy “Dark Day” Fuels Strong Trade On Friday
While Thursday's “Dark Day” provided a respite from the auction's in-ring activity, Bill Farish of Lane's End said the showgrounds were as active as ever.
“I don't think we've ever seen more vetting on any day of the sale than we saw yesterday,” he said. “I think a lot of the agents and lookers were trying to catch up, and they might have vetted more horses than they normally would have because they had so many horses to see. It was incredible. I think the video scoping has really helped. You can get it done faster and get around a lot quicker.”
Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales operations, said the “Dark Day” also serves a valuable purpose for making the sale itself work, beyond any effects it has on its participants.
“The dark is done for the logistics of the sale, so we can turn the barns over for the next book,” he said. “It has become very useful. We had some groups of people here yesterday that we were giving tours to, and they were amazed at the amount of people that were looking at horses. The dark day helps us with that, and it gives the buyers a chance to get ahead of the game, because once Book 2 ends, we're going to be cataloging in excess of 400 horses a day, so they need to try to be ahead of the curve all the time.”
Friday's session finished with 221 horses sold for revenues of $54,229,000. The average sale price finished at $245,380, the median landed at $210,000, and the buyback rate was 30 percent,
“We made a concerted effort this year with Book 2 to trim the numbers a little bit,” Russell said. “We cataloged 367 horses today compared to over 410 last year. Our goal was continue this on with the quality from Book 1, to keep the quality level as high as we can as we go into Book 2, and the numbers reflected that it worked very well.”
Union Rags, a resident of Lane's End, finished Friday's session as the leading sire by gross, with 14 horses sold for $3,977,000. Fellow Lane's End stallion Quality Road was the top sire by average among those with three or more sold, with five yearlings changing hands for an average of $495,625.
After four days of trade, a total of 561 horses have sold for $214,692,000. The average sale price sat at $382,695, the median was $300,000, and the buyback rate was 28 percent.
To view the full results, click here.
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