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Abel Tasman Stars at Keeneland January Opener


Abel Tasman | Justina Severni

By Jessica Martini & Christie DeBernardis

The Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale was off to a strong start Monday in Lexington even before Abel Tasman (Quality Road) strode into the ring, but the fireworks erupted for the Eclipse champion, who ultimately sold for a sales-record $5 million to Coolmore. It was the most ever paid for a broodmare prospect at the January sale and tied the auction’s highest-priced offering set by the broodmare Mackie in 2000.

“We are very proud and pleased to be able to offer Abel Tasman and to get that result,” said Keeneland’s Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell. “We thank the Cleary brothers and the China Horse Club for the opportunity to market her.”

During Monday’s session, 223 horses sold for $21,052,200. The average was $94,404 and the median was $39,000. With 93 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 29.43%.

During the first session of last year’s January sale, 186 head sold for $13,265,100 for an average of $71,318 and a median of $45,000. The highest price at last year’s opening session was $485,000, one of two to top $400,000 on the day. Three sold for $700,000 or over Monday.

“It was a very solid session across the board,” Russell said. “Even taking Abel Tasman out of the numbers, the sale is very well up.”

A colt by Into Mischief, also bred by the Cleary’s Clearsky Farms, was the day’s top-priced short weanling when bringing a final bid of $375,000.

“Short yearlings are very much in demand,” Russell said. “There is a great appetite for them still. I hope that continues on.”

Taylor Made Sales Agency, which consigned Abel Tasman, sold 50 horses during the session for a gross of $9,433,000 and an average of $188,660. The agency’s Mark Taylor continued to see  demand at the top, but horses struggling to find buyers at the lower levels.

“It’s been good, but it’s been very much like it always is in this market,” Taylor said. “The top 5% is really good and it’s fun. And then the next 20% is solid and it’s good, but below that, it’s really tricky. If you’re selling a $100,000 horse, don’t be confused and think she’s a $200,000 mare. You need to know what you have and set your resereve accordingly.”

The Keeneland January sale continues through Thursday with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.

Abel Tasman to Coolmore

“She’s a queen, though, isn’t she?” Ashford Stud manager Dermot Ryan said after signing the ticket at a sale-record tying $5 million to acquire champion Abel Tasman (Quality Road) (hip 288) on behalf of Coolmore. “They are very rare when they come across like that. She had everything and would be anybody’s dream filly to own.”

Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of Clearsky Farms and the China Horse Club, Abel Tasman is a six-time Grade I winner. She won the 2017 GI Kentucky Oaks, GI Acorn S. and GI Coaching Club American Oaks and was second in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff before earning the Eclipse statue as champion 3-year-old filly. Her 2018 season included wins in the GI Ogden Phipps S. and GI Personal Ensign S. and she is a finalist for Eclipse champion older female.

“Quality Road is one of your premier young sires at the moment,” Ryan said. “Being by Quality Road, it leaves her open to all the Coolmore stallions. We have American Pharoah, Justify, Uncle Mo, Galileo (Ire)–all of those directions. M.V. [Magnier] will talk to his dad and partners and they’ll decide and let us know.”

Abel Tasman’s $5-million price tag tied the Keeneland January record set in 2000 when Britton House Stud purchased Mackie, in foal to Mr. Prospector.

“Going on the previous market that we saw in November, I definitely think you’d have to think she was up around that level,” Ryan said of the filly’s record-tying price. “Hopefully she’ll go on and produce herself with one of our own sires. It’s very possible. We’re very, very pleased to have her. She’s a collector’s item.”

The sale was a good result for both sides, according to Mark Taylor of Taylor Made.

“I thought it was a good price for the seller and I thought it was good value for the buyer,” Taylor said. “You can’t say $5 million isn’t premium and maybe you get a little greedy, but I just had a lot of respect for Abel Tasman. I think she is worth every penny of that.”

Coolmore purchased Mariah’s Storm, in foal to Storm Cat, from Taylor Made for $2.6 million at the 1996 Keeneland November sale. That in utero foal became champion and standout stallion Giant’s Causeway. Taylor thinks the operation may have scored a similar score with Abel Tasman.

“She is the kind of mare that can produce a stallion and you could be sitting here 20 years from now, like the case was when Coolmore bought Mariah’s Storm from us,” Taylor said. “She could be a mare that makes you $300 or $400 million. It’s a lot of money, but she’s worth a lot of money. She has tons of potential down the road.”

Bidding on the star filly began dramatically in the packed pavilion, with an opening salvo of $3 million instantly hushing the expectant crowd.

“I think it was interesting that someone opened her up at $3 million,” Taylor said. “I think that is indicative of the fact that you don’t have a huge pool of people willing to play at that level. There are a handful of them and they are all pros, so there is no reason to mess around from zero to $3 million. I don’t think Coolmore actually got engaged until about $4.5 million, so they waited and waited and then got engaged. They were well north of the reserve and there were lots of live bids between the reserve and $5 million.”

Abel Tasman was bred by Bernard and Eamonn Cleary’s Clearsky Farm, a nursery started by their late father Eamon in 2009. Through much of Monday’s opening session of the January sale, Clearsky Farm was also represented by the top-priced short yearling after pinhooker Gerry Dilger purchased hip 39, a colt by Into Mischief, for $375,000. The chestnut is out of stakes placed Mary Rita (Distorted Humor), who was purchased by Clearsky for $230,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale.

“That’s a nice little testamonial to their program,” Taylor said of the session-topping yearling. “They do a fantastic job. Their dad started the operation and they’ve progressed and carried on. They have a great farm manager [Barry Robinette] and great land and they are very shrewd about the mares they buy. Hats off to them, they are doing an amazing job.”

The China Horse Club, which is also co-owners of Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy), bought into Abel Tasman prior to her 3-year-old campaign.

“China Horse Club has only been in the business five years and have won an English Derby, Kentucky Oaks and a Triple Crown,” Taylor said. “The plan they put together and how they are executing it is nothing short of just phenomenal. It was a pleasure to work with both of those groups and we just got lucky enough to present Abel Tasman to the public.” — @JessMartiniTDN

Teo Reflects on the Impact of Abel Tasman

It was a hard decision for China Horse Club Founder and Chairman Teo Ah Khing to part with champion Abel Tasman (Quality Road), who has meant so much to his operation. Ultimately Teo and his partners Clearsky Farm, who bred the superstar mare, decided it was the best business move and they were rewarded Monday when the six-time Grade I winner topped the auction on a $5 million bid from Coolmore.

“We wish the best of luck to the buyer,” said Teo, who watched the bidding in the pavilion, seated beside his wife Ivy. “We enjoyed the journey with her from 2-year-old to 3-year-old to 4-year-old. She is such a great horse and has done so much in her career, especially for the China Horse Club. She brought China Horse Club into American Grade I territory. She is our ambassador.”

The China Horse Club bought half of Abel Tasman at the end of her juvenile campaign, just after her win in the 2016 GI Starlet S. Transferred to Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, the bay went form last-to-first in the 2017 GI Kentucky Oaks, becoming the China Horse Club’s first American Grade I winner in just their third year in the horse racing industry. She followed suit with wins in the GI Acorn S. and GI CCA Oaks and finished second in that year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff to clinch the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly. An impressive winner of both the GI Ogden Phipps S. and GI Personal Ensign S. in 2018, Abel Tasman is up for a second Eclipse as one of the finalists in the top older dirt female category.

“The Kentucky Oaks opened up the door for the Chinese to believe that America is a good place to invest in the horse industry,” said Teo. “Abel Tasman has done a lot for the American industries through China Horse Club. We are sad to part with her, but we hope this encourages more Chinese to buy in America.” —@CDeBernardisTDN

Summer Wind Scoops Up a ‘Star’

Summer Wind Farm owner Jane Lyon was unable to make the trip in from Arkansas for the January sale, but she still made her presence felt, going to $750,000 to secure A Star is Born (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) (hip 229), who is in foal to War Front.

“I felt it was a very, very good price for a mare who has produced a Group 1-placed foal, is by Galileo and is in foal to War Front,” Lyon said when reached by phone in her hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. “I probably would not have gone much higher because I have bought a lot of mares this year, but I did not want to let her get away at a bargain.”

A daughter of SP Looking Back (Stravinsky), A Star is Born is full-sister to Irish Highweight Rip Van Winkle (Ire) and a half to Italian GSW Le Vie Infinite (Le Vie Dei Colori). Campaigned by Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore contingent, the bay won just one of her eight starts, but has been quite successful in the breeding shed.

A Star is Born’s first foal was the now-4-year-old colt Fleet Review (War Front), who is a stakes winner and MG1SP in Europe. Her second foal Dual Career, another War Front colt, summoned 475,000 guineas at the 2017 Tattersall’s October Sale. The 8-year-old mare produced by fillies by War Front in 2017 and 2018.

“I thought she was a world class mare, the dam of a very good horse and in foal to War Front,” said Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John Sikura, who consigned the mare. “Galileo is the best stallion on the planet, so she is everything you could hope for. She has a good public auction record as far as how well her foals have sold. She is a relatively young mare in foal to a great horse and she is already a producer. It is very fair money. I think she could have made $1 million.”

The Galileo/War Front cross has been very successful in the past, producing the likes of Grade/Group 1 winners U S Navy Flag, Fog of War and Roly Poly. Lyon bought another Galileo mare in foal to War Front at the recent Keeneland November sale, going to $1.75 million for Key to My Heart (Ire) (click here for KEENOV story.

“I thought the only Galileo mare I would ever have is the filly I just sent down to Billy Mott [a now-3-year-old homebred out of More Hennessy (Hennessy)],” Lyon said. “But, when we saw [Key to My Heart] in November, she was just an outstandingly gorgeous specimen. [Summer Wind manager] Bobby [Spalding] and I both just loved her. We thought we would be there at the right price and we were. It was kind of the same thing with this mare. We thought we would be there if it was not an over the top price. Hopefully if she produced one Grade I-caliber horse, she will do it again!”

It has been a banner year for Summer Wind Farm both on the racetrack and in the sales ring. The Georgetown nursery is responsible for undefeated MGISW and soon-to-be champion Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) and dual Grade I winner McKinzie (Street Sense). Lyon also bred and races GISW Chasing Yesterday (Tapit), a half-sister to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile). The farm sold the $520,000 yearling topper at the Fasig-Tipton July Sale; were represented by an $875,000 American Pharoah filly at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Sale; and sold 11 yearlings for a gross of $5.705 million and average of $518,636 at Keeneland September. —@CDeBernardisTDN

Fatale Bere Sparks Late Fireworks

A late supplement, added to the sale just 10 days ago, and the last horse to go through the ring Monday, GISW Fatale Bere (Fr) (Pedro the Great) provided some late fireworks, selling to Shadai Farm for $700,000.

A two-time winner in Europe, the 3-year-old filly captured her American debut in the 2017 Surfer Girl S. at Santa Anita. Annexing the GIII Providencia S. in April, hip 397K came charging late to upset the favorite by a neck in the GI Del Mar Oaks Aug. 18. The Leonard Powell trainee closes out her career with a record of 11-5-0-1 and earnings of $427,964.

“She is going to a great home,” said Elite’s Brad Weisbord. “They buy the best bloodstock and have the greatest people working for them. It was unfortunate for the partners that Fatale Bere was injured as the favorite for the [GI] American Oaks, but Keeneland stepped up and offered a supplement. We are thankful to [trainer] Leo Powell for selecting us to sell the filly. I think she brought exactly what she was worth. Obviously, she has a little bit of an obscure pedigree, a European pedigree by a sire power that is not super strong. But, the Grade I got her over the goal line and she is a gorgeous European physical.”

The Elite team did not have much time to advertise and show off the filly as she was such a late addition. While late supplements come with those types of challenges, Weisbord said extra marketing goes a long way, as does a Grade I win.

“We found out just about two weeks ago that they were thinking about selling her with us and about 10 days ago that she would be a supplement,” Weisbord said. “We got lucky a few years ago, we sold Long On Value here. It was one of the first supplements they offered in a long time and we got him done. I do think you need to market extra to make sure everyone doesn’t miss it.”

He continued, “Obviously, the big buyers are not going to miss it, but for people who get their catalogues hard printed, your older-school buyer who doesn’t go online, you have to market just a touch extra to make sure everybody understands she is here. When you have a Grade I winner, that usually takes care of itself, but we tried to stress how brilliant her Del Mar Oaks was and our passports go a long way in doing that.” —@CDeBernardisTDN

More Pharoah for O’Callaghan

Peter O’Callaghan was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon to purchase weanlings from the first crop of American Pharoah in 2017 and he was rewarded handsomely when he sold a colt by the Triple Crown winner for $2.2 milllion during last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale. O’Callaghan will be hoping for more of the same after purchasing a short yearling (hip 82) by the Coolmore sire for $330,000 Monday at Keeneland.

“He’s a great individual by a special horse,” O’Callaghan said. “It was full price for him, but hopefully it will work. He’ll be back here in September [sale] and we’ll give it a go.”

As American Pharoah’s first 2-year-olds hit the track this year, O’Callaghan thinks there is plenty of reason to be optimistic about his chances for success, especially given the promising start at stud by another son of Pioneerof the Nile.

“American Pharoah was such a special racehorse,” O’Callaghan said. “And he’s a son of Pioneerof the Nile. Cairo Prince is doing very well now, so there’s no reason American Pharoah can’t do well.”

Out of Please Sign In (Doc’s Leader), hip 82 was co-bred by Alfred Nuckols, Jr.’s Hurstland Farm and William Kartozian and was consigned by Hurstland Farm. He is a half-brother to Grade I winner Cry and Catch Me (Street Cry {Ire}) and Group 1 winner Certify (Elusive Quality), as well as to Bijou (Street Sense), who topped the 2013 Keeneland January sale when selling for $1.45 million.

“It’s a lot of fun having one like this, an American Pharoah with that kind of page that has his pedigree and his physical,” Nuckols, whose involvment in the family goes back four generations, said. “Those are the easy ones to sell. The other ones are the tough ones. But it’s just fun raising a horse like that. I’ve always thought a lot of him. He’s been a nice colt since he was foaled.”

Of the colt’s final price tag, Nuckols added, “We had a $250,000 reserve on him, but I just didn’t know. It’s opening day and you never know what they’re going to go for. I’m pretty happy with that.” —@JessMartiniTDN

Louisiana Partners Hit a Home Run

Perry Judice and David Meche purchased Semillon (Eskendereya), carrying her first foal by Outwork, for just $35,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November Sale and were rewarded Monday when the resulting colt (hip 132) sold to Chris White for $120,000.

Consigned by Select Sales, the bay colt hails from the family of GISW Cotton Blossom, GSW Vicarage and MSW Miss Atlantic City.

“We were not expecting him to bring quite that much,” said Meche, owner of Muscadine Farm. “He has really put on a lot of flesh in the last 60 days. It is night and day. He has really grown. He was ready. He looked the part and we thought getting him in the sales ring as soon as we could was best.”

Meche continued, “We like the colt because if his attitude. He is a tough colt and he has a good walk. That is what we liked the most about him.”

This is not Meche and Judice’s first rodeo when it comes to pinhooking a yearling they purchased in utero.

“We have always bought and sold and had success selling some young babies in the past,” Meche said. “We foal out, prep them and bring them here. Our goal is to buy quality mares in foal to young stallions to bring the foals back to market.”

He added, “The mare is rebred and in the regional market in Louisiana. We will definitely bring this mare back to breed in Kentucky next year.” —@CDeBernardisTDN

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