Business Brisk at KEENOV Book 1 Concludes


Session-topping For Royalty | ThoroStride photo

by Ben Massam, Jessica Martini & Brian DiDonato

LEXINGTON, KY–Book 1 of Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale wrapped up Wednesday, posting gains in both average and median and a higher clearance rate compared to last year’s Book 1. Through two days of selling in Lexington, 201 horses have brought gross receipts of $83,996,000. The cumulative median has risen 15.38% year over year from $260,000 to $300,000, while the average is up 2.73% from $406,794 to $417,891.

Last year’s slightly larger Book 1 saw 253 horses bring a total of $102,919,000.

“We wanted to start off well,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s Director of Sales Operations. “We had these top-end horses sell well, having a $6-million horse this year [in Stellar Wind {Curlin} on Tuesday] compared to $3.5 million last year. It shows there’s money in the market…We’re very happy and we look forward to continuing on to Book 2.”

Fueled by nine horses clearing the $1-million barrier, topped by For Royalty (Not For Love) (Hip 244)’s $2.1-million sale to Summer Wind Farm, Wednesday’s session saw 105 horses sell for a total of $41,692,000 with an average of $397,067 and a median of $285,000. The RNA rate was 21.64%.

“Today was very solid again,” Russell said. “I think there was one less million-dollar horse than last year with 10% less horses in the catalog…I think our expectations were achieved. We would have liked to have more horses in Book 1, obviously.”

Strong weanling trade continued Tuesday, including a Curlin half-brother to second-leading freshman sire Violence (Medaglia d’Oro) (Hip 365), who sold for $1 million to Andre Lynch.

“I think [the weanling market] is strong at both ends,” Russell said. “The weanling-to-yearling pinhookers from 2016 to 2017 did very well, but I also think there is some good end-user energy as well.”

One of the higher-profile offerings in Book 1 was the last to go through the ring–the very well-related Galileo (Ire) mare Twirl (Ire) (hip 366A), who was consigned by John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency on behalf of an undisclosed client and bought back for $3.1 million Wednesday. Click here for more on Twirl.

“He had to be sort of half coerced to put her in the sale,” said Sikura. “He’s got two beautiful foals out of her, and said, ‘If I got $3.2 million I would sell her, and if not I’m happy to keep her.’ The Tapit [weanling] filly’s magnificent, it’s the best family in the world–it’s active, she’s carrying a filly [by Curlin]–so, he was willing to try the market, but he was comfortable to continue owning the mare if she didn’t make exactly what he wanted… If any of those foals run, then she was well kept. It’s his decision and he can afford it. She’s a lovely mare and they’re hard to replace. When you know the kind of foals the mare has and they’re on the farm, you feel very bullish about the future, then you’re more apt to be stronger in the ring.”

Book 2 of the November Sale begins Wednesday at 10 a.m.


For Royalty (Hip 244) has emerged as an exceptional broodmare, producing four stakes horses in her first four matings, and the stakes-winning bay was met with a fitting reception Tuesday, going home with Jane Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm on a bid of $2.1 million. According to Craig Bandoroff, whose Denali Stud consigned For Royalty on behalf of WinStar Farm, the mare presented buyers with a complete package.

“She’s a great physical, and physical is so important,” Bandoroff said. “She’s an incredible mare–she’s been bred to four different stallions and had stakes horses with four different stallions. One of the genetics guys was back there today and said it’s unheard of. They want to take DNA so they can figure it out. She’s special.”

WinStar purchased For Royalty as a 3-year-old for $87,000 at Keeneland November in 2010.

“WinStar has a really great pedigree guy in John Prather,” Bandoroff said when asked if he believes Bernardini is a good mating for the mare. “I’m sure it is [a good match], but it kind of looks like whoever they breed her to is a good mating.”

After yielding stakes-placed Back Flip (Super Saver) on her first mating, For Royalty hit a home run with ‘TDN Rising Star’ and GI La Brea S. heroine Constellation (Bellamy Road). She produced the stakes-placed Upper Room (Harlan’s Holiday) in 2014 and recently achieved more success when her juvenile daughter Queen Mum (Paynter) ran second in Churchill Downs’s Oct. 29 Rags to Riches S. in just her second career start.

“The expression we use with the yearlings is that they ‘tick all the boxes,'” Bandoroff said. “Well, she did, too. The other big thing is her age–she’s only 10 years old.”

Lyon confirmed that the mare’s age played a major role in making her a desirable offering and expressed some relief that they were able to add another exceptional producer to their broodmare band. Summer Wind snagged Belle Watling (Pulpit) (Hip 204), dam of GI Breeders’ Cup Classic fourth War Story (Northern Afleet) and GSW & MGISP Land Over Sea (Bellamy Road), for $1.05 million earlier in Tuesday’s session–one day after going to $1.4 million for Weekend Whim (Distorted Humor) (Hip 1), dam of MGISW New Money Honey (Medaglia d’Oro).

“We’re going to have to go home and think it all over now,” Lyon said of For Royalty. “She was probably our top pick and we’re so excited about having her…The fact that she’s a relatively young mare and has multiple stakes horses and possibilities–you just don’t see that very often.” @BMassamTDN


Peter Brant of White Birch Farm has been very active at auctions of all types over the past year or so rebuilding his bloodstock holdings, and went to $2 million to pick up the regally bred Enchanting Rock (Giant’s Causeway) carrying a full-sibling to brilliant ‘TDN Rising Star’ and MGISW Verrazano (More Than Ready) Wednesday at Keeneland. The 17-year-old mare (hip 238) was consigned by Gainesway, Agent XII on behalf of Emory Hamilton.

A daughter of GISW Chic Shirine (Mr. Prospector), Enchanted Rock is also responsible for Grade II winner and promising Maryland-based sire El Padrino (Malibu Moon), as well as multiple stakes-placed ‘Rising Star’ La Madrina (Tapit). This is the deep and highly productive female family that includes Grade I winners Queena, Somali Lemonade, Too Chic, Brahms, et al.

“I was happy with the price,” said Emory Hamilton, who noted that she and Brant are old friends. “I have three of her fillies right now, and I have to sell some and make a little money. I usually keep all the fillies, but I had no colts to sell last year, so I needed to do something. She’s been good to me. She got a good buyer, so I’m pleased.”

Of the decision to go back to More Than Ready, Hamilton said, “Some people said I should have had her in foal to Tapit, but I didn’t agree. I have a Tapit filly [in La Madrina], I have a More Than Ready [yearling] filly and I have a Pulpit filly [in the winning 5-year-old Sweet Corrine] out of her. I also have a Tapit [weanling] colt, which is actually a foal share with Mr. Beck [of Gainesway].”

Hamilton said that while Enchanted Rock produces nice foals, she doesn’t necessarily stamp them.

“They’re kind of different,” she said. “El Padrino is a very good-looking horse, Verrazano is a great-looking horse. They’re mostly great-looking horses. She’s a very large mare, so I haven’t tried to breed her to large stallions, but they’re all decent-sized horses–you’re not going to get a small one out of her. I think it’s good that she’s in foal to More Than Ready, I personally love More Than Ready–I’ve had great luck with him.”

Brant gave the impression that he, too, might love More Than Ready, after he snapped up a weanling filly by the internationally prominent WinStar resident just a few hips behind Enchanting Rock. Hip 249, out of a half-sister to Grade II winner Striking Dancer (Smart Strike), was consigned by Brookdale Sales. She was purchased in utero for $240,000 at KEENOV 12 months ago and bred by prominent harness racing driver and trainer Jean-Etienne Dubois.

More Than Ready had a banner Breeders’ Cup, as his son Roy H annexed the GI Sprint and ‘TDN Rising Star’ daughter Rushing Fall remained unbeaten in the GI Juvenile Fillies Turf

Rushing Fall is conditioned by Chad Brown, who trains for Brant and his wife Stephanie Seymour Brant and accompanied Brant on Wednesday. Brant and Brown picked up GSW/MGISP Quidura (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) for $3.6 million at FTKNOV Monday.



Don Alberto Corporation has emerged as one of the major players at the November sales, adding a number of broodmares to their growing band, and Tuesday proved to be no exception as the farm acquired three million-dollar mares. After making an early splash by acquiring Wapi (Chi) (Scat Daddy) (Hip 181) in partnership with Three Chimneys Farm for $1.05 million, Don Alberto purchased both GISW Paola Queen (Flatter) (Hip 297) for $1.7 million and the graded stakes-placed Tapit mare Royal Obsession (Hip 316) for $1.8 million a half-hour apart.

Royal Obsession, a gray who made a striking appearance in the sales ring, was offered in foal to Curlin, adding to her appeal. Her dam Rote (Tiznow) is herself a half-sister to GISW Magnificent Song (Unbridled’s Song).

“We loved her physically,” said Don Alberto’s Fabricio Buffolo. “She was beautiful and Grade II-placed. It’s a great combination of Tapit and Tiznow. She has some features of Tapit with the size of Tiznow, which we love. She is a very nice filly.”

Don Alberto’s advisor Fernando Diaz-Valdes was similarly complimentary of Paola Queen, who also sold for $1.7 million to SF Bloodstock at last year’s November Sale.

“She was a very good racemare,” Diaz-Valdes said. “This year, she had some issues and was in training at Bridlewood…All the opinions from other people were that she was very classy and has a lot of talent. She was quite a performer, so I think to add a [Grade I] winner by Flatter is absolutely great for us. She’s another addition to the good broodmare band that we have at the farm.”

Diaz-Valdes said breeding plans would be discussed in the near future. “We have stallions now. She could go to Empire Maker, but we will see,” Diaz-Valdes said. —@BMassamTDN


Mt. Brilliant Farm carefully chose their spots and landed one of their top picks of the day in Sky Girl (Sky Mesa) (Hip 330), a half-sister to four-time Grade I winner Abel Tasman (Quality Road) offered in foal to leading second-crop sire Union Rags. Speaking shortly after signing the ticket for $1.5 million, Greg Goodman of Mt. Brilliant said that it was satisfying to connect on Sky Girl in a highly competitive marketplace.

“There were only about three or four mares that we were on, and this was one of them–we were really happy with it,” Goodman said. “It’s been hard. We’ve been trying to pick our prices and buy horses where the price is a good one, and we couldn’t do that. We went over on each of them a little bit.”

GIII Dogwood S. winner Sky Girl, also a full-sister to stakes-placed Moonlight Sky, will join Mt. Brilliant’s broodmare band with a number of potential mating options, according to Goodman.

“We own a share of Union Rags, so we might try that again,” Goodman said. “Or maybe Quality Road, because of Abel Tasman.” —@BMassamTDN


Jane Lyon added another seven-figure broodmare to her high-quality collection with the $1.05-million purchase of Belle Watling (Pulpit–Polly Adler, by Housebuster) Wednesday at Keeneland. In foal to Medaglia d’Oro, the 12-year-old mare (hip 204) is the dam of graded stakes winners War Story (Northern Afleet) and Land Over Sea (Bellamy Road).

“The fact that she has had two graded stakes winners doesn’t hurt her a bit,” Lyon said. “And I liked the mare. She is a beautiful and very sweet mare. I’m trying to buy producers and I’m a two-fer right now. So I am very excited to have another producer in my band.”

The result was also the second seven-figure transaction of the week for Jack Swain, who sold Belle Watling through the Brookdale Sales consignment.

“She had it all,” said Brookdale’s Fred Seitz. “She has the looks. She is such a pretty mare with a really pleasant outlook to her and easy to be around.”

Swain, co-founder and chief investment officer at the Manhattan-based investment firm KS Management, sold Mesa Fresca (Sky Mesa), the dam of GISW Harmonize (Scat Daddy), for $2 million Monday evening at Fasig-Tipton. He bred Land Over Sea, who sold for $1.3 million Monday.

“We are extremely happy for Jack Swain,” Seitz said. “He puts a lot of effort into his program. He and Larkin [Armstrong], his agent, work really hard and they got rewarded this week. If you have to cash them in, it’s good to see them do well.”

Swain has retained weanling fillies by Medaglia d’Oro out of both mares. @JessMartiniTDN


Lucky to Be Me (Bernstein–Belle Erzulie, by Pulpit) (hip 278), dam of GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Champagne Room (Broken Vow), will be heading to Japan after selling for $1.25 million to Katsumi Yoshida from the Denali Stud consignment Wednesday at Keeneland.

“Of course she is the dam of a Breeders’ Cup winner and she looks really good,” Shunsuke Yoshida said of the 10-year-old mare’s appeal. “We’ve been trying the last couple of days and finally we’ve gotten one. The market is really strong for the top ones and we want the top ones. So it’s been tough for us.”

The sale was yet another big result for the husband-and-wife team of Mike Cavey, DVM, and Nancy Temple of Respite Farm. In addition to Champagne Room, the couple also bred Uncle Mo and Lucky to Be Me sold in foal to that Eclipse champion.

Respite Farm sold Uncle Mo’s dam Playa Maya (Arch) for $1.65 million at the 2010 Fasig-Tipton November sale and filled her absence in the broodmare band the following year when claiming Lucky to Be Me, a Respite-bred who had been sold as a yearling, for $8,000 at Penn National.

Lucky to Be Me was followed into the sales ring Wednesday by her weanling daughter by Strong Mandate (hip 279), who Cavey and Temple bought back for $400,000.

“It was a very hard decision to sell her, but it’s a business decision,” Cavey said of selling Lucky to Be Me. “We are a small operation. We bought the weanling back, so we still have part of the family and we also own Lucky’s half-sister.”

The couple has cut back on their broodmare band in recent years and look forward to a more relaxed lifestyle.

“We have four broodmares,” Cavey said. “We used to have about 20 to 30, but we’re getting up in age a little bit and we want to travel, so we’ve reduced the broodmare band.”

Asked what it meant to have bred two champions from his boutique broodmare band, Cavey smiled, “It’s a real thrill. There is a lot luck involved in it, but a lot of hard work as well.” @JessMartiniTDN


Chilean-owned Don Alberto Corp. and Brazilian-owned Three Chimneys Farm teamed up early on day two of the Keeneland November Sale to acquire Chilean champion and MG1SW Wapi (Chi) (Scat Daddy) for $1.05 million. Consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency as hip 181, the chestnut sold carrying her first foal by red-hot Curlin.

“Goncalo [Torrealba of Three Chimney] approached Carlos [Heller of Don Alberto] to do the deal, and we are very happy to have a mare from Chile, and especially with a partner like Goncalo,” said Don Alberto’s Fabricio Buffolo, who noted that this was the first time the two powerhouse operations had partnered.

The group said they had not yet decided on breeding plans for Wapi.

“We both had Breeders’ Cup winners,” Heller noted.

Buffolo added, “Goncalo had success with [GI Classic winner] Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), and Don Alberto won with Battle of Midway (Smart Strike) [in the GI Dirt Mile], so we decided we need to get together and make more.”

Don Alberto bought another talented Chilean-bred daughter of Scat Daddy Monday at the Fasig-Tipton November sale when they paid $1.85 million for Dacita, a champion in her native country and MGISW in the States. Buffolo said they were leaning towards breeding that just-off-the-track mare to Empire Maker in 2018. —@BDiDonatoTDN


A weanling colt by Curlin sold for an even million-dollars late in Wednesday’s second session of the Keeneland November sale. Andre Lynch, bidding on behalf of an undisclosed partnership, signed the ticket on the dark bay colt (hip 365). Out of a Violent Beauty (Gone West) and a half-brother to Grade I-winning freshman sire Violence (Medaglia d’Oro), he was consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency and was co-bred by Hill ‘n’ Dale Holdings and Dell Ridge Farm.

“He was the best foal of the sale,” Lynch said. “He is a great mover and has great quality. I loved his pedigree. He had everything.”

Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John Sikura agreed the weanling has all the makings of a top-class stallion prospect.

“Being a half to Violence, who is off to a great start, and by Curlin, who is having a great year, that’s the kind of money those horses make. He’s absolutely a stallion prospect. If he has any racing ability, there is huge upside. It was a lot of money, but I think it was good value. He is a magnificent horse.”

Dell Ridge Farm, founded in 1998 by the late Frank Justice and his wife Mattie, paid $1.2 million for the weanling’s second dam, Storming Beauty (Storm Cat), a daughter of champion Sky Beauty (Blushing Groom {Fr}), at the 1999 Keeneland September Sale. Storming Beauty was a winner on the track and looked to have a bright future as a broodmare, but she produced only four foals before her untimely death.

Her first foal, Violent Beauty, has carried on the family legacy, however, producing the 2012 GI CashCall Futurity S. winner Violence. Dell Ridge sold an interest in Violent Beauty, as well as another top mare, Serena’s Cat–dam of champion Honor Code (A.P. Indy)–to Hill ‘n’ Dale in 2012.

Standing at Hill ‘n’ Dale, Violence has gotten off to a quick start at stud, with his first crop of 2-year-olds this year including stakes winner and graded stakes placed ‘TDN Rising Star’ Barry Lee and stakes winner Encumbered.

“We knew he was very nice and the brother, Violence, is doing so well right now,” said Dell Ridge manager Des Ryan. “We pegged him upwards of $750,000 and it’s kind of a matter of who is on him from there on. He’s a great walker, a lovely foal. He’s a nice horse all around with a great pedigree.”

“The family has been great to us,” Ryan said of Violent Beauty. “And Serena’s Cat, the other top mare we have, has been great to us as well.”

Ryan agreed there was strong competition when quality weanlings go through the sales ring.

“I think the good stuff is always strong,” he said. “It’s just like in September, the market is strong for the good stuff. And the rest is hard going. You have to have a certain amount of horses to fill in for the bad ones. It’s a good market for the right stock. Producing the good stock is the key at the upper end of the market. We’ve done well so far, we’ve just got to keep it going now.” @JessMartiniTDN


The Gumberg family’s Skara Glen Stables was once a major player in the Thoroughbred business, and was the breeder of the likes of GI Belmont S. winners and siblings Rags to Riches (A.P. Indy) and Jazil (Seeking the Gold). Skara Glen went on hiatus after patriarch Stanley Gumberg passed away in 2009, but showed back up on the buyer’s list Wednesday for a $675,000 Tapit weanling filly (hip 289) out of the beautifully bred GISW Mushka (Empire Maker). SF Bloodstock and Newgate Farm paid $650,000 for Mushka carrying the eventual May 26 foal here last November.

“My father and I did everything [in racing] together. When he passed away, it was a void in my life,” said Ira Gumberg, chairman and CEO of the Pittsburgh-based global real estate development firm J J Gumberg Co., when reached by phone and asked about the decision to leave the racing business and to get back in now. “We had committed to developing a shopping mall program in India, and that took me to India for nearly nine years. We were fortunate to be able to develop some successful malls there, and we’ve since come back to the United States. I figured it was time to re-enter the horse business, a business we always found to be a pleasure for our family.”

Gumberg says Skara Glen will be looking to purchase about two more horses at this auction with the help of Mike Levy.

“We’ll just slowly crawl back in as we see quality and the kind of pedigrees and conformation we’ve always enjoyed,” Gumberg said. “We’ll look for high-quality weanlings and yearlings that we’ll give to our trainer Michael Matz, and we’ll also certainly send broodmares over to Lane’s End to the Farish family.”

As for the Tapit filly picked up Wednesday, Levy said, “She’s a Tapit OUT of a Grade I winner. What’s not to like? She’s tall, elegant and young with room to grow. We’re very happy to have her.” —@BDiDonatoTDN


When James Keogh purchased the mare Checkupfromzneckup (Dixie Union–Unbridled Lassie, by Unbridled) (hip 218) on behalf of Evelyn Benoit for $230,000 at the 2016 Keeneland January sale, there was a definite plan. And, while that plan didn’t work out, Plan B wasn’t so bad either as the mare, in foal to Speightstown, returned to the sales ring to sell for $825,000 to WinStar Farm Wednesday at Keeneland.

“She was to go to American Pharoah,” Keogh said. “Unfortunately, we got her in foal to American Pharoah, but she lost the foal at 60 days.”

Discouraged by the loss of the American Pharoah foal, Benoit made the decision to re-offer the now 6-year-old mare.

“She was disappointed that the mare didn’t get in foal last year,” Keogh explained. “She just decided to sell her based on the fact that she didn’t go in foal last year. We bred her back to Speightstown and she got in foal.”

Of the mare’s $825,000 price tag, Keogh added, “It was a very good result. Speightstown is a world-class stallion. He gets dirt, he gets turf horses, he gets it done at every level. And the mare ran a zero on the Rags [Ragozin sheets] and she was just an absolute queen. She had amazing speed.”

As he walked away, Keogh turned back with a smile and said, “I think she makes the list for Nothing But Nets.” @JessMartiniTDN


Shadwell Farm secured a weanling filly by Speightstown (Hip 80) for $250,000 on day one of the Keeneland November Sale and extended to twice that price to bring home another filly by the same sire (Hip 185) Tuesday. Shadwell Vice President and General Manager Rick Nichols was on hand to sign the winning ticket.

“She’s a very attractive filly, well-bred,” said Nichols. “We’ll decide next year–look at all the yearlings we’ve got and decide whether they stay here or go [abroad].”

Hip 185’s dam Wonderful (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) is a full-sister to MGISW and GI Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Magician (Ire), recent GIII Rood and Riddle Dowager S. winner Apple Betty (Ire) and GISP Outstanding (Ire).

Nichols said he was pleased that Shadwell was able to secure a filly with such pedigree in a competitive weanling market.

“We’ve gotten very fortunate to get two [Speightstowns],” Nichols said. “It’s a strong market–these are not unlike yearling prices.”

The $500,000 filly was consigned by Denali Stud, and owner Craig Bandoroff echoed Nichols’ thoughts about the strength of market while adding that the price did not surprise him.

“It was a good price,” said Bandoroff. “Beautiful family, nice filly. We brought her in here thinking she’d stack up, and she did. She’s got a good home, that’s the best part–especially for a young mare.” —@BMassamTDN

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