Keeneland’s Before the Hammer: The Time is Right for Keogh at November Sale


Al’s Gal | Michael Burns

By Amanda Duckworth

Before the Hammer is a series presented by Keeneland that spotlights consignors, their stories of success and their featured offerings at the upcoming Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.

Few things put consignors in better moods than leading up quality horses to the auction ring at a time when buyers are interested. Coming into the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, that certainly applies to James B. Keogh of Grovendale. Headlining his consignment are two Grade I- winning mares who are sure to draw attention.

One of the consignment’s stars is Al’s Gal (Hip 188). A prime example of both soundness and durability on the grass, Al’s Gal (English Channel) won nearly $750,000 during her career, which was highlighted by her victory in the GI E.P. Taylor S. at Woodbine last year.

Several starts before, Al’s Gal ran a gallant second in the

GI Beverly D. S. and came up just half a length short behind Sea Calisi (Youmzain {Ire}). She was 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place finisher Zipessa (City Zip), who took the GI First Lady S. at Keeneland this October.

“Al’s Gal is a very, very attractive mare,” said Keogh. “She defeated 18 stakes winners, 12 graded stakes winners, and she’s just the perfect fit for this sale. We are very excited about the prospect of selling her.”

During a career that spanned four years, Al’s Gal excelled at several distances ranging from one mile to 1 1/2 miles. Other wins to Al’s Gal’s credit include the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon S., as well as the Keertana S., and she was second in three additional stakes events. All told, Al’s Gal finished in the money in 19 of 27 starts.

Originally sold for $50,000 as a weanling, the bay mare sold upon retirement last year for $800,000. Out of the winning mare Dans La Ville (CHI), Al’s Gal is a full sister to stakes winner Ann of the Dance and a half-sister to Brazilian Group 2 winner May Be Now (Smart Strike). She is carrying her first foal by Medaglia d’Oro.

Keogh’s other star in the upcoming November sale is Grade I winner Home Sweet Aspen (Candy Ride {Arg}), who will be offered as Hip 257.

Home Sweet Aspen notched the biggest victory of her career in GI Santa Monica S. at Santa Anita in 2012. She also took the Louis R. Rowan S. and finished second in the Grade III Eight Belles S. The chestnut mare, who is out of the Groovy mare My Gal Groovy, was campaigned as a homebred for Sidney and Jenny Craig, who also raced her sire, Candy Ride.

“John Sadler trained her, and she defeated several very, very nice fillies out in California,” said Keogh. “She has a very attractive foal by her side by Super Saver who is also being offered, and she’s in foal to Pioneerof the Nile. Plus, she’s by Candy Ride who is obviously off to a very good start at stud and is already the broodmare sire of a Grade I winner at Saratoga in D. Wayne Lukas’s Sporting Chance (Tiznow).”

The last time Home Sweet Aspen sold at Keeneland, she went for $510,000 at the 2013 November Sale while carrying her first foal by Bernardini. The resulting filly, named Aspen Hilltop, is a winner. She also has a yearling filly by Pioneerof the Nile in addition to the aforementioned Super Saver filly. Her weanling will follow her into the ring.

“Keeneland is the number one sale in the world,” Keogh said. “It’s the number one breeding stock sale in terms of volume, gross, and attendance by buyers from all over the world. It’s always nice when you have mares of this caliber. There is a healthy kind of excitement and optimism that goes along with it.”

In addition to Al’s Gal and Home Sweet Aspen, Keogh’s consignment has several other mares that he considers standouts.

“There are two other mares there that are definitely worth remembering,” he said. “One of them would be Rubies Are Red (Hip 317), who is a Medgalia d’Oro half-sister to Tapit, and she is in foal to American Pharoah. Then there is a mare called Singing Kitty (Hip 329) who is by Ministers Wildcat. I think she is a fabulous prospect, and she is in foal to Medgalia d’Oro.”

Keogh, a native of Ireland, came to the United States in 1982 and worked at Gainesway for eight years before launching Grovendale. Through the decades, he has taken part in the ups and downs of the bloodstock market but is heading into this year’s Keeneland November sale with a positive outlook.

“A rising tide raises all boats, and the level of optimism is lovely to see out there right now,” he said. “Speaking to people already, there is a real desire on the behalf of breeders around here to get back in again. They are going to start reinvesting.

“What we have seen for the last three or four years is just maintenance, but I think people are on the cusp of getting back into this market again, so that is very exciting. It’s good for all of us.”


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