Numbers Up as Keeneland Book Two Concludes


Tension | Keeneland

By Jessica Martini & Brian DiDonato

LEXINGTON, KY – The second and final Book 2 session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock concluded Friday in Lexington with numbers up across the board and the striking gray mare Tension (Tapit) leading the way when selling late in the day for $750,000 to Woodford Thoroughbreds.

“The figures were very positive today,” said Keeneland’s Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell. “I think the best answer today was young, good-looking mares who were well covered. They sold very well. The whole day, from start to finish, had great buzz and good bidding all the way through.”

The two sessions of Book 2 concluded with 459 horses sold for $60,101,000. The average of $130,939 rose 9.4% from last year’s Book 2 figure, while the median was up 17.6% to $100,000. The top-priced offering of the book, the $1-million Fools in Love (Not For Love), was one of 29 to bring $300,000 or more. The buy-back rate for the book was 27.4%. It was 30.0% a year ago.

During last year’s Book 2 section of the November sale, 442 horses sold for $52,914,500. The average was $119,716 and the median was $85,000. The top price was $850,000 and 31 head sold for $300,000 or over.

“Looking at the figures from last year, this session definitely improved dramatically over last year’s figures, which is very positive,” Russell said. “I think Book 2 was a success and now on to Book 3.”

Matt Lyons of Woodford Thoroughbreds struck late in Friday’s session to secure the top-priced Tension, in foal to Curlin, from the Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consignment.

“A Tapit mare in foal to Curlin, you’ve got all the buzz words of the commercial market in one package right there,” Russell said. “And she was obviously bought by a commercial breeder. We’ll look forward to hopefully selling her foals in the future.”

Scott and Evan Dilworth took home the day’s top-priced weanling when going to $575,000 for a colt from the first crop of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (hip 984).

“Obviously, the American Pharoah foal was of exceptional quality and was rewarded,” Russell said.

The Keeneland November sale continues Saturday with the first of two Book 3 sessions beginning at 10 a.m. The sale continues through Nov. 18.

Sire Power Propels Tension to the Top

Tension (hip 1175), by top sire Tapit out of MGISW Tough Tiz’s Sis and offered in foal to emerging super sire Curlin, provided some late fireworks during Friday’s Book 2 closer as John and Susan Sykes’s Woodford Thoroughbreds saw off stiff competition to land the day’s top lot for $750,000. The winless 5-year-old was consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency.

“There wasn’t much not to like about her,” said Woodford Vice President and General Manager Matt Lyons. “She was a beautiful mare–maybe one of the best-looking mares in the whole sale, really, and in foal to Curlin who has become a very important sire. Hopefully she can make babies who look like herself.”

Despite her position in Book 2, Lyons admitted he wasn’t surprised to have to pay that much.

“When the pretty ones walk in who look like that, and they’re in foal to a top sire, you can’t say you expect to pay that much, but you can’t be surprised either,” the Irishman said. “We knew sitting around here tonight that there were still people here waiting the same as we were, so we knew it was going to be competitive.”

Woodford has been active as usual as both a buyer and seller. On the buyer side, they’ve picked up seven mares and one weanling so far for a combined $2,775,000. The priciest of those purchases was the $850,000 GSW/GISP Blingismything (Arch) during Book 1.

“The market’s strong at the very top and the babies are bringing a lot of money,” Lyons said. “There’s a lot of confidence around here and I think people feel that the economy’s going the right way and they’re ready to spend money. It’s good for our business and hopefully it continues into next year’s sales and we can get on a bit of a roll here.”

Tension was being offered by Hill ‘n’ Dale on behalf of her breeders, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, who also campaigned Tough Tiz’s Sis and Tension’s Grade II-winning, Grade I-placed half-sister Tiz Midnight (Midnight Lute)

“It was kind of the perfect recipe–a young mare, first service, in foal to Curlin, by Tapit and absolutely gorgeous,” consignor John Sikura said. “She’s a standout mare and she exceeded expectations, but this week, when they’re perfect, the best, when everything works, you get extra. That’s the market reality and she was certainly on everybody’s list.”

While Tension would have fit in Book 1 on looks, pedigree and price, Sikura thought being in Book 2 helped her stand out.

“Book 2 was the perfect place for her to stand out… We’d thought she’d stand out in this [book],” Sikura said. “There’s money here all week–Book 1, Book 2, Book 3. You’re going to see foals selling three days from now for a couple hundred thousand. It’s an educated and sophisticated group of people who buy horses here. Whether they buy on Monday or Wednesday or Friday it doesn’t make a difference. They judge the value of the horse–not what day it is–they’re here for the duration. There are good horses here through the week, and Keeneland does a great spreading the quality throughout the sale. We thought she’d be one of the standout mares here, and we were rewarded that way.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

American Pharoah Colts In Demand

American Pharoah’s first crop of weanlings continued to produce strong returns in the sales ring Friday at Keeneland when a colt by the Triple Crown winner sold for $575,000 to Scott and Evan Dilworth.

“He’s a very, very nice colt,” Scott Dilworth said. “It’s the first year for American Pharoah and we decided to take a shot. It’s basically the same group we had last year when we had some success with a War Front.”

The Dilworths and partners purchased a weanling colt by War Front for $560,000 at last year’s Keeneland November sale. Returned to the sales ring at the September sale, the bay sold to bloodstock agent Kerri Radcliffe for $1.1 million.

“I thought he was the best American Pharoah weanling here,” Dilworth said of the colt. “He has a great female family. It was just a good combination. We looked at nearly every American Pharoah. He was the most elegant and refined one we saw.”

Consigned by Eaton Sales on behalf of breeder Grousemont Farm, hip 984 is a son of multiple stakes winner J Z Warrior (Harlan’s Holiday), a half-sister to Grade I winner A Z Warrior (Bernardini) and graded winners Jojo Warrior (Pioneerof the Nile) and E Z Warrior (Exploit).

J Z Warrior was purchased for $1.125 million as a 3-year-old at the 2008 Keeneland November sale and continued her racing career for Grousemont Farm co-founder Ty Scheumann before retiring in 2011.

Dilworth said he wasn’t surprised by the weanling’s final price tag.

“When you have a first-class horse, he should bring a first-class price,” he said.

Some 50 hips after selling a son of American Pharoah for $575,000, Eaton Sales’ Reiley McDonald was in action to acquire a son of the Triple Crown winner, going to $375,000 to purchase hip 1033 on behalf of a pinhooking partnership.

The weanling is out of the unraced Meerkat Miss (Giant’s Causeway), a daughter of Beware of the Cat (Caveat), and a half to Hold That Tiger (Storm Cat) and Editor’s Note (Forty Niner). He was bred by Gabriel Duignan, Windmill Manor Farm, Liam Duignan, and Tranquility Investments and was consigned by Paramount Sales.

“Everyone came in here looking for American Pharoahs just because he is American Pharoah,” McDonald said. “But as we’ve seen them, we’ve all seen that he has thrown exactly what he is; the huge shoulder, big hip, good length, all the scope and a beautiful walk. And apparently, they all have his great temperament. Now that we’ve had a chance to look at these in the public format, he’s more than just American Pharoah. He is throwing great foals. This horse is the real thing. I hope they run as good as they look.”

American Pharoah has had five weanlings sell at Keeneland this week for a total of $2,080,000 and an average of $416,000. He had five sell at Fasig-Tipton Monday–including a record-setting $1-million filly–for a total of $2,375,000 and an average of $475,000. @JessMartiniTDN

Spendthrift Buys into Big Family

Few families have been as popular in the sales ring in recent years as the one that traces back to blue hen Courtly Dee, and B. Wayne Hughes’s Spendthrift Farm bought into that highly coveted line Friday, paying $425,000 for unraced 3-year-old Airs (Harlan’s Holiday) in foal to Union Rags. The full-sister to Japanese MGSW/MG1SP Albiano out of a half-sister to Grade I winners Acoma (Empire Maker) and Arch (Kris S.) was consigned by Gainesway, Agent X as hip 804.

“You’d always be delighted to have that family–that’s as good as they get–and in foal to a really good stallion, so we’re really happy with it,” said Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey after he and Hughes shook hands with Airs’s co-breeder Helen Alexander.

Asian Empress (Empire Maker) (hip 815), out of Airs’s second dam, brought $280,000 from Olin Gentry shortly after Airs sold. She was also consigned by Gainesway and in foal to Nyquist.

Toffey noted that Spendthrift doesn’t currently have anything else from the family of Airs, and hadn’t decided yet on future mating plans for her.

Spendthrift has picked up seven mares so far for a combined $2,895,000 and led by $750,000 Singing Kitty (Ministers Wild Cat) (hip 329) Wednesday.

“It’s been uphill–it’s been tough,” Toffey said of the market. “We’ve been outbid on a lot more than we’ve actually bought. It’s easy to get carried away and overpay, but we’ve been happy with what we’ve bought so far.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Courtly Dee Family Continues to Prove Popular

The extremely productive family developed by Helen Groves, Helen Alexander and family and tracing back to Courtly Dee continued to light up the board throughout Friday’s KEENOV session, both for broodmares and foals.

Signing as Fort Pierce Racing and acting on behalf of a partnership, agent John Moynihan went to $325,000 for hip 911, a daughter of More Than Ready consigned by Gainesway, Agent VIII.

“She’s beautiful, she’s a More Than Ready–real pretty,” said Moynihan. “We may race her, we may resell her–we’re just not sure at this point. She’s really pretty, and More Than Ready’s a great sire, so we’ll take our shot.”

More Than Ready comes off a big Breeders’ Cup in which he was represented by GI Sprint winner Roy H and unbeaten GI Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Rushing Fall.

Hip 911’s Grade II-placed dam Duff One (Harlan’s Holiday) was bought back for $160,000 at this year’s Keeneland January sale carrying the More Than Ready miss.

“She is a beautiful physical specimen, well balanced,” said Brian Graves of Gainesway, which was also listed as the filly’s breeder. “More Than Ready is on fire right now and he has a lot of good horses out there. She made a good price. The family is beautiful; you can’t beat it.”

For more on hip 911’s family’s success on Friday, see Spendthrift Buys Into Big Family above. Other recent standouts from the family this year include ‘TDN Rising Star’ and MGSW Timeline (Hard Spun), fellow ‘Rising Star’ and impressive juvenile stakes winner Kowboy Karma (Kodiak Kowboy), and Japanese group winners Rabbit Run (Tapit) ($750K KEESEP yearling) and Asakusa Genki (Stormy Atlantic). A Hard Spun colt from the same family brought $900,000 at Keeneland September. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Columbine Buys Bernardini Mare

Claiborne Farm’s Bernie Sams fended off all challengers to secure $425,000 Indian Brava (Bernardini) (hip 975) on behalf of Andrea Pollack’s Columbine Stable Friday.

“She’s in foal to Runhappy,” said Sams. “He was fast—that’s why he stands at Claiborne Farm.”

Out of the stakes-winning and Grade I-placed track record breaker Indian Way (Indian Charlie), stakes-placed Indian Brava is a half to SW Way Striking (Smart Strike).

Lyn Burleson’s Burleson Farm purchased Indian Brava for $400,000 in foal to Scat Daddy at KEENOV ’15 on behalf of T. Wayne Sweezey’s Fox Run Partners. The resulting Scat Daddy colt RNA’d for $240,000 at this year’s September yearling sale. Burleson consigned Indian Brava on Friday. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Full Tap Joins Anderson Farms Band

Full Tap (Tapit–Miss Challenge, by More Than Ready) (hip 943), in foal to Empire Maker, will be joining the broodmare band of Anderson Farms after Canadian horseman David Anderson signed the ticket on the 5-year-old mare at $375,000.

“It was more than I wanted to spend, but I was shut out in the first few days–I typically don’t buy in Book 1 anyway–but I thought she was one of the premium mares in this book,” Anderson, who enjoyed his first $1-million transaction when he sold a colt by Scat Daddy at the September sale, said.

Full Tap topped the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred Preferred Yearlings Sale with a final bid of $430,000. Racing for a partnership of Gainesway and Cobra Farm, the bay mare won three times in 12 starts for earnings of $149,305.

“It was a partnership dissolution, there was no reserve in the stands and every bid was a good one,” Gainesway’s Michael Hernon said of the transaction. “She’s been bought by a good horseman and I look forward to seeing her foals at Saratoga with him in the next few years.”

Of Full Tap, Hernon said, “She is a beautiful mare, a daughter of Tapit, pregnant to Empire Maker on one cover. She could really run, she didn’t have black-type of her own, but she’ll throw black-type runners. They could very well get the purchase price back with the first foal.”

Hernon congratulated Anderson after the purchase and gave the buyer a vote of confidence for the mare’s expected Empire Maker filly.

“Michael Hernon just told me he is going to buy the filly at Saratoga from me next year, so I’m all set,” Anderson said.

Of the market at the November sale, Anderson added, “I think it’s very strong. I’m trying to buy. I don’t need to buy, but I am trying. It’s very difficult to find value, but it’s healthy for everyone.” @JessMartiniTDN

O’Neill Puts Himself on the Weanling Map

Bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill, known as an astute buyer of 2-year-olds, got in on the weanling action Friday at Keeneland, going to $310,000 to secure a colt from the first crop of

GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map (Unbridled’s Song) on behalf of Vinnie Viola’s St. Elias Stable.

“It was for Vinnie Viola, who is obviously in on Liam’s Map,” O’Neill said. “He really wanted to buy a really nice one and he did. He called this morning and I told him this was the best one I’d seen all week.”

Liam’s Map won the Breeders’ Cup while racing for Viola’s wife’s Teresa Viola Racing Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds. He stands at Lane’s End for $25,000.

Hip 810 is out of graded stakes placed Aqua Regia (Pollard’s Vision). St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds purchased the mare for $80,000 at the 2013 OBS June Sale and she was third in the 2014 GIII Monmouth Oaks. St. Elias Stable and Peta Ryan co-bred the weanling in New York. He was consigned Friday by Trackside Farm.

“It’s a great purchase,” O’Neill said of the weanling. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful colt, very well put together. And he had a great mind. He was really good in the back, which is a big thing for me.”

The weanling is the second horse O’Neill has purchased on behalf of Viola. Along with Jim Crupi, he secured future ‘TDN Rising Star’ Army Mule (Friesan Fire) for $825,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.

“Vinnie is kind of new to me,” O’Neill said. “We’ve been friends for a while. We met at the Derby a couple of years ago and we bought one 2-year-old about two years ago. And we’ve kept in touch. Vinnie mentioned maybe a little bit of shopping at this sale and wanted to find some Liam’s Maps, so we’ve been looking at a lot of those.”

Of his unusual appearance at a bloodstock sale, O’Neill admitted, “I don’t do a lot of shopping for weanlings, so when he said that, I was a little hesitant. It’s something different. I feel like, not to be cocky, but I kind of feel like I know what a good horse looks like.”

He continued, “There is a big, big difference [between buying weanlings and 2-year-olds]. They change so much between now and even as a yearling and then going on. This is different in that you’re trying to project what they are going to look like down the line. This guy looked like he is going to grow into a beautiful horse. He’s very correct, he’s already a good size and if he keeps going like he’s going, he’s going to be gorgeous.”

O’Neill has liked what he has seen of the Liam’s Maps.

“He’s got some really nice babies that we’ve seen out here,” O’Neill said. “In my opinion, Liam’s Map has been in the top three or four [sire of] weanlings that I’ve seen around here. They are really nice-looking weanlings.” @JessMartiniTDN

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.