by Jessica Martini and Brian DiDonato
The Keeneland September Yearling sale resumed Friday after a one-day hiatus with a strong opening to the auction’s Book 2. Trainer Bob Baffert, as agent, signed for the session’s top-priced lot, going to $700,000 to secure a colt by Uncle Mo (hip 942) from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment.
For the session, 258 yearlings grossed $38,462,000 for an average of $149,078–up 23% from last year’s first Book 2 session. The median rose 20% to $120,000. The buy-back rate was 28.33%.
During the first Book 2 session a year ago, 294 yearlings grossed $35,634,500 for an average of $121,206 and a median of $100,000.
“I thought today was very good,” Keeneland’s Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell said at the close of business Friday. “There were a great number of different buyers and a great international representation. The Uncle Mo colt was obviously a very special colt–it looked like he was getting to run at Keeneland today. I thought overall it was a very successful day.”
The top price at last year’s Book 2 opening was $600,000 and there were three horses over the $400,000 mark. A total of 11 reached or exceeded that mark Friday. The increase in top-end sellers did not surprise Russell.
“Where we are seeing the strength in the Thoroughbred industry is in the top of the market,” Russell said. “Whether it’s Book 1 or Book 2, we knew the top end had a lot of quality horses and these people are willing to stretch to get those horses. We’ve seen it all year and today was just a continuation of that.”
The second and final session of Keeneland September’s Book 2 gets underway Saturday at 10 a.m.
Uncle Mo Colt Lands in Capable Hands…
Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert stretched to $700,000 Friday for hip 942, a son of current leading
North American-based freshman sire Uncle Mo. The bay was consigned to the sale by Taylor Made Sales Agency, Agent LXXXIX.
“He’s an Uncle Mo–he’s hot,” said Baffert when asked what about the Mar. 11 foal attracted him. “He looked good. It’s been hard to buy a horse. You probably have to overpay, but this is one of the horses you’re running against down the road.”
Baffert, whose client Kaleem Shah was edged out on several pricey lots in Book 1, added, “It’s been tough… It’s been the same for the last 20 years–everybody goes for the same horses.”
Of how he has found the quality of Book 2, the Hall of Famer said, “You never know where they’re going to come from. They can come from any book, but I’m not going to be here long enough, so I’m gearing up right now.”
Louise and Kiki Courtelis’s Town & Country Farms purchased hip 942’s MSP dam Kiss the Lady (Quiet American) for $340,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November sale while she was carrying Friday’s topper. Kiss the Lady hails from a Ned Evans family that includes graded winners Minidar, A Little Warm, Mini Sermon, Minstrella, Blofeld, etc. The 5-year-old produced an Awesome Again colt earlier this year.
“We didn’t expect that much coming over here, but he actually broke our record–he was scoped 20-something times and we had to eventually just say ‘That’s enough,’” revealed Taylor Made’s Frank Taylor. “He’s just a really solid, sound, good-walking colt. He’s got a lot of class about him and everybody lined up on him and really liked him. We’re glad he got into very good hands with Bob Baffert…The mare’s young, so it’s great to have a young mare sell a high-dollar horse and not only that, but go into great hands like Bob Baffert.”
According to TDN Sales PPs, the $700,000 paid for hip 942 is the most ever for an Uncle Mo yearling. A 2-year-old by the Ashford resident sold for $725,000 to Conquest Stables at OBS March. Uncle Mo has been represented this year by GI Del Mar Futurity winner Nyquist, GIII Sanford S. winner Uncle Vinny and last Saturday’s Sunday Silence S. winner Uncle Brennie.
Baffert and crew’s further expenditures Friday included the $550,000 paid for hip 1094, a Flatter half-brother to this year’s GII Fountain of Youth S. winner Itsaknockout (Lemon Drop Kid).
An $80,000 KEENOV weanling buy by Ed and Stuart Turlington’s Stoney Lane Farm, the bay was consigned by Bluewater Sales LLC, Agent XXVIII.
The Jan. 22 foal was purchased on behalf of Baffert’s longtime owners Michael Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman under their Three Amigos banner.
“He was just a beautiful, very mature weanling,” said an understandably elated Stuart Turlington. “He had a big update with Itsaknockout. He’s just been a good horse all along and he’s kept getting better and better.”
The North Carolina native added, “It’s very exciting. We’re glad he’s going to Baffert.”
The Factor Colt Figures for Zayat…
Justin Zayat, who stepped up to secure a $1.5-million filly by Bernardini Tuesday, signed the ticket at $600,000 to acquire a colt by first-season sire The Factor during Friday’s fourth session of the Keeneland September sale.
“He’s by The Factor and he’s a beautiful-looking horse,” Zayat said after signing the ticket. “He’s athletic. He had all the parts. We loved him from the first second we saw him. He was a standout to us. He’s bred by Barbara [Banke] at Stonestreet, so we know they are going to breed a good horse. We’re looking forward to racing him.”
The dark bay colt (hip 775) is the third foal out of the unraced Aspen Light (Bernardini), a half-sister to Grade I winner Great Hunter (Aptitude) and from the family of this season’s Grade I winner Stellar Wind. The yearling was consigned by Michelle and Jody Huckabay’s Elm Tree Farm on behalf of Stonestreet, which purchased the colt’s second dam Zenith (Roy) for $750,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November sale.
Of the colt’s final price tag, which topped early returns on the day, Zayat said, “I thought he would be around that range.”
“I knew he was a nice horse and it’s going to take a lot of money to buy a nice horse at this sale. Good horses are bringing a lot of money, so you have to step up to the plate. If you believe they are good, then you should go for them.”
While a future conditioner for the colt is still to be determined, Zayat laughed, “All our trainers loved this horse, so that’s the good news.”
The sale continued the strong auction results for multiple Grade I winner The Factor, whose sire War Front was represented by four seven-figure yearlings at Keeneland this week. The Factor won the 2011 GI Malibu S. and GI Pat O’Brien S., both at seven furlongs, as well as the 1 1/16-mile GII Rebel S. while racing for George Bolton and David Shimmon.
The 7-year-old stallion, who stands at Lane’s End for $15,000, had a breakout sale at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale in August with a pair of colts selling for $750,000 and $600,000. Entering Friday’s session of the September sale, he was the second-leading North American-based freshman sire of yearlings by average. Through four sessions of the September sale, 13 yearlings by The Factor have sold for a gross of $2,235,000, good an average of $171,923 and a median of $130,000.
“After Saratoga, we felt pretty strongly about how well he would do,” commented Lane’s End’s Director of Stallion Seasons Chance Timm. “He had a huge sale up there and we knew the quality of horses coming into this sale was going to be equally strong. So to be honest, [the September results] are not that surprising. We’re really excited for Mr. Bolton and Mr. Shimmon and everybody. He’s a really exciting young horse.”
Asked what characteristics the stallion’s progeny share, Timm added, “They have a little bit more scope than what you’d expect from the sire line, a little bit more stretch to them. They look fast, like he was. They have great substance to them and a lot of quality. Although he was a sprinter, he was a Grade II winner around two turns. So we think they can go long.” @JessMartiniTDN
Woodford Picks Up Another Stallion Prospect…
Bill Farish’s Woodford Racing, a stallion development partnership whose current roster includes GI
Metropolitan H. and GI Whitney S. hero Honor Code (A.P. Indy), added another stallion prospect Friday in hip 781, a Gainesway-consigned Hard Spun colt who went for $500,000.
The chestnut’s second dam is Grade I winner Aldiza (Storm Cat), and her fourth dam is blue hen Courtly Dee (Never Bend). This is the same family as the likes of hip 99, who sold to Shel Evans for $1 million on the first day of the sale. Helen Groves, Helen Alexander and Dorothy Matz bred hip 781.
“He’s a beautiful horse,” agent David Ingordo, who signed the ticket, said. “He looks like a dirt horse. He’s got all the right components to me. What we’re trying to do is buy some dirt and two-turn colts that can be stallions. He’s raised right, he vetted perfectly and he looks the part. For those kinds, you’ve got to pay for it. If he was in [Book 1] he might have cost a little more. He was a little expensive, but we loved the horse.”
Woodford has purchased six colts so far at Keeneland September for a combined $2.9 million, led by an $850,000 Tapit–Keertana colt secured Tuesday.
Chadds Ford Finally Gets One…
Braxton Lynch, acting on behalf of owner Phyllis Wyeth of GI Belmont S. hero Union Rags (Dixie Union) fame’s Chadds Ford Stable, was responsible of the first sparks during Friday’s Book 2 opener when she went to $475,000 for a Tapit filly from the same Alexander-Groves-Matz family that has been so highly coveted at this year’s sale.
Gainesway, Agent XXIII consigned the grey (hip 759), who was bred by Helen Alexander, Hugo Lascelles and Gainesway Management Corp. Lascelles paid $170,000 for winless dam Aguadilla (Stormy Atlantic) in foal to Northern Afleet at the 2011 Keeneland November sale. Her Lemon Drop Kid filly sold for $300,000 here last year.
“We tried hard in Book 1 and we’ve been getting closer and closer and finally we landed one,” Lynch said of the descendant of Courtly Dee. “She was our last one, so this was going to be it. I think it’s a great price for a Tapit from that family. She’s a beautiful filly, and we’re thrilled.”
Lynch, who also operates the Royal Oak Farm consignment along with her husband Damian, offered a dual perspective on the market.
“From a buyer’s perspective, we were looking at very select families, top sires, and you know going in that that’s going to be difficult.” she explained. “What I find
frustrating about the market is having good horses without them being great horses that you can’t find anybody [to buy them]. It’s always been the same. It’s just frustrating because they’re very nice horses–they just don’t get the high scrutiny in Book 1. You can try and place them further back [in the catalogue], but somebody’s got to be in Book 1. To me, that’s the only disconnect. Otherwise, the market’s good. People are here and willing to spend money. I think as we get into the later books there’s less of a separation [between individuals].” –BDiDonatoTDN
Lieblongs Still Spending on Cotillion Eve…
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s colors will be carried Saturday by Embellish the Lace (Super Saver)–a $320,000 Keeneland September graduate two years ago–in Parx’s GI Cotillion S., and Alex Lieblong added another filly to his roster Friday in hip 761. The daughter of Bernardini was consigned to the sale by Pope McClean’s Crestwood Farm and was hammered down for $450,000.
The bay was bred by Brian and Jan Burns’s Mount Joy Stables, who campaigned MGSW and MGISP half brother Smooth Air (Smooth Jazz). Hip 761 is also a half to Grade II-winning juvenile Overdriven (Tale of the Cat).
“She was pure class,” said Lieblong, who was accompanied by Embellish the Lace’s trainer Tony Dutrow. “I had to go out of town [Thursday], and she was one of the first ones they had me go look at [Friday] morning. She just looked so classy about everything she did. I think she’d already been out plenty, but she was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and just classy about the way she went about her business.”
Of the price he had to pay, Lieblong quipped, “She was about $50,000 over budget–they always are.
The Lieblongs, who scooped up a $325,000 daughter of Candy Ride (Arg) during Book 1 and a $200,000 son of Stay Thirsty later in the day Friday, have been very active at auctions in recent years, and plenty successful at the track.
They took last year’s GI King’s Bishop S. with ‘TDN Rising Star’ The Big Beast (Yes It’s True) and GII Saratoga Special S. with I Spent It (Super Saver). Embellish the Lace comes off a front-running score in the GI Alabama S. at the Spa Aug. 22.
“She’s doing very well–knock on wood,” Lieblong said when asked about the 4-1 second choice on the Cotillion morning line. “The negative is we’re coming back in four weeks, the positives are it’s against straight 3-year-olds and she’s won over that track by [10 1/4 lengths to break her maiden in December of last year]. All systems are go, we’ll just see how the trip goes. I’d like to see her settle right off the speed, but why would I tell [rider] Javier [Castellano] anything? I’ll just let him do what he wants to do–they’re going to do that anyway.” –BDiDonatoTDN
Tiznow Colt to Wests…
Gary and Mary West added a colt by Tiznow to their stable Friday at Keeneland, going to $500,000 for hip 932. The dark bay is the first foal out of GIII Winning Colors S. winner Island Bound (Speightstown). The yearling was bred in Maryland by Robert Manfuso and Katharine Voss and was consigned by Nursey Place.
“He’s the kind of horse we look for,” said the Wests’ racing manager Ben Glass. “He’s an athletic sort. We liked the way he moved and his mannerisim. We liked everything about him. He had a great Werk Nick–my Werk guys always help me out and they loved him, so I had to love him.”
The Tiznow colt was Glass’s ninth purchase of the September sale. He also purchased a colt by Unbridled’s Song (hip 76) for $400,000 and a son of Arch (hip 816) for that same amount, but he admitted the market has been competitive.
“It’s been tough,” Glass said. “It’s very competitive if you lead a good one in there. Without Mr. West saying bid one more time, we weren’t going to buy this one. It’s tough to buy a good one. There are still a lot of people with a lot of money that want the same ones we do and it’s tough to buy them.” @JessMartiniTDN
The Factor Colt Could Start Big Day for Grays…
When hip 1212 goes through the Keeneland September sales ring a little after noon Saturday, it could be the start of a big day for longtime breeders Carolyn and Fletcher Gray. The Grays will watch the son of The Factor sell and then fly to Philadelphia to watch their stable star I’m a Chatterbox (Munnings) go postward in the GI Cotillion S. at Parx shortly before five.
Asked which the couple was more nervous about, Fletcher Gray admitted, “The sale. It’s totally an unknown.” Carolyn Gray added, “The filly is more of a known quantity.”
I’m a Chatterbox, who RNA’d for $30,000 at the September sale two years ago, is already a two-time graded stakes winner, but has been knocking on the door to Grade I success.
Third in the GI Kentucky Oaks, she returned to finish first in the GI Coaching Club American Oaks only to be disqualified for interference and placed second. She is coming off a runner-up effort in the GI Alabama S.
Based in Pleasant Hope, Missouri, the Grays have been breeding Thoroughbreds for two decades and are co-breeders of champions Left Bank and Stardom Bound. They have a broodmare band of seven and breed to sell while keeping the occasional filly.
“We have bred some really nice horses, but of anything that we’ve kept, she has gone to the highest level,” Carolyn Gray said. “It’s sure fun. It’s really fun to breed and watch a good horse that you’ve bred run. But when it’s your own, it’s a completely different dimension.”
Carolyn Gray sees many similarities between I’m a Chatterbox and her yearling half-brother.
“He reminds me of her a lot,” she said. “His build, physique and his athleticism, his attitude. Both of them really loved to run out in the pasture. And they are both very kind horses. Physically he is a lot like her. He is not a big heavy-bodied horse, but that doesn’t bother us too much.”
The yearling, who is consigned by James Herbener, Jr., has already generated interest at the sales barns.
“There have been a lot of shows, but we don’t ever anticipate too much about what we are going to do when we get up to the ring because you can be surprised either way,” Carolyn Gray said. Her husband added, “Hopefully we’ll get two people interested. It’s hard to make an auction with one.”
In addition to I’m a Chatterbox, Chit Chatter (Lost Soldier) has also produced stakes-placed Pegasus Again (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Lady Bear (Bluegrass Cat). She failed to get in foal to Munnings this year. The Grays have a weanling filly out of the mare they expect to race. @JessMartiniTDN