$2.3-Million Gun Runner Colt Tops Record-Crashing Saratoga Sale

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Sale-topping hip 202 in the ringFasig-Tipton

by Jessica Martini and Christie DeBernardis

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – During an electrifying session of bidding Tuesday, the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearlings Sale produced 10 seven-figure yearlings–topped by a $2.3-million son of Gun Runner–and crashed records for gross, average and median.

“Rarely do you find me speechless,” Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning said Tuesday night. “We are blown away by the results. The energy, the excitement, it just feels so good from an industry perspective. The statistics are phenomenal. We averaged over $500,000 tonight and had 10 horses over seven figures. We shattered every record known to mankind. It is a really good feeling. It's not just for us. It is a really good vibrancy for the industry. We basically had two yearling sales so far this year and both of them have been really good. It gives breeders hope and encouragement there.”

When the dust had settled after a frenzied two sessions of bidding, 143 yearlings had sold for $66,955,000, topping the auction's previous record gross of $62,794,000 set in 2018. The sale average of $468,212 broke the previous record of $411,459 set in 2019, while the median of $375,000 eclipsed the record of $350,000 recorded in both 2019 and 2021.

During the 2021 auction, 135 yearlings grossed $55,155,000 for an average of $408,556 and a median of $350,000.

With 36 yearlings reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 20.1%. It was 25% a year ago.

A colt by Three Chimneys' sire sensation Gun Runner brought the two-day auction's top price when selling for $2.3 million to the partnership of Coolmore's M.V. Magnier and Peter Brant's White Birch Farm. The yearling was consigned by Gainesway on behalf of breeder Debby Oxley. It was the second time during the night that a yearling hit the $2-million mark, with the team of West Point Thoroughbreds, Woodford Racing and 3C Stable going to that figure to acquire a filly by Curlin from the Stone Farm consignment.

In all, 14 yearlings sold for seven figures at the boutique auction. Only four hit that level at the 2021 auction.

Tuesday's 10 seven-figure yearlings were purchased by nine different buyers, reflecting the deep buying bench that was active throughout the two-day sale.

“Tonight we sold 74 horses and 10 out of the 74 brought seven figures, which is, frankly, unheard of,” Browning said. “Those 10 were sold to about eight or nine entities. The RNA rate is right about 20%–that doesn't reflect post-sales. It was just a robust market. If you are in the Thoroughbred industry anywhere in the United States, Saratoga is the epitome at the racetrack and I hope in the yearling sales arena. It is kind of the annual dose of hope and excitement. This is why we do it.”

Brant, Magnier Team Up for Sale-Topping Gun Runner Colt

As the electrifying second session of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale began to wind down Tuesday night, the Coolmore team which had already purchased a seven-figure son of Gun Runner from its traditional bidding perch out back of the pavilion, was joined by Peter Brant and the partnership pulled out all the stops to secure another yearling by the Three Chimneys stallion (hip 202) for a sale-topping $2.3 million. Bloodstock agent Marette Farrell, standing just a few feet away, was the underbidder on the colt who was consigned by Gainesway on behalf of his breeder, Debby Oxley.

“[Gainesway's] Brian Graves told us he was a really nice horse,” Coolmore's M.V. Magnier said. “Mr. and Mrs. Oxley breed a very nice horse.”

Of the partnership with Brant's White Birch Farm, Magnier said, “We've had horses with him in the past and hopefully we will have a lot more of them.”

The Oxleys' relationship with the sale-topper's family goes back two generations, with John Oxley purchasing the yearling's second dam Darling My Darling (Deputy Minister) for $300,000 at the 1998 Keeneland September sale. Darling My Darling, who is a daughter of 1994 GI Ballerina H. winner Roamin Rachel (Mining), was second in the 1999 GI Matron S. and GI Frizette S. for the Oxleys and the late trainer John Ward.

“My husband bought Darling My Darling for me because I loved Roamin Rachel,” Debby Oxley said. “You guys are too young to know who Roamin Rachel was, but she was just this hard-knocking race mare that raced on the Kentucky circuit. Darling has brought a lot of joy to our lives. It's so amazing to think–you have to pinch yourself. John Ward is up in heaven doing a big dance tonight. To think we could be a sale topper out of the mare is just incredible.”

Heavenly Love, who won the 2017 GI Darley Alcibiades S. in Debby Oxley's colors, has an unraced 2-year-old colt by Uncle Mo and a weanling colt by Nyquist.

The sale-topper wasn't the only success the Oxleys had thanks to Darling My Darling Tuesday in Saratoga. The mare's unraced daughter Darling's Darling (Bernardini) was represented by a colt from the first crop of Flameaway (hip 169) who sold for $425,000 to the bid of Ken McPeek as agent for Herold Lerner. Flameaway, a multiple graded stakes winner for John Oxley, stands at Darby Dan Farm for $7,500.

“We have a lot of faith in Flameaway,” Debby Oxley said. “That result exceeded our expectations totally, but he is a magnificent-looking colt. And I am happy that Ken McPeek bought him because I will get to see him run.”

On the back of the sales success Tuesday, Debby Oxley said, “I would like to thank our farm manager Laurie Gimmon and all of our help at Fawn Leap and our broodmare vet Luke Fallon. None of this happens without those folks who are on the grounds every day with them taking care of them. I am just happy for our little Fawn Leap Farm.”

Magnier, who made three seven-figure purchases at the two-day Saratoga auction, acquired the first of his two colts by Gun Runner (hip 186) for $1.4 million.

“What can anybody say about Gun Runner?” Magnier said “He's a very good sire, what he is doing is very good. We just hope that [Coolmore freshman sire] Justify can do the same thing.”

Hip 186, who was consigned by Denali Stud on behalf of breeder Earle Mack, is out of the unraced Flag Day (Giant's Causeway).

“We are over the moon. Elated doesn't begin to describe it,” said Denali's Conrad Bandoroff. “We've had him since the day he was born. He was bred by Earle Mack and we've always wanted to bring a nice horse to Saratoga for Earle and we thought this horse really fit the bill. We talk about Saratoga magic and this is the definition of that.”

Of the yearling, Bandoroff added, “He is a beautiful horse. He showed over 250 times. He was dog tired, but he came out and dropped his head and walked every time. I am proud of him. I am proud of the team. It's very gratifying and we are thrilled for Mr. Mack. He's a guy who has done so much for the industry. He deserved to breed a horse like this and we look forward to watching him go on and do big things.” @JessMartiniTDN

America Provides More Saratoga Fireworks

Three years ago, a yearling by Curlin out of America (A.P. Indy) produced fireworks in the Saratoga sales ring when bringing a co-sale-topping final bid of $1.5 million from a partnership group that included West Point Thoroughbreds and Woodford Racing. First Captain, already a graded stakes winner and expected to line up for next month's GI Jockey Club Gold Cup, was eclipsed in the sales ring by his full-sister Tuesday in Saratoga when West Point and Woodford, joined this time by 3C Stable, was forced to $2 million to acquire the filly from the Stone Farm consignment.

“The power of the partnership,” West Point's Terry Finley said after signing the ticket on the yearling. “We see it time and time again. I think it's just going to get bigger and stronger. The key is that you have to have good partners and I think we do. I know we do.”

Of the filly's appeal, Bill Farish of Woodford Racing explained, “She reminds us a little bit of First Captain. She is a very athletic, strong-made filly with a lot of Curlin in her for sure. We have had luck with him and we were hoping to have luck with her on the racetrack. She is the kind of filly who will be a great broodmare one day.”

The filly's broodmare potential should only increase if her full-brother is able to secure a Grade I victory, according to Finley.

“Everybody is excited for First Captain in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in September, so I think that will be, on top of the rooting interest, I think we all be excited just to add to this filly's pedigree,” Finley said. “That will be really, really good if we can get a Grade I on the resume of First Captain.”

West Point and Woodford also teamed up to purchase the $1.5-million son of Uncle Mo during Monday's opening session of the boutique auction.

The $2-million sale was another success for the ever-strengthening broodmare band of celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

“It's a strategy that has taken a long time to create the foundation of, but basically it's trying to buy some of the best families in the stud book, both in Europe and in the United States,” Flay said of his broodmare band. “This is not an overnight project. This has taken over 10 years to build up and I've had really great advisors–Barry Weisbord is like the Warren Buffett of pedigrees and James Delahooke is a legendary horse picker. I rely on those two people to really help me out. I do all the matings myself, that's something that I really enjoy doing. I try to play at the highest level.”

Flay, who stayed in for a piece of First Captain, agreed it was a tough decision to sell a filly out of his prized mare.

“It is very tough to let a filly like that go,” he said. “But as everybody knows this is not an inexpensive business. You have to take some money off the table when you can sometimes. But that said, one of the great things about breeding a horse like this, you can sell them to a great buyer and hope they go to a great trainer–which I know they will–and you can root just as hard. I still have the mom and the siblings and that is the great thing about breeding. It takes a lot of patience, but once you get to a point where you have a lot of things going on, it's so, so much fun. And it's so great to root for them.”

America, who herself was bred by Flay and RNA'd for $3.1 million at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton November sale, has a 2-year-old colt by Uncle Mo who RNA'd for $550,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale. She has a weanling colt by Uncle Mo and is currently back in foal to Curlin. @JessMartiniTDN

Baffert Secures Another Quality Filly

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert ended the Saratoga Sale on a high note, securing a $1.8 million Quality Road filly (Hip 213) just three hips before the end of the sale. He was acting on behalf of an undisclosed client and did his bidding from the second floor of the pavilion alongside bloodstock agent Donato Lanni and his wife Jill Baffert.

“She's a beautiful filly,” said Baffert, who trained Quality Road's champion filly Abel Tasman. “I've done well buying fillies here. Mt. Brilliant raises a really good horse. I was fortunate I had somebody to buy her. She is the kind of filly that I like to buy. I've had a lot of success with those types of fillies. Those kind pan out and play at the top level.”

As for the price, he said, “I thought she was going to be expensive, especially tonight, the way the prices are. It is my job to get that back and hopefully we will.”

Consigned by Lane's End, Hip 213 was bred by Greg Goodman's Mt. Brilliant Farm & Ranch and Lane's End's W. S. Farish. Goodman purchased her SP dam Ithinkisawapudycat (Bluegrass Cat) for $2.2 million in foal to Constitution at the 2016 KEENOV sale. Her first foal born in 2014 was GI Spinaway S. winner Sweet Loretta (Tapit). The half to Canadian champion Spring In The Air (Spring At Last) is also responsible for SP Bridlewood Cat (Street Sense), who was the mare's previous most expensive offspring as a $750,000 KEESEP purchase.

“The filly has so much class,” Goodman said. “We came thinking she might bring between $700,000 and $800,000. She was so great. She showed here like she is going to be a real racehorse. She was all business the whole time.”

When asked how the filly developed on the farm, the breeder said, “She's always been smart. She's never taken a bad step. She does nothing wrong. She's been so nice. She's just been perfect. All of our employees did a great job. Lane's End did an awesome job selling her.”

@CDeBernardisTDN

Ryan Jumps in the Colt Partnership Game

Partnerships focused on buying colts with the potential to run two turns are the name of the game right now and bloodstock agent Mike Ryan is the latest to get in on the action. He went to $1.75 million to acquire a son of Curlin (Hip 127) on behalf of his new group, headed by owner Jeff Drown, who was beside Ryan as he signed the ticket Tuesday.

“We put a group together with Jeff Drown and some other guys,” said Ryan, who indicated the colt would go to a top New York trainer. “We are looking at the First Saturday in May. He is the complete package. It is very hard to find a hole in him. I don't like to use the phrase ticked all the boxes, but I couldn't fault him. He is very smooth, beautiful pedigree and came off a good farm. If he is a Grade I winner, he is worth a lot of money down the road. He has a great stallion future.”

As for the price, Ryan said, “To be honest, we were thinking about $1.5 million, but when you are looking at these types of horses, it is very hard to split them. If they are good, they're good and they'll reward you. We thought he was the best colt sale and now we will have to see if we were right or wrong”

Consigned by Taylor Made, Hip 127 is out of Grade I winner Angela Renee (Bernardini), who is also responsible for recent Curlin S. runner-up and GSP colt Gilded Age (Medaglia d'Oro), a $600,000 KEESEP purchase. The chestnut colt shares the same third dam as Monday's $1.5-million session-topping Uncle Mo colt (Hip 68) in SW & GSP Misty Hour (Miswaki), the matriarch of Jane Lyon's Summer Wind Farm. His second dam is SW Pilfer (Deputy Minister), who also produced MGISW To Honor and Serve (Bernardini).

Hip 127 was bred by Don Alberto Corporation, which acquired Angela Renee for $3 million at the 2015 FTKNOV sale. The colt topped an excellent Saratoga sale for the organization which also sold a $675,000 Curlin filly (Hip 15), a $700,000 Constitution colt (Hip 66), a $525,000 Into Mischief colt (Hip 75) and a $1.2 million Into Mischief filly (Hip 150), who is a full-sister to last year's Saratoga sale topper.

“It's been a fantastic sale for us,” said Don Alberto's Fernando Diaz-Valdes. “Fasig is doing a great job for us, too. I think we are having some results and that is good. When you buy quality, they have to pay up. We have invested a lot of money. Sometimes it's not always roses, but this time it's been very good for us. I think we have to say thank you to the whole team at the farm, starting with Reed [Ringler] and the group down there. All those guys, they deserve thanks because they put in 20 hours a day at the farm. The family has invested so much money into the game coming from Chile and they deserve to be rewarded. That is most important. I wish the best to all the buyers.” @CDeBernardisTDN

The Coach Schools 'Em in Bidding War For Medaglia d'Oro Colt

A colt by Medaglia d'Oro (Hip 114) was the first to seven figures Tuesday when hammering for $1.35 million after a furious round of bidding lit up the Humphrey S. Finney pavilion early in the session. However, the real excitement came when the crowd realized the buyer was none other than D. Wayne Lukas. A sense of déjà vu and universal delight filled the surrounding crowd as the familiar figure in his signature aviators, cowboy hat and boots signed the ticket on the million-dollar colt, while seated in his typical spot on the right side of pavilion alongside his wife Laurie Lukas.

Lukas signed the ticket under the name of John Bellinger, one of the partners in BC Stables, which campaigns 'TDN Rising Star' and recent GIII Schuylerville S. runner-up Summer Promise (Uncle Mo) with the Hall of Fame conditioner.

“I think we will do something creative with him,” said the charismatic Lukas. “We didn't have time to put anything together. We talked about it briefly. We will sleep on it. John [Bellinger] has a good friend named Brian Coelho [his partner in BC Stables]. A few of us might take a piece. We will just have to work through it.”

Summer Promise is one of five 2-year-olds that make up BC Stables' current roster. Bellinger and Coelho approached Lukas just before Keeneland September last year. (Click here for a profile on BC Stables). The conditioner purchased a pair of $425,000 yearlings during Monday's session on behalf of BC Stables in Hip 65, an Into Mischief colt, and Hip 60, a Munnings filly.

“I think they sat back for a few years and watched what I was doing and they finally came by and said we want to do what Bob Lewis and some of these others did. So, there you go,” Lukas said with a broad grin.

The final price was more than double what Bellinger had spent on any of his previous horses and Lukas said the colt brought a little more than he expected.

“I was a little surprised at what we had to give for him,” the Coach said. “I estimated he would bring maybe $1-million or a bit over. I didn't think he would go quite that high, but when they are good, and you like them, it's hard to evaluate. Nobody in the building knows whether he is a bargain or not. We will find out. We all think we are smart about it. People have opinions. Horses have the facts. That is how that works.”

Back in his heyday from the 1980's through the early 2000s, it was par for the course to see Lukas sign a million-dollar ticket, but it has been quite some time since he has been the agent on a seven-figure horse. It has also been two years since the 86-year-old has been to Saratoga due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wasn't here for two years because all of our clients died and I got Covid,” said Lukas, who captured Sunday's GII Adirondack with Naughty Gal (Into Mischief). “It is fun to be back here and be in this arena. We will try to keep things going in the fall at Keeneland. As long as we can keep buying yearlings like this, we will have a nice race stable. I don't want a lot. I don't want to train like I used to. I still get up early in the morning, but I want them all in front of me.”

Out of GSW Walk Close (Tapit), Hip 114 is a full-brother to GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Aneau d'Or. His second dam is MSW and GISP Spring Awakening (In Excess {Ire}).

“He is a wonderful colt,” Lukas said. “He was a really good physical, obviously. We weren't the only people who liked him. I thought he had a tremendous walk and tremendous disposition. I watched him come out about two or three times. He looks like he has a good head on his shoulder, but he has a great walk. I've got a hunch that horse will get over the ground pretty good. I have a theory on angles and skeleton and he fit all of that.”

Consigned by Four Star Sales, Hip 114 was bred by Lochlow Farm and Godolphin, which stands Medaglia d'Oro. Lochlow Farm purchased Walk Close for $550,000 at the 2018 FTKNOV sale in foal to Uncle Mo. The resulting colt summoned $420,000 from Donato Lanni on behalf of the group known as the Avengers at the 2020 FTKSEL sale. She produced another Uncle Mo colt this year.

“I think you can hope, but it is not always easy to expect that kind of money,” said Godolphin's Darren Fox. “He had an exceptional physical, a tremendous walk. We loved everything about him. He is a full-brother to a Grade I 2-year-old. Medaglia is certainly keeping his side of things going. Exceptional results. All credit to the breeder Mrs. Lenehan, to Four Star and to Fasig for putting on a sale like this. Also, a lot of credit to Chris Welker, who prepped him and did a tremendous job.” @CDeBernardisTDN

GMP Hits It Out of the Park With First Saratoga Offering

Anthony Melfi and retired trainer Gary Gullo's GMP Stable began just short of two years ago and they hit a high note when their first homebred to sell at the Saratoga Sale, a Curlin filly (Hip 151), summoned $1.05 million from Eclipse Thoroughbreds, Robert LaPenta's Whitehorse and Sol Kumin's Madaket Stable. (Click here for pre-sale feature on GMP Stable).

“It's unbelievable,” an emotional and ecstatic Melfi said. “We've worked so hard. Gary Gullo is the best partner I've ever had. The best. I am so excited. We were feeling very confident. Everybody said she was beautiful. They loved her. We expected we would do well, but not this well. We are so happy.”

GMP Stable purchased Hip 151's dam, MGSIP Cassies Dreamer (Flatter), for $435,000 with this filly in utero at the 2020 FTKNOV sale.

“It's amazing,” said Gullo, who spent 40 years training horses on the NYRA circuit. “Trying to get the right horse and right breeding is hard. You have to have the right team. I feel so comfortable being involved with the right people who can point us in the right direction. I'm very thankful. I can almost say it is better than winning any kind of race. To have a horse you bred come for over $1 million is a great thing.”

The horseman added, “We were thinking maybe $700,000-$800,000. Everyone kept telling us at Taylor Made—and Elliott Walden was unbelievable—saying this is a real racehorse. We just listened to everybody who is on our team saying how good she is. I am happy and will be rooting for the people who bought her. I hope they do very well with her.”

Eclipse has a history of success with Curlin mares, such as MGISW Curalina and current top sophomore filly Nest, so it was no surprise to see Aron Wellman sign the ticket. He indicated the filly would go to Todd Pletcher, who trained both of the aforementioned fillies.

“She was a queen all week long,” Wellman said, while seated beside LaPenta. “She is the same cross as Nest (Curlin/A.P. Indy). We've had a lot of luck with Curlin fillies and she possessed all the traits we've seen in our good ones. Time will tell as it always does.”

As for the price, Wellman said, “When you try to get a barometer on the market here and you see what these fillies are bringing, it is pretty serious stuff. We thought she'd be in the $1-million range. We took a swing and hopefully in a couple of years, she will be in the Lexington pavilion.” @CDeBernardisTDN

Live Oak Strikes For Into Mischief Filly

Live Oak principal Charlotte Weber had been patiently watching the action through the first session and a half of the Saratoga Sale and jumped in just past the halfway mark Tuesday, going to $1 million for an Into Mischief filly (Hip 166).

“She is beautifully balanced,” Weber said. “She has a nice walk. She has great prospects as a racehorse and a broodmare.”

Trainer Mark Casse, who bid on Weber's behalf, added, “She has it all, Curlin and Into Mischief. We've had pretty good luck with both. It didn't hurt that there was a little With Approval in the family. That is all Live Oak.”

Happy Alter bred and trained Hip 166's MGSW dam Curlin's Approval (Curlin) with Bridlewood Farm buying in as a partner during her racing career. Gainesway consigned the bay filly, who is the mare's second foal.

“Happy Alter owned and bred Curlin's Approval,” Bridlewood's George Issacs said. “He has trained for Bridlewood Farm for many, many years. We became friends 30 years ago. When this filly developed like she did, I approached Happy about Bridlewood being his 50% partner. Curlin's Approval herself is a queen and her first foal by Tapit is a very nice filly. Then we bred her to Into Mischief and this filly obviously developed very nicely also.”

Alter added, “The partnership with Bridlewood and Happy Alter is something I am very proud of. We sold a beautiful filly at a fair price, but we might have sold a champion.”

@CDeBernardisTDN

Saratoga Perfection for Machmer Hall

The Brogdens' Machmer Hall Sales had a perfect seven-for-seven strike rate at the two-day Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, highlighted by a $720,000 daughter of Into Mischief (hip 131) purchased by Peter Brant's White Birch Farm and a $625,000 son of Medaglia d'Oro (hip 157) purchased by CRK Stable.

“I knew there was the potential for it to happen because they had the right action,” Carrie Brogden said.

Machmer Hall purchased the dam of hip 131, Astray (Bernardini), for $170,000 at the 2018 Keeneland January sale. And sold a Curlin colt out of the mare for $470,000 to Mike Ryan at last year's Keeneland September sale. Claire's Song (Unbridled's Song), the dam of hip 157, was purchased in foal to Gun Runner for $290,000 at the 2019 Keeneland January sale.

Medaglia d'Oro was a no-brainer for Claire's Song because that family just works so well with him,” Brogden said. “I have to thank Jim Fitzgerald–the three stakes winners she has produced since we bought her were all under his care and raising. Her Mo Clare (Uncle Mo) just won a $125,000 a couple of weeks ago. It was good timing.”

Machmer Hall had a pair of pinhooking scores during Monday's first session of the auction. The operation sold a colt by Classic Empire (hip 45), who was purchased last year for $50,000 at Keeneland November, for $240,000 to Hideyuki Mori. A filly by Audible (hip 43), purchased privately, was sold for $320,000 to My Racehorse.

“We bought the Audible privately for $65,000,” Brogden said. “I just thought she was a exquisite. We have a share in Audible and we have supported him every single year, breeding multiple mares to him. I just love what I am seeing. They all look fast and they have great minds.”

As for what type of yearlings Machmer Hall targets for Saratoga, Brogden said, “The walk. The most important thing is to have an athletic walk. The way the sale grounds are set up, everyone is watching these horses from all sides. When I am sitting at my consignment and I see another horse walk by me–I saw the Speightstown colt that brought $950,000 yesterday and when he walked back from the ring, I grabbed my catalogue asking, 'What the hell is that?' That is the kind of horse to bring here to Saratoga. The horses that, the more you look at them, the more you like them.”  @JessMartiniTDN

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