$2.3M Into Mischief Filly Leads the Way at Keeneland September

Session-topping Hip 92, an Into Mischief filly | Keeneland

by Jessica Martini & Christina Bossinakis

The Keeneland September Yearling Sale opened with a packed pavilion and plenty of bidding from a diverse buying bench ultimately producing eight seven-figure sales led by a $2.3-million daughter of Into Mischief. At the end of the session, numbers were largely in line with the figures from the opening session of last year's record-breaking auction.

“We were all biting our nails a little bit thinking about being measured up to last year's sale which was so phenomenal,” said Keeneland President Shannon Arvin. “But the numbers were very similar to last year's numbers.”

In all, 110 yearlings sold Monday for $55,330,000. The average was $503,000–up just slightly from last year's figure of $500,833. The median dipped 11.11% to $400,000.

From 191 catalogued yearlings, 148 went through the ring and 38 failed to meet their reserves for a buy-back rate of 25.68%. It was 20.83% last year.

“It is really, really good,” said Reiley McDonald, whose Eaton Sales sold a $1-million son of Into Mischief during the session. “It is running about 50% outs to buy-backs, but the other 50% are selling at 30% above what they would have in the last couple of years. The upper end is really good. Where we are really going to be tested is the middle end and the lower end because that's where I think the economy has been hit. This upper stuff is very strong.”

Sheikha Hissa made the session-topping bid in the name of the Shadwell Farm founded by her late father Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, purchasing the $2.3-million daughter of Into Mischief from the Gainesway consignment. Shadwell had perennially been a leading buyer at the auction prior to Sheikh Hamdan's death in 2021.

“We are delighted to welcome her and her whole team back,” said Arvin. “Shadwell is about to embark on an exciting new stage and we love her passion for the sport and the horse. It was an honor to have her back with us.”

Monday's top 13-priced yearlings were purchased by 12 distinct buyers.

“I think that's very encouraging,” Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy said of the diverse buying bench. “It's unhealthy if you have one or two entities coming in here and controlling the market. I think it's important that people come in here and feel they have a chance of getting something. Because they are spending quite a bit of money and they are able to gain some of the best bloodstock in the world.”

While the buying bench was deep, the stallion ranks were dominated by yearlings by Into Mischief and Uncle Mo, who combined to sire all eight of the session's seven-figure offerings and 11 of the top 13. The only other sires to make it into the top 13 was Into Mischief's GI Kentucky Derby-winning son Authentic and Constitution.

Keeneland has made an effort over the last two years to make its elite Book 1 section an event and officials were gratified by the large number of onlookers who created a buzz in the pavilion Monday.

“There was a lot of energy and it was so fun to see all of the people here,” Arvin said. “There were many buyers and people participating and then there were a lot of people who were just interested in seeing the sales process. Which was fun to see. We work really hard to make sure the community understands how important our sales are as well as our industry. So it was really fun to have so many people out here.”

Donato Lanni made the session's second-highest bid when going to $2 million to acquire a colt by Uncle Mo on behalf of Amr Zedan.

“The atmosphere has been amazing,” Lanni said. “Every year it gets better and better. There is a lot of quality and you see it improve every year. It's good to see people happy to get a horse sold and happy to buy one and doing what they love to do, which is buy horses. There is a lot of passion and a lot of love for the game. And people are fighting for the horses they love. It's great to see that.”

In an unintended consequence to the packed pavilion, last year's leading buyer Mike Repole and his team were briefly shut out of their preferred rows in the pavilion. After spending some of the session in the first row, the group, which included Repole, trainer Todd Pletcher, agent Jacob West and advisor Eddie Rosen, were able to move back to their traditional middle rows and ended the session with 11 purchases for $3.945 million. Leading the way was a colt by Quality Road colt (hip 144) purchased for $725,000. Repole was the session's leading buyer.

While Repole and Vinnie Viola partnered to be leading buyers in 2022, Repole partnered on just one of the 11 yearlings purchased Monday, spending $600,000 on a colt by Tapit (hip 96) acquired with Spendthrift Partners. Viola's St Elias Stables was not on the results sheet Monday.

Gainesway was the session's leading consignor with 12 yearlings sold for $9,610,000. In addition to the session topper, the farm also consigned two other million-dollar yearlings.

The second session of Keeneland September's Book 1 section begins Tuesday at 1 p.m. Book 2 sessions Wednesday and Thursday begin at 11 a.m. Following a dark day Friday, the 12-day auction continues Saturday at 10 a.m.

Into Mischief Filly Sparks 'Joy' for Aboughazale

In the horse racing business, the passing years often equate to a steady stream of blood, sweat and tears that, if one is among the fortunate, may culminate in dividends by virtue of the hard-earned experience. International Equities Holding's Oussama Aboughazale appears to have found the golden track, however, culminating with a filly (Hip 92) by Into Mischief that realized a session-topping $2.3 million from Shadwell on Day 1 at Keeneland September.

The filly was consigned by Gainesway, that sold 12 head Monday, including a trio over seven figures, leading all consignors with $9.6 million in gross receipts.

Gainesway's Brian Graves said, “I honestly thought she would bring every bit of $1.5 [million]. She's a top physical. She was one of the best-looking yearlings I saw this year. We thought that could happen. From the first time you looked at that filly, you thought that could happen. It's a pleasant surprise but not shocking.”

Only moments after the gavel fell, Aboughazale, situated out back, remained visibly moved by the recent events.

“That was satisfying but I have conflicting feelings,” he admitted. “I am happy we sold her at this price, but I am sad because she is a queen. She is the best thing we've ever bred in many years.”

He continued, “I put a good [reserve] on her, but I would have been sad if she actually sold for that price because I [would have] wanted to keep her.”

Of the buyers, he said, “I wish the best of luck to Sheikha Hissa. [Sheikh Hamdan], God bless his soul, he was a good customer of mine because he bought horses from us. So that makes me feel a little bit better [to let her go].”

In addition to Monday's session topper, Shadwell also purchased Hip 20, a filly by Uncle Mo out of Grade I winner Angela Renee (Bernardini) for $750,000. She was consigned by Taylor Made.

Shadwell Farm manager Jonny Smyth, added, “We have the sister [by War Front] so we are excited to have purchased this filly as well. Sheikha Hissa is happy to be here and we expect to be active again tomorrow.”

Fit for a Queen…

The Feb. 20 session-topping filly is out of Grade III-scorer Delightful Joy (Tapit), a $105,000 OBSAPR purchase by Bradley Thoroughbreds, who was later picked up for $700,000 by Aboughazale at Keeneland January in 2017.

As a broodmare, the mare realized a quick return with a filly by War Front that brought $1 million from Shadwell at Keeneland September in 2019. Only two years later, the operation sold Window Shopping (American Pharoah)–a $700,000 buy for agent Steve Young–that would go on to win the GII Summertime Oaks. Out of GSW and GISP Graeme Six (Graeme Hall), Delightful Joy is a half-sister to GSW Cali Star (Street Cry {Ire}) and stakes winner Seymourdini (Bernardini).

“The dam is a lovely mare that has a lot of class,” Aboughazale continued. “And she is producing very nice horses.

“Thank God for us, she is very straightforward and is producing very beautiful babies.”

The operation is selling a total of 16 yearlings at Keeneland this year, including seven head in Book 1.

Anatomy of Success

Relatively speaking, Aboughazale has developed a most enviable broodmare band in a fraction of the time that many others have taken to assemble their own band stateside. The native of Jerusalem spent much of his youth surrounded by horses, albeit of a different color. While Arabians occupied much of his initial connection to the horse, Thoroughbreds became his primary passion following a visit to Kentucky a quarter of a century ago. Bitten by the bug, he purchased the former Belvedere Farm in 2016, and it didn't take long for him to realize two important milestones: selling his first $1-million yearling in 2019 and breeding his first Grade I winner, courtesy of 2020 Del Mar Debutante S. heroine Princess Noor (Not This Time).

Oussama Aboughazale and Frances Relihan at a past sale | Keeneland

Aboughazale also enjoyed some of his earliest successes with a horse he bred, Protonico (Giant's Causeway), a four-time graded stakes winner and dual Grade I-placed for Todd Pletcher in 2014-16.

“We are evolving all the time because [bloodstock manager] Frances [Relihan] is very strict,” he said. “She cuts from the bottom, and I don't look at the prices that we sell the mares for because it makes me upset. But we're always trying to improve [the broodmare band]. We're trying to develop next generations. That's important to us.” @CbossTDN

Lanni Signs for $2-Million Uncle Mo Colt

With three-quarters of Monday's yearlings having already gone through the ring, the temperature skyrocketed with a string of seven-figure yearlings going through the ring in rapid succession. Earning the distinction as the top-priced colt of the day, a yearling by Uncle Mo realized a $2-million final bid from agent Donato Lanni, bidding on behalf of Amr Zedan.

“He is beautiful Uncle Mo and the boss loved him,” explained Lanni. “Zedan [Racing] and Bob [Baffert] have been very lucky with that sire.”

Uncle Mo is the sire of Zedan's 'TDN Rising Star' Arabian Knight, wire-to-wire winner of the GI FanDuel Racing Pacific Classic.

He added, “Bob loved him as soon as he saw him. He is a beautiful horse so we were happy to get him.”

Consigned by Runnymede Farm, Hip 154 is out of Helena Bay (GB) (Johannesburg), the dam of GI Pacific Classic winner Collected (City Zip), who was also trained by Baffert. Additionally, the mare produced Helena's Triomphe (Arch), herself responsible for SW Artilena (Artie Schiller).

The colt was bred by a partnership of Runnymede Farm, Peter Callahan and Three Chimneys Farm.

Clearly overjoyed with selling the day's second-highest priced yearling, Runnymede's Romain Malhouitre said, “Imagine selling your horse for $2 million, there's no words for that. The horse has been awesome since he arrived on Thursday. He showed very well. We knew we had plenty of interest, but you never know. So, we are delighted that everybody believed in the horse and the breeders and the land.

“A few people told us that he was one of the best colts of the sale for day one. And we thought we had a good horse and they told us. But, you know, they won't tell you what they are willing to spend.”–@CbossTDN

Winchell Comes Out Swinging for Into Mischief Colt

No stranger to the winner's circle these days, owner Ron Winchell parlayed some of those winnings into new blood, extending to $1.4 million for Hip 145, a colt by Into Mischief.

Consigned by John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale at Xalapa, who also bred the colt in partnership with Matt Dorman, the Feb. 10 foal is out of the Ghostzapper mare Guarana, who earned over $1 million, annexing a trio of Grade I stakes during two seasons on the track. Guarana is a half to SW Beatbox (Pioneerof the Nile) and Grade II-placed Magic Dance (More Than Ready). The colt's third dam is GI Breeders' Cup Distaff heroine Pleasant Home (Seeking the Gold), a sister to MGSW and GISP Country Hideaway.

“Obviously, he is the first foal out of an amazing racemare,” said Winchell. “We're the lucky or unlucky ones to be the last ones with our hand up. Dr. Lambert, with Equine Analysis, loved him and that's all I needed to hear.”

Regarding the obvious appeal of the pedigree, Winchell qipped, “Do I need to say anything about Into Mischief?”

According to Winchell, the colt will go to team Steve Asmussen.

Offered with this foal in utero at Fasig-Tipton November in 2021, Guarana was purchased by Hill 'n' Dale for $4.4 million.

“It's a great result for a great mare,” affirmed Sikura. “Into Mischiefs are obviously magical horses. No matter the sire, you have to meet the scrutiny of the buyers at the upper end. The horse moved very well. Has a lot of bone, looks sound. One of the astute guys in the business who has had great success bought him. I hope this is his next big horse. We're excited and happy.”–@CbossTDN

Sonson Continues Buying Spree

Chuck Sonson partnered with West Point Thoroughbreds to purchase his first yearlings last month at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale and got back into the action Monday at Keeneland, going to $1.35 million to acquire a colt by Uncle Mo (hip 94) in partnership with Woodford and West Point.

“We have a partnership that is killer,” Sonson said as West Point's Terry Finley signed the ticket on the youngster. “We think this colt is going to be a big winner. So we are very excited about him. We purchased six at Saratoga and we are looking to fill the barn up the rest of the way.”

Sonson's purchases at Saratoga were led by a colt by Twirling Candy (hip 140) acquired for $1 million.

Sonson, who owns an aviation company, was enjoying his first trip to Lexington.

“I love Lexington,” he said. “This is the first time I've been here. I am getting into the racing thing and enjoying it a lot.”

Hip 94 is out of Diva Delite (Repent), who is the dam of champion Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) and this year's GIII Indiana Derby and GI Toyota Blue Grass S. runner-up Verifying (Justify). The yearling was bred by Hunter Valley Farm and David Fennelly's Mountmellick Farm, which purchased the mare for $1.2 million while she was carrying Verifying at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton November sale.

“I am absolutely delighted,” Fennelly said of the result. “He was a stunning individual. And of course, his family speaks for itself.”

Hunter Valley and Mountmellick sold Verifying for $775,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale.

In foal to Gun Runner, Diva Delite RNA'd for $775,000 at last year's Keeneland November sale.

“She has a Gun Runner by her side and we decided not to breed her this year and give her a break,” Fennelly said. “We will catch her early next year.” @JessMartiniTDN

Uncle Mo Colt a Score for Christophersons

When Neal and Pam Christopherson's Bar-C Racing Stables sold a filly by Uncle Mo for $700,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September sale, the Oregon-based operation quickly reinvested the proceeds to purchase the unraced Forever for Now (War Front) in foal to the Coolmore stallion for $210,000 at that year's Keeneland November sale. The Christophersons were rewarded again when the mare's Uncle Mo yearling (hip 130) sold to M.V. Magnier for $1.35 million at Keeneland Monday.

“He was a very pretty, beautiful-moving colt,” John Penn, whose Penn Sales consigned the yearling on behalf of Bar C Racing Stables, said. “If he can run, he will make a stallion. He was born a smaller version of what he is. All we did was not get in his way.”

While Penn wasn't involved in the purchase of Forever for Now, who is a half to group-placed Carlisle Bay (Galileo {Ire}), he explained of the Christophersons, “They sold an Uncle Mo previously for a lot of money and needed to buy a mare and they bought this mare in foal to him.”

He continued, “Right now [the Christophersons have] two mares at my place and I think they have several in Oregon.”

Penn Sales was making a rare Book 1 appearance Monday at Keeneland and was enjoying its first seven-figure sale.

“When you have a horse like this, it moves you up,” Penn said. “He would have moved anyone up. We are normally in the middle, but Keeneland was good enough to allow us to compete when we had the horse that would do it. And that's special.”

Magnier was making his first purchase of the Keeneland sale with hip 130.

“He is a very nice horse,” Magnier said. “[Longtime Coolmore adviser] Paul Shanahan really liked him when he saw him the other day. He is a nice athletic horse. He will stay here [in the U.S.] for the time being.” @JessMartiniTDN

A 'Grand' Day 1 at KEESEP

It didn't take long during the opening session of this year's Keeneland September Sale for things to hit full tilt with the sale of the first seven-figure yearling on the afternoon. A member of the Gainesway consignment, Hip 18, a colt by Into Mischief, realized $1.1 million from Robert Clay, bidding on behalf of Grandview Equine.

Gainesway's Brian Graves said, “That's a good way to get started. It was a little north of what we thought. There was a lot of drama leading up. There are always a lot of people with different opinions. It worked out on the pleasant side.”

He continued, “As an individual the horse, he was drop-dead gorgeous and by the right sire and out of a Grade I winner–a young mare who was precocious.”

The Mar. 31 foal is out of American Gal (Concord Point), a full-sister to SW and MGSP Americanize, who garnered just a tick under $1 million on the race track courtesy of five wins, headed by the GI Longines Test S. and GI Humana Distaff S. This represents the extended family of dual Grade I winner Seventh Street (Street Cry {Ire}) and G1 Golden Shaheen victor Reynaldothewizard (Speightstown).

The bay was bred by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, who secured dam American Gal from the Hill 'n' Dale draft for $3 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale in 2018.

“There were a lot of top people on the horse and we thought something like that might happen,” said Graves. “It's good to see Mandy Pope selling million-dollar horses.”

The first foal to sell out of the 9-year-old mare was a colt by Curlin, who brought $500,000 at this venue last season. A family obviously replete with money, granddam GSP American Story (Ghostzapper) also made headlines in the sales ring, realizing $2.2 million at Fasig-Tipton November in 2017. An Into Mischief filly out of American Story (Hip 19) brought $575,000 shortly after American Gal's colt exited the ring.

“He is a really nice colt out of a great family,” Clay said, explaining the decision to extend on the colt. “He went for plenty of money, but he really checked all the boxes for us.”

And the yearling is exactly the type of horse that fits the Grandview program.

“We're looking for balance and athletic horses,” Clay said. “He's a picture.”

During Monday's session, Grandview also purchased Hip 35, a colt by Nyquist who bought $400,000.

When asked about the overall market thus far, Clay added, “I think the energy here is great. And I think it'll get stronger as the sale goes on. There are a lot of people here and plenty of money around. And that's the result of a really good catalogue.”

In 2013, Clay sold Three Chimneys to Goncalo Borges-Torrealba before returning five years later under the Grandview banner, for which he is the general partner and manager. Included in the enterprise are partners Cheyenne Stable's Everett Dobson and the Roth family's LNJ Foxwoods.

Despite its relatively recent appearance on the scene, Grandview has enjoyed a banner year in 2023 with this season's Kentucky Derby champion Mage (Good Magic).–@CbossTDN

Stewart Stocking Up

John Stewart, who made his first racehorse purchase at the September sale last year, came back to the auction in a big way Monday, ultimately purchasing seven yearlings. Stewart, the founder and managing partner at MiddleGround Capital, made his biggest purchase when going to $1 million for a colt by Into Mischief (hip 147) consigned by Eaton Sales. Out of Halo Humor (Distorted Humor), the bay is a full-brother to Practical Joke.

Practical Joke has come on massively this year,” agent Gavin O'Connor said. “He's just come out with so many good horses–Practical Move and Ways and Means was second in the GI Spinaway S. a couple of weeks ago. He's had some really impressive winners. Into Mischief is a sire of sires, we got one earlier, we loved him and we loved this horse physically as well. We have a superstar colt that if he goes on to the top level, it's a huge opportunity.”

Once O'Connor was done extolling the yearling's virtues, Stewart asked, “Now, do you want the true story?

“The true story was this horse wasn't on the list,” Stewart admitted. “And Gavin was shipping our other horses and I texted him and said, 'Gavin, I just bought Practical Joke's brother for $1 million.'”

Bred by SF Bloodstock and Tuscany Bloodstock, hip 147 was purchased by Clover Leaf Stables for $350,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton November sale.

Stewart, alongside agent O'Connor and manager Chelsey Stone, had already acquired a son of Into Mischief earlier in the session when going to $800,000 to acquire hip 83.

“Just from the moment I saw him, I thought he was an amazing representation of the stallion,” O'Connor said of that yearling. “The one word I wrote down on the page was 'wow.' I have seen so many Into Mischiefs and there are one or two that really stand out like he did and you just know that they are a 'wow' horse. That price indicates the wow I felt at the time.”

The colt, consigned by Clearsky Farms, is out of graded winner Daisy (Blame) and is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Botanical (Medaglia d'Oro).

“He looks like he has a stallion's pedigree,” O'Connor said. “He's a great big physical. We will be looking for an exciting future for him going into racing. He will most likely go to Michael McCarthy. We will keep him here in Kentucky with options to go west. We will keep open our channels to the Northeast and Florida, so we will have plenty of options.”

In addition to his two sons of Into Mischief, Stewart also purchased a colt by Constitution (hip 135) for $850,000; a colt by Curlin (hip 49) for $650,000; a filly by Uncle Mo (hip 45) for $350,000; a filly by American Pharoah (hip 129) for $350,000; and a colt by Omaha Beach (hip 177) for $350,000.

“We are starting our own farm,” he said. “We have a few more on the agenda. I have the easy part. Gavin and Chelsey do all the research. And I just buy them. We knew exactly what we were coming here for and what we would be leaving here with.”

Of his involvement in racing, Stewart said, “We bought our first filly here last year. I've been in Lexington for a long time and I've always wanted to get involved in the sport. I was married and my ex wouldn't let me get involved. We got divorced, so I got into horse racing.”

Last year, Stewart purchased Shiloh's Mistress (Vino Rosso) for $235,000.

Of his determined bidding style, Stewart said, “I'm not a bidder. I'm a buyer. Once I decide I'm going to buy a horse, I'm buying it. We are just trying to put bullets in the chamber because you got to have a lot of reps to potentially to get a horse in the Derby and that's what we are going to try to do.”

He added, “I do this everywhere I go. I was in Pebble Beach to buy a car and I bought 12. I don't do anything halfway.” @JessMartiniTDN

Curlin Colt a Sharp Purchase

George Sharp admitted he thought it was a bargain when he purchased a full-brother to GI Florida Derby winner Known Agenda (Curlin) for $280,000 at the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale earlier this year. He was proven right when the yearling returned to the Keeneland sales ring Monday as hip 49 and sold for $650,000 to Gavin O'Connor, agent for John Stewart.

“The plan was to resell if I got the right amount of money,” Sharp said. “And I got the right amount of money. I can't complain about 120% in eight months.”

The yearling, who was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, is out of Byrama (GB) (Byron).

Of the colt's appeal in January, Sharp said, “Obviously, the pedigree was outstanding. Curlins are probably the hottest things out there. He looks exactly like his brother–a 95% twin. At $280,000, I thought it was a steal. I was prepared to go to $400,000.”

Since January, the yearling, “has matured a ton and he still has some maturing to do,” Sharp said. “But he's grown. In the last six weeks, he's really come into himself. He is still a little immature. He has to get his mind a little straighter, but I would have no problem holding on to him.”

Sharp campaigns the likes of multiple stakes winner Front Run the Fed (Fed Biz), but admitted he had no problem letting the yearling sell Monday.

“No regrets,” he said. “I never regret making money.” @JessMartiniTDN

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