By Bill Oppenheim
After three days of selling, Keeneland September Book 1 totals looked much the same as last year's four-day Book 1. There were 5% fewer catalogued in Book 1 this year (724 vs. 762) and 7% fewer sold (443 vs. 473). The RNA rate rose from 27.3% to 30.9%, but with fewer withdrawals the clearance rate from the catalogue declined negligibly, from 62.1% of the Book 1 catalogue listed as sold last year to 61.2% listed as sold this week. Gross sales declined by a little under $7.8-million (5%), from $142,153,000 to $134,361,000, while the average gained 1%, from $300,535 at the 2014 sale to $303,928. Essentially, the sale was the same, but with 5% fewer horses–not a big drop, certainly, but continuing the trend of shrinking the catalogue to maintain the average. That translates to fewer buyers for Book 1 horses, along with a 3.6% rise in the percentage of yearlings not sold. Eleven horses sold for $1-million or more this year, compared to 13 last year.
Of the 83 sires that had yearlings catalogued in Book 1, only 44 actually had two or more yearlings listed as sold. Of those 44, only 10 sires had two or more yearlings sell for an average higher than the overall sale average of $303,928, and only four averaged over $400,000. The marginal leader on average, though with just two sold, from four offered, was Juddmonte's superstar racehorse Frankel; he averaged $650,000, as two colts from his first crop sold for $500,000 and $800,000. The leaders among North American sires were Claiborne's War Front, with 19 sold/29 offered (66%) for an average of $636,842, and Gainesway's Tapit, with 29 sold/41 offered (71%), for an average of $540,172. Darley's Medaglia d'Oro, the number two sire in North America by progeny earnings, had 24 sold/33 offered (73%), for an average of $409,583. Tapit had the two highest-priced horses of the sale, but War Front had four sell for $1-million plus, the most of any sire.
Six sires averaged between $300,000-$400,000, headed by Coolmore's southern 'reverse shuttler' Fastnet Rock ($358,000), whose oldest foals in the Northern Hemisphere are four this year, and who has Group 1-winning 3-year-old fillies Qualify and Diamondsandrubies in his second NH crop. Three WinStar sires were among the other five to beat the sale average: Distorted Humor ($354,231); More Than Ready ($323,375); and Speightstown ($315,882). Also over $300,000 in average were 13 yearlings from the last crop by Taylor Made's Unbridled's Song ($340,385); and Darley's Bernardini ($327,273). It wasn't a million miles back to another group of sires that averaged not far under the sale average, namely: WinStar's Pioneerof the Nile ($296,364); Lane's End's Lemon Drop Kid ($295,000); Darley's deceased Street Cry ($294,000): Claiborne's second-crop sire (first 3-year-olds) Blame ($286,667); and Spendthrift's Malibu Moon ($284,688).
WinStar sire Bodemeister, by Empire Maker, was the top North American first-year sire with two or more sold in Book 1, with an average of $284,412 for 17 sold/25 offered (68%). Airdrie's Creative Cause, by Giant's Causeway, had only two sell of five offered, but those two averaged $275,000. Lane's End's Union Rags ($232,500) had eight sell in Book 1 (of 15 offered); he was the only other first-year sire with more than four to sell in Book 1. The others that averaged over $100,000 (again, two or more sold) were: Ashford's Stay Thirsty ($206,667); Darby Dan's Shackleford ($200,000); Gainesway's Tapizar ($196,667); Lane's End's The Factor ($182,500); Gainesway's To Honor And Serve ($153,333); and former Ashford (now South Korea) resident, Hansen ($123.333). All of the above had three sell in Book 1, with the exception of The Factor, who had four.
Now that the $300,000 horses are out of the way, for a lot of people the sale begins today in earnest: nine days, 3,440 horses in Books 2-6. Because of Book 1 shrinking from four days to three, we won't be comparing 'day five' (actually new 'day four') to 'day five', rather from now on out it's 'Book 2, first day 2015' vs. 'Book 2, first day 2014'. That day–today– grossed $35.6-million last year, and averaged $121,206. Tomorrow (Book 2, second day) grossed $28.4-million and averaged $113,720. One feature of the 'back books' the last three years has been the much improved clearance rate; including both withdrawals and not-solds, 72.8% of the yearlings catalogued after Book 1 sold in 2012 and, even more impressive, 72.5% of those catalogued sold in 2013, when the entire sale rebounded by 46% in gross over 2012. That clearance rate dropped four points in 2014, to 68.6%, so a key metric to watch is how close to 70% of those catalogued actually sell.
We'll be back next Wednesday with a recap of Books 1-3, in the meantime we'll be all a-Twitter with any notable sire commercial breakouts.