By Jessica Martini
LEXINGTON, KY – The Keeneland September Yearling Sale lost none of its momentum during a dark day Friday, returning with an opening Book 3 section that featured strong demand from start to finish in Lexington Saturday.
During the session, 269 head sold for $45,003,000. The session average was $167,297–up 53.46% from last year's Book 3 opener which was held amidst the uncertainty of the pre-vaccination pandemic–and the median increased 58.82% to $135,000. With just 92 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate Saturday was 25.48%. It was 40.12% a year ago.
“I think the way people are landing on the same horses, people keep getting bumped and as they keep getting bumped, they still have money to spend,” said Chris Baker of Three Chimneys Farm, which sold two of Saturday's top four lots. “It's the nice ones you get rewarded for. For the buyers, there is not enough supply. So I think the money is still there for big numbers in this book. And the individuals are here, too.”
Through five sessions of the September sale, 889 yearlings have sold for $245,422,000. The average is $276,065 and the median is $200,000. The buy-back rate stands at 28.82%.
A filly by Curlin from the Eaton Sales consignment brought the day's highest price when selling for $800,000 to the bid of bloodstock agent Donato Lanni.
While Lanni continued to be active on behalf of the stallion-making partnership of SF Bloodstock/Starlight/Madaket, he purchased this filly on behalf of owners Karl and Cathi Glassman.
“It's been really hard to buy what you want,” Lanni said. “It's so competitive. It's so, so strong. The good ones bring that and more. Book 1, 2 and 3 have been strong. It's just carried over from the 2-year-old sales.”
Three Chimneys' standout freshman sire Gun Runner was represented by three of Saturday's top five lots, with trainer Kelsey Danner purchasing the stallion's top offering of the day when going to $775,000 on behalf of John Williams. The yearling was consigned by Denali Stud on behalf of Three Chimneys.
“I think that's the record for us in Book 3,” Denali's Conrad Bandoroff said of the price. “I can't think of us ever having a better result than that. The market is strong. I think what is amazing is that this is almost entirely a domestic market. The entire sale has been. We are missing some of the foreign participation that we are used to seeing, especially on some bigger ticket items. But the strength of the domestic market has been fantastic and I think there is evidence of that today.”
Jacob West, who made eight purchases Saturday on behalf of Mike Repole and St. Elias, expects the fireworks to continue as the sale heads into its second week.
“It's going to be this way through–you could have eight books–if they are good horses they are going to bring good money,” West said. “If they are deemed good by the public, they will bring a lot of money. So it's not stopping. You're going to see high-priced horses in Book 4, you might even see something in Book 5 if the right horse is there for everybody. I think really what you are going to see now is a lot of the pinhookers getting involved. I don't think they were able to buy anything in Book 1 and 2. I know a lot of them are still here and they are probably a little frustrated that they haven't been able to get what they want. They are here to shop.”
The Keeneland September sale continues through Friday with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.
Curlin Filly Lights Up Keeneland
As afternoon marched into evening Saturday at Keeneland, bloodstock agent Donato Lanni outlasted Jacob West to land a filly by Curlin (hip 1455) for a session-topping $800,000 on behalf of Karl and Cathi Glassman. The yearling was consigned by Eaton Sales on behalf of her breeder, Breeze Easy.
“I really wanted this filly,” Lanni said. “We have been outbid, like everybody else in this sale. She's a well-bred filly with sire power and pedigree and she was just amazing out there. We've just been getting outbid. I am so happy they let me buy her and they didn't make me stop. We've been stopping all week and they stuck in there and got her.”
The filly is out of graded placed Divine Elegance, a daughter of multiple graded winner Classic Elegance (Carson City).
Breeze Easy purchased Divine Elegance, in foal to Tapit, for $750,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November sale.
“We're very happy with that result,” Breeze Easy's Mike Hall said. “We loved the filly and we would have been happy if she hadn't sold. We are trying to build a breeding operation along with our racing operation. We feel like you have to sell some good horses to keep our operation going.”
Breeze Easy has enjoyed racetrack success with the likes of Imprimis, Four Wheel Drive, Light Night Pow Wow and Easy Time carrying the operation's colors to graded stakes success in North America and Shang Shang Shang earning Royal Ascot glory in the 2018 G2 Norfolk S.
“We go into it with the idea that we keep a few horses to race,” Hall said of the balance between selling and racing their homebreds. “We have to sell some of the better ones to build our breeding reputation. I think it was a good move for us to sell that filly. She was one of our favorite fillies. And I am very happy with that result.”
Of the filly's placement in Book 3, Hall added, “We debated between Book 2 and Book 3, but felt she could be a standout in Book 3 and that's why we did it.”
Three Chimneys Cashes in on Gun Runner Yearlings
Three Chimneys Farm and its streaking freshman sire Gun Runner had top billing during Saturday's session of the Keeneland September sale, with trainer Kelsey Danner, bidding for John Williams's J&J Stables, signing the ticket at $775,000 to secure a colt (hip 1254) from the Denali Stud consignment and bloodstock agent Jacob West going to $675,000 for a colt (hip 1266) from the Taylor Made Sales consignment. Through the Gainesway consignment, Three Chimneys also sold a filly by Gun Runner (hip 1098) for $435,000 to the bid of Steve Carr.
“I think Gun Runner is doing all of the heavy lifting, for sure,” Three Chimneys' Chris Baker said. “Obviously, his racing performance is influencing the sales. There are some very nice individuals going through today and there aren't a lot of them in the sale. There is still a very strong appetite for them based on what they are doing on the track. It's just super encouraging to see and to be a part of.”
Hip 1254 is out of the unraced Sapucai (Indian Charlie), a daughter of graded winner Smart Surprise (Smart Strike) and a half-sister to Canadian champion Moonlit Promise (Malibu Moon). Three Chimneys purchased the mare for $625,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September sale.
“We raised the colt and we loved him,” Baker said of the chestnut yearling. “We would have loved to stay in on him, but when the market speaks that loudly, you let it go. He's a very, very nice colt, but he exceeded expectations regarding commercial value.”
Hip 1266 is out of Secret Jewel (Bernardini) and is a half-brother to Twenty Carat (Into Mischief). Secret Jewel is a half-sister to GI Breeders' Cup F/M Turf winner Shared Account, dam of GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Sharing (Speightstown).
“It was a fairly similiar situation,” Baker said. “They were both big, strong good-moving colts, but different types. And he exceeded our expectations as well. We hope both colts continue to exceed expectations.”
From just his first crop to hit the racetrack, Gun Runner has already sired Grade I winners Gunite and Echo Zulu, as well as two other graded stakes winners.
“These two colts and the filly we sold first in the ring today, if we had known Gun Runner was going to be doing what he is doing, they would have been in Book 2, not Book 3. They were really Book 2 horses in Book 3 with where Gun Runner is today.”
Danner Gets Her Gun Runner
Trainer Kelsey Danner, bidding on behalf of John Williams's J&J Stables, went to $775,000 to acquire a colt by Gun Runner (hip 1254) Saturday at Keeneland.
“We expected it was going to go high,” Danner admitted. “Gun Runner is hot and this was a beautiful colt. He was good-sized, correct and athletic.”
“We got this one and a colt by Speightstown earlier and he's done now,” Danner said.
The Florida-based J& Stables is the breeder of multiple Grade I winner and leading sprinter Jackie's Warrior (Maclean's Music).
“We are going for colts, route horses, that's what we are looking for,” Danner said of her shopping list for Williams. “He just wants Classic route horses. He sold some, so now he's buying some.”
Danner, the daughter of trainer Mark Danner, served stints as assistant to trainers Carl Nafzger, Ian Wilkes, Rusty Arnold and Wayne Catalano, before taking out her trainer's license in 2017. She won the Allied Forces S. at Belmont Friday with Smokin' Jay (Cairo Prince) for Crown's Way Racing LLC.
Out of Sapucai (Indian Charlie), hip 1158 was consigned by Denali Stud on behalf of his breeder, Three Chimneys Farm.
“He came into us in beautiful shape,” said Denali's Conrad Bandoroff. “The entire team at Three Chimneys did an amazing job. And he was a standout. He was a standout in our consignment and he was a standout in this book. He was incredibly popular and had all the right people on him. I am thrilled for Kelsey Danner. That's fantastic that she got him. We wish her the best of luck. That was a tremendous result.”
Columbiana Gets in on the City of Light Show
Homer Rader and Kathy Berkey sat back and watched as first-crop sire City of Light made the Keeneland September sale his personal coming out party during Books 1 and 2, all the while knowing they had a good colt of their own by the Lane's End stallion waiting for Book 3. And the yearling (hip 1393) did not disappoint, selling for $760,000 to the internet bid of the powerhouse SF Bloodstock/Starlight/Madaket partnership.
Columbiana was selling the colt on behalf of breeder Keith Abrahams. He is out of Azure Spring (Open Forum), a mare Berkey purchased for Abrahams for $32,000 at the 2006 Keeneland November sale.
“Keith Abrahams has been a longtime client of ours,” said Rader, who has been manager of Robert Ochocki's Columbiana Farm since 1995. “We bought the mare for him and raised all of those foals. Kathy does all his matings.”
The 21-year-old Azure Spring is also the dam of multiple graded stakes winner Selcourt (Tiz Wonderful).
Of the yearling, Rader added, “This guy just jumped through all the hoops. He was a very special colt. Once we got him here, we knew he was special because everybody liked him.”
Berkey agreed watching how well yearlings by City of Light had been selling all week gave her plenty of optimism heading into Saturday's session.
“We were thinking anywhere from $300,000 to a million,” Berkey said of expectations for the yearling. “We've done horse sales for so long, how do you know? You just hope two people hook up and they keep going. And you have no idea for a colt like this.”
Of the colt's placement in Book 3, Berkey explained, “We have had good success in the past with Book 3. I have a theory that if you let everybody fight over the ones in Book 1 and 2, when you get to Book 3, especially the first day of Book 3, and there aren't very many left that are very nice, then they really have to fight over them because they know they are running out. That was the theory. I think a good horse will sell anywhere.”
Through five sessions of the September sale, the stallion-making SF Bloodstock/Starlight/Madaket partnership has purchased 20 yearlings for $9,835,000. Hip 1393 was the group's second yearling purchase by City of Light. Also Saturday, Lanni signed for hip 1138 for $440,000.
“Everyone's gone made over City of Light,” Lanni said. “He was a hell of a racehorse. They all look like racehorses.”
West Stays Busy
Bloodstock agent Jacob West continued his frenetic buying pace on behalf of Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola's St Elias during the fifth session of the Keeneland September sale Saturday. West went to $675,000 to acquire a colt by Gun Runner (hip 1266) from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment and $500,000 to acquire a colt by Practical Joke (hip 1232) from the Nursery Place consignment.
West has already had success buying a son of Practical Joke at the September sale. The agent purchased a colt by the Coolmore stallion on behalf of the same partnership for $575,000 at last year's auction and the youngster went on to be 'TDN Rising Star' and graded stakes winner Wit.
The agent said he saw similarities between the two colts.
“This was the first horse I saw on inspections,” West said. “I texted Mike Repole, Todd Pletcher, Vinnie Viola, and their teams and I said, 'I found the next Wit,'” West said. “If his stripe went down to his nostril, it would have been the same horse. He just reminded me so much of him when we bought him here as a yearling. The whole team loved him. Todd saw him before he left town and gave him the thumbs up, Rory Babich and Monique Delk, everybody was all on board. Mike and Vinnie were going to go home with this one no matter what. We are just excited to get him. When the horses line up and check everybody's boxes on our team, Mike and Vinnie get pretty strong on them.”
Through five sessions, West has purchased 32 yearlings on behalf of the partnership of Repole and Viola for a total of $13,775,000. He made eight of those purchases Saturday for $2,450,000.
The bay yearling, bred by the Mayer family's Nursery Place, is out of the unraced Queen of the Realm (Empire Maker), a daughter of graded winner Seeking Regina (Seeking the Gold) and a half-sister to graded winner Seeking the Sky (Storm Cat), dam of Grade I winner Sahara Sky (Plesant Tap). The mare, purchased by Nursery Place for $80,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November sale, has also produced stakes-placed Seeking Toussaud (Tap Day).
“He has been a very, very special, straightforward colt from day one,” said Griffin Mayer. “My biggest fear was coming in here with a second-crop sire. Gun Runner has been setting the world on fire. Practical Joke has obviously done enough and in any normal crop, he'd be the man. But I was a little hesitant about coming in here. I knew we had a really nice colt and it all lined up. He got vetted over 20 times and was very popular and he showed himself well out here and did a beautiful job. We had a really good Book 2 and I thought if it could spill over, this colt could really light it up and he did.”
Lanigan Strikes Late for Gun Runner Filly
The Gainesway consignment opened the fifth session of the Keeneland September sale with a pricey daughter of Gun Runner and, as bidding neared its apex Saturday night, the consignment featured another filly by the freshman sire with David Lanigan, bidding on behalf of Scott Heider, purchasing hip 1495 for $675,000.
“We are delighted to get her,” Lanigan said. “She has a great temperament and I thought she was the pick of the day. Obviously, it's been hard to get fillies this week and she was our number one pick today.”
The yearling, out of Happy Mesa (Sky Mesa), was bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds. The Winchell family's operation purchased the mare for $300,000 at the 2018 Keeneland January sale. She produced a colt by Gun Runner this year.
Of the filly's final price, Lanigan said, “With the way the week has gone, I thought it would take about that much to get her.”
The filly is expected to be trained by Gun Runner's trainer Steve Asmussen, according to Lanigan.
The Heider family, which races in Europe and the U.S., has been represented by graded winners Zofelle (Ire) and Thoughtfully and, in partnership Grade I winner Speech.
“[Heider] has a lot of horses with Joseph O'Brien [in Ireland],” Lanigan said. “He has two yearlings going over there this year. And he just wanted to have a 2-year-old for America next year. So we are happy to get her.”
Practical Joke Filly Pays for Pugh
WinStar Farm's Elliott Walden struck early in Saturday's third session of the Keeneland September sale to secure a filly by Practical Joke (hip 1148) for $520,000 from the Hunter Valley Farm consignment.
“She was a big, strong filly and I loved her pedigree,” Walden, who signed in the name of WinStar's Maverick and Siena Farm, said. “There are some high-quality horses on the page, like Flashback. We are trying to get some fillies that can race and wind up in the broodmare band.”
The yearling was purchased by Peter Pugh, on behalf of Margaret Duprey's Cherry Knoll Farm, for $90,000 at last year's Keeneland November sale.
“She was just a classy-acting filly who showed the same every time you took her out,” Pugh said of the youngster's appeal last fall. “You never know when you buy one when they are that young where they are going to go. But she was just straightforward and she is by a horse that I believed in. Practical Joke has been so popular and she grew into a very nice filly. She just seemed to have a lot of class to her.”
Pugh admitted the filly's final price came as a pleasant surprise.
“We thought she was a $300,000 to $400,000 filly, something like that,” he said. “But if you get the right people who are interested in the same horse, sometimes that's the outcome. You never expect that type of result. That's what makes them so special when they happen.”
Also Saturday, Walden purchased a filly by Speightstown (hip 1291) for Maverick and Siena for $190,000.
Saturday's competitive bidding came as no surprise to Walden.
“It's going to be tough on the good ones,” Walden said.
Gun Runner Filly Kick Starts Book 3
A filly by hot freshman sire Gun Runner (hip 1098), the first horse through the ring Saturday morning, got the first session of Book 3 off to a quick start when selling for $435,000 to the bid of veterinarian Dr. Steve Carr, bidding on behalf of Bob Delaney's Late Night Stables.
“She looks very, very athletic,” Carr said of the yearling's appeal. “She's a medium-sized filly with a beautiful walk and a great presence to her. I think that's the reason she brought so much.”
The yearling is out of stakes-placed If Not for Her (Not for Love), a half-sister to stakes winner and multiple graded placed Awesome Flower (Flower Alley). Her third dam is Well Dressed (Notebook), dam of G1 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed.
She was consigned by Gainesway on behalf of breeder Three Chimneys Farm, which purchased If Not For Her for $360,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.
Carr serves as racing manager for Centennial Farms, while also purchasing horses on behalf of clients related to that operation.
Of hip 1098's freshman sire, Carr said, “Gun Runner is great. We were hoping that our stallion Unified might be among the leading freshman sires, and he is, but Gun Runner has been great.”
In his own name, Delaney has campaigned stakes winner Five Star Rampage (Quality Road) and stakes-placed Lunar Gaze (Malibu Moon). He was also a partner on Centennial Farms' Corinthian (Pulpit), winner of the 2007 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and GI Metropolitan H..
“He usually has two or three horses a year,” Carr said of Delaney. “In New York, he uses [trainer] Jimmy Jerkens. In the Midwest, he uses [trainer] Tom Amoss. This one will probably go to Jimmy Jerkens.”