Fireworks As Keeneland Book 2 Opens

Session-topping hip 612 in the ring Keeneland

by Jessica Martini & Christie DeBernardis

LEXINGTON, KY – Bidding was fast and frenetic when the first of two Book 2 sessions of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale opened Wednesday in Lexington, producing the auction's highest-priced offering yet when a colt by City of Light (hip 612) sold for $1.7 million to the partnership of Woodford Racing, Talla Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds.

“That was amazing,” an ebullient Keeneland vice president of sales Tony Lacy said at the close of business Wednesday. “That was one of the best sale days we've seen in a while. Every time you picked up your head, there was a horse selling for $500,000 or $600,000.”

During the session, 211 yearlings sold for $60,996,000. The session average was $289,081–up 30.88% from the corresponding 2020 session–and the median was up 27.78% to $230,000. Of the 350 catalogued lots, 283 went through the ring and, with just 72 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 25.44%.

Through three sessions, 419 yearlings have sold for $151,618,000 for an average of $361,857 and a median of $290,000.

A year ago at this point in the sale, 394 yearlings had sold for $126,076,000. The cumulative average was $319,990 and the median was $250,000.

The September Sale results sheets continued to be punctuated by a diverse buying bench, with seven different buyers purchasing the day's top 10 lots from seven different consignors.

“I think the highlight for me is the depth of the market,” said Keeneland's director of sales operations Cormac Breathnach. “Aside from the million-dollar horses, we had 26 bring over half a million. They went to a very broad base of buyers, particularly domestic demand in today's case. We saw the new money go to work today. People are excited about what they are buying and are sticking around.”

The $1.7-million yearling, who could become the first from Book 2 and the first by a first-crop sire to top the September Sale in at least the last decade, was one of two to bring seven figures during the session. Mike Talla and West Point Thoroughbreds also teamed up to purchase the first North American million-dollar colt by Triple Crown winner Justify for $1.55 million. Woodford Racing and West Point had made the auction's previous top bid of $1.6 million when purchasing a son of City of Light's sire Quality Road Tuesday.

First-crop sire City of Light has been on fire at Keeneland September, accounting for a pair of million-dollar colts. Through the first three sessions, 19 yearlings by that Lane's End stallion sold for a gross of $9,315,000 and an average of $490,263. City of Light's sire and fellow Lane's End resident Quality Road was also responsible for a pair of seven-figure colts. Overall, 25 Quality Road yearlings have sold for $13.47 million with an average of $538,800.

Seven of the top 10 sellers Wednesday were from the first or second crops of their young sires and the top two lots were rewarding smaller breeders. Rosilyn Polan's Sunday Morning Farm was responsible for the $1.7-million colt and Jeff and Chiquita Reddoch's Stonehaven Steadings sold the $1.55-million colt.

“The two top prices today were homebreds from smaller breeders,” Lacy said. “That is a real score.”

While some sellers seem to be eschewing the boutique Book 1 section of the September sale for an increasingly competitive Book 2, Lacy said he thinks the reality is that Book 1 continues to attract top money. Lacy pointed out that the Book 1 median was $350,000, compared to Book 2's current median of $230,000.

“Book 1 is where the money is at,” Lacy said. “It does drop off, but you probably get more consistency through certain parts of [Book 2]. Book 1 gets a bad rap in certain ways. I thought yesterday was amazing, but today the clearance rate probably made it even better.”

Breathnach expects to see competitive bidding continue as Book 2 concludes with its second session Thursday.

“This [momentum] is hopefully going to last for a while because there are a lot of people here who haven't bought a horse yet and there is that whole second week [of buyers], who maybe haven't arrived yet. We are pretty optimistic about how this is going to see through to the end of the sale, but today was a great day for sure.”

The Keeneland September sale continues Thursday at 11 a.m. Following a dark day Friday, the auction runs through Sept. 24 with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.

Polan Hits One Out of the Park

Rosilyn Polan, who sold future graded stakes winner Wit (Practical Joke) for $575,000 at last year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale, shot past that previous personal best when a colt by City of Light brought a sale-topping final bid of $1.7 million from the partnership of Woodford Racing, West Point Thoroughbreds and Mike Talla.

“I can't even imagine how much money that is,” said Polan as she was bombarded by well wishers while walking back to her Barn 37. Larry Best, smiling broadly, bound over to congratulate the petite consignor, while consignor Chris Baccari shouted over, “You're the woman.”

The seven-figure yearling is out of Anchorage (Tapit), a mare Polan purchased privately four years ago.

“She is my favorite,” Polan admitted of Anchorage. “I know I have the dam of Wit, but I love her. And I have always had a lot of confidence in this colt. He was the first foal born on my farm last year and from that minute, I knew he was special.”

Anchorage has a weanling filly by Omaha Beach and was bred back to Game Winner.

Of the decision to send the multiple-stakes placed mare to City of Light, Polan explained, “It was a no-brainer. I booked sight unseen because he wasn't at the farm when I was there. He was at the racetrack. One of the guys said, 'I have a picture of him on the racetrack.' So he showed me on his phone and when I saw that beautiful big rear end, I said that was enough. I actually bred the dam of Wit [Numero d'Oro] back to City of Light.”

Polan has eight mares at her Sunday Morning Farm and credited her two-person team on the farm with preparing the colt for his sales success Wednesday.

Asked how she would celebrate the milestone sale, Polan said, “Clean stalls, turn out yearlings, clip ears, go to bed early and get up and ship tomorrow. I never have a bad day. I don't. My horses… you know there's always challenges. There's always death or sickness … but I'm always looking forward. They just fill me up. I'm still having fun. So now I'm going to have more fun.” @JessMartiniTDN

Talla, West Point Make a Statement

Mike Talla and West Point Thoroughbreds' Terry Finley, bidding out back, created the first fireworks of Wednesday's third session of the Keeneland September sale when going to $1.55 million to secure a son of Justify (hip 580), but the two men were far from done. Joined by Woodford Racing's Bill Farish just about a half-hour later, the duo went to a sale-topping $1.7 million to acquire a colt by City of Light (hip 612). Both colts will be heading west to the barn of John Sadler, who trains GI Santa Anita Derby winner Rock Your World (Candy Ride {Arg}) for Talla and Hronis Racing and undefeated 'TDN Rising Star' Flightline (Tapit) for West Point, Hronis Racing, Summer Wind Equine and Siena Farm.

“It was a full price but I knew we were going to have to stretch to get him,” Farish, whose family's Lane's End stands City of Light, said of the colt. “This horse could have been in Book 1 as easily as he is in Book 2. You can't let that cloud your judgment. He was a Book 1 type, no question about it. One horse doesn't determine the whole market, but he was exceptional.”

Woodford Racing and West Point teamed up to purchase a $1.6-million Quality Road colt during Tuesday's second session of the Keeneland sale.

“There aren't that many horses who give you that truly good feel that you're looking at an extremely good prospect,” said Finley. “There were a couple today that we bought that gave us that feel. It's good to have partners and to be in a position where we could take some swings at really good prospects like this.”

Of the increasing presence of partnerships at the top of the results sheets, Finley said, “These horses are very hard to buy, and I just couldn't do it without an immense amount of support and people who are in a position to take chunks. I don't necessarily abide by the notion that these partnerships are bad for the sellers, because oftentimes, you might get two of these groups [that bid against each other]. So everything evens out. You can't mess with the market. The market is what the market is.”

Talla, who made it to this year's GI Kentucky Derby with Rock Your World, is the co-founder of The Sports Club Company.

“We have a team together, John Sadler, David Ingordo and West Point Thoroughbreds,” Talla said after signing the ticket on the Justify colt. “We had our eye on two or three of them and we kept getting outbid. We had to make a stand somewhere and we really liked this one, so we went in for it. We will know next year if we made a mistake or not. Let's talk next summer and see if we are glad if we bought him or not.”

Talla also teamed with West Point to purchase a City of Light filly (hip 451) for $500,000.

Looking ahead, Finley said, “You just start dreaming with these kind of horses, and just hope you get lucky.” @JessMartiniTDN

Stonehaven Steadings Flexes Its Muscles

Jeff and Chiquita Reddoch's Stonehaven Steadings had its first million-dollar sale when, in partnership with de Meric Sales, it sold a Quality Road filly for a sale-topping $1.5 million at this year's OBS April sale. The operation enjoyed a second million-dollar transaction Wednesday at Keeneland when its homebred colt by Justify (hip 580) sold for $1.55 million to Talla Racing and West Point Thoroughbreds.

“Unreal. Just completely unreal,” Stonehaven Steadings' Leah O'Meara said after the colt left the sales ring. “The de Merics sold that horse down in Florida. While we still owned a large piece of him, they did that. This one was ours. It was really nice for our team. I can't wait to go back to the barn and celebrate with them.”

The bay yearling is out of graded-placed True Feelings (Latent Heat), a mare the Reddochs purchased for $210,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November sale. The mare is the dam of multiple stakes winner Feeling Mischief (Into Mischief) and graded-placed Royal Act (American Pharoah). She produced a Quality Road colt this year.

“We had two Justifys and we decided to split them up and put one in Book 1 and one in Book 2,” O'Meara said. “They were different types, both nice stretchy colts, but two different types. We thought highly of both of them, but you never know when you come out here who is going to be received the best. [Hip 580] was an absolute monster at the farm and he showed like a complete professional through every show. He never got tired. The colt we had in Book 1 [hip 224 who sold for $600,000] was lovely, but there were a lot of big-priced Justifys, so maybe it helped to be in Book 2. But I think this colt would have stood out anyway.”

The OBS April topper, now named Corniche, was tabbed a 'TDN Rising Star' following a debut victory at Del Mar for Speedway Stables and trainer Bob Baffert. Ten hips after selling the $1.55-million son of Justify, Stonehaven Steadings sold that filly's half-sister by Mendelssohn (hip 590) for $750,000 to her co-breeder Bart Evans.

“It was probably the most exciting thing I have experienced in this business,” Stonehaven Steadings' Aidan O'Meara said after watching the two yearlings go through the ring. “We are excited for everybody on the [farm and sales] team. It is a credit to them and their horsemanship. It might be one of the best crews in Kentucky for a farm of our size.”

Of the yearlings, O'Meara said, “We were high on them all along. There was a huge update for the filly. The colt has been one of our top two colts all along, but he really blossomed in the last two months. When you get here to the sale, some horses go in the opposite direction and some of them bloom and thrive and change. He is a big magnificent-striding horse. He was a class act all the way through. He improved every day and you could feel the momentum building with the serious players and the [veterinarians] getting involved.”

Stonehaven Steadings completed a highly profitable day at Keeneland Wednesday with a filly by City of Light (hip 645) who sold for $500,000 to West Point Thoroughbreds, Robert Masiello and Scarlet Oak Racing. The bay yearling is out of Canny (Big Brown), who was claimed for $15,000 at Fair Grounds in 2019. @JessMartiniTDN

Gun Runner, the Gift That Keeps on Giving for Winchell

Gun Runner carried the Winchell Thoroughbred colors to 12 victories and just shy of $16 million in earnings and has proven equally talented in the breeding shed. The chestnut shot to the top of the freshman sire rankings with a pair of Grade I winners at Saratoga, both of whom are owned and bred or co-owned by Winchell.

The Three Chimneys stallion provided his part-owner with another success Wednesday when a Winchell-bred son of Gun Runner (hip 574) summoned $975,000 from Jacob West, acting on behalf of Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable.

“He was a really nice colt,” said Winchell. “I wanted to stay in on him. That probably won't happen at this point. I like to support our horses.”

Winchell was quick to thank West, who pointed to trainer Todd Pletcher and said, “You need to thank that guy right there.”

“You probably can't name a hotter stallion or a stallion that has gotten off to a hotter start than him,” West said of Gun Runner. “The colt looks like his dad. The whole team loved him. He is by Gun Runner and out of a Tapit mare and that is a pretty good combo, we hope. You can't get any hotter with the stallion or the broodmare sire. We are excited to get him.”

As for the price, West said, “He was kind of the talking horse around. So, we knew he'd bring good money. That was right about what we thought he would bring. We knew we were going to have to fight off some pretty serious competition.”

Hip 574 is out of the unraced Time to Tap (Tapit), who is a full-sister to Winchell's champion filly and GI Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable. A half to Grade I-winning stallion Paddy O'Prado (El Prado {Ire}), Untapable is a daughter of GSW Fun House (Prized).

Fourteen Gun Runners yearlings have sold through the first three days for a total of $5.845 million and average of $417,500.


Mendelssohn Filly to LNJ Foxwoods

A filly from the first crop of Grade I winner Mendelssohn (hip 603) will be joining the roster of the Roth family's LNJ Foxwoods after selling for $900,000 to the bid of bloodstock agents Jason Litt and Alex Solis Wednesday at Keeneland.

The filly is out of the unraced Acrobatique (Discreet Cat), who is a half-sister to LNJ Foxwoods' champion Covfefe (Into Mischief). She was consigned by Gainesway on behalf of breeder Alexander-Groves Thoroughreds.

“Of course the pedigree is there, but the physical is there too and she was awesome the whole time,” Solis said. “She stands up conformationally. She has a great walk on her and a lot of body. She looks fast.”

Of the power-packed opening session of Book 2, Solis said, “It's been really strong. We loved the Quality Road filly that Donato bought earlier in the day and when she brought $850,000, I knew this was probably going to be more.” @JessMartiniTDN

Courtlandt Strikes for Gun Runner

Don and Donna Adam's Courtlandt Farm was very active in Book 1 and made their presence known late in the opening session of Book 2 when going to $875,000 for a colt by leading freshman sire Gun Runner (hip 679). Lane's End consigned the filly for Jon Clay's Alpha Delta Stables.

“We liked everything about that colt,” said Courtlandt Farm manager Ernie Retamoza, while seated alongside former Lane's End farm manager Mike Cline, who was also sporting a Courtlandt Farm hat. “He was a great physical. The way the Gun Runners are coming out running, they are tough to buy. You saw what we had to give for him, but we are glad we got it done.”

Reynolds Bell went to $2.15 million to secure hip 679's second dam, MGSW & GISP Broadway's Alibi (Vindication), on Clay's behalf, carrying a foal by Smart Strike at the 2013 Keeneland November Sale. The resulting foal was the colt's dam, the unraced Distorted Lies (Smart Strike). Broadway's Alibi is a half-sister to MGSW Golden Lad (Medaglia d'Oro) and MSW & GISP R Gypsy Gold (Bernardini). This is also the family of GISW sire Dialed In.

Courtlandt Farm has purchased a total of 10 yearlings through the first three sessions for $6.175 million. @CDeBernardisTDN

SF/Starlight/Madaket Partners Stay Busy

The stallion-making partnership of SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables continued its busy buying pace during Wednesday's third session of the Keeneland September sale, going to $850,000 to acquire a colt by Curlin (hip 466). The yearling was consigned by Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck's Summerfield on behalf of breeder Stonestreet.

“He's a very well-bred horse. He's by Curlin, a stallion we really admire and out of a mare that looks like she has the potential to be a very good mare at this point,” said SF's Tom Ryan.

The chestnut colt is out of graded stakes winner My Wandy's Girl (Flower Alley), who won the GII Barbara Fritchie H. before being purchased by Stonestreet for $700,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.

Her 2-year-old colt My Prankster (Into Mischief), who sold for $600,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase, romped home a 10-length debut winner at Saratoga Aug. 21 for Robert and Lawana Low and was named a 'TDN Rising Star'.

“My Prankster looks like a good colt,” Ryan said. “We definitely noticed the 2-year-old winning as well as he did and we admired him last year at the yearling sale. This colt looks like a very nice two-turn colt. He'll go to California to Bob Baffert.”

The partnership's four purchases Wednesday also included a $775,000 colt by Good Magic (hip 607), a $675,000 son of Uncle Mo (hip 573), and a $440,000 colt by Twirling Candy (hip 560).

Through three days, the group has purchased 10 yearlings for $6,265,000.

Another emerging partnership making a big impact at the September sale is the BSW/Crow Colts Group, which purchased 10 lots Wednesday for $2,605,000. Through three sessions, bloodstock agents Liz Crow and Brad Weisbord, bidding alongside trainer Brad Cox, have purchased 13 yearlings for the partnership for a total of $3,955,000. @JessMartiniTDN

Quality Sale For Town & Country Farms

Town & Country Farms had a strong showing in Book 1 of Keeneland September, selling an $850,000 Into Mischief colt (hip 53) and a $350,000 Quality Road (hip 113), and Louise Courtelis's operation sparked the first fireworks of Book 2 when their homebred filly by Quality Road (Hip 465) summoned $825,000 from Donato Lanni, acting on behalf of Susan and Charlie Chu's Baoma Corp. The filly was consigned by Taylor Made.

“She has been very lucky with fillies,” said Lanni of Susan Chu, who has campaigned Grade I-winning fillies Bast (Uncle Mo) and Varda (Distorted Humor). “She is a very fun owner. She and Charlie are very game. Hopefully she is like the other good fillies that we have had for her. They are really good people to work for.”

He continued, “[Hip 465] is just beautiful. She is a quiet filly, well made and has everything we wanted.”

Hip 465 is the first foal out of MSW & GSP My Miss Chiff (Into Mischief), a half-sister to MSW Silvercents (Goldencents). A $110,000 FTKJUL purchase by King's Equine, she carried the Town & Country silks to four wins from nine starts and just under $200,000 in earnings.

“Shannon [Potter] picked her out and flew all over to see her run and always believed in her,” said Kiki Courtelis, President of Town & Country, referring to the farm's CEO.

“She's a great mama,” said Potter. “She's been very good to us. That filly was really special, especially for a first foal. She checked all the boxes for everyone. She had a big walk to her. We thought breeding her to Quality Road might have been a stretch in stud fee, but she has paid us back tenfold from the time we raced her all the way up to selling the first baby out of her.”

He added, “This baby has gotten better and better. She was always a good foal. It was great.”

Lanni also purchased Town & Country's $850,000 Into Mischief colt for the group known as the Avengers. The colt was out of GSP Majestic Presence (Majestic Warrior).

“We sold another one for $850,000,” Potter said. “That was probably 1 and 1A for the crop that we had going through. I thought the Into Mischief colt was the best colt that we have raised at Town & Country so far. Martine is our yearling guy and he is one of a kind. He has a special hand with horses and whenever he hooks on one and really likes it, we know it is the real deal.” @CDeBernardisTDN

City of Light's Connections Strike For One of His Daughters

City of Light's trainer Michael McCarthy signed the $750,000 ticket on a filly (hip 636) from his initial crop on behalf of the stallion's owners Mr. & Mrs. William K. Warren. McCarthy was also the underbidder on the $1.7-million City of Light colt who is the current sale topper.

“I loved this filly,” McCarthy said. “I saw her the other day and have been thinking about her for the last 24 hours. We tried earlier on the [sale topper]. We went a fair ways with him. We were unlucky, but he has obviously gone to a good home. This filly reminds me of the filly we purchased in Saratoga.”

The conditioner continued, “[The City of Lights] have plenty of scope, plenty of class. She showed herself wonderfully in the back ring. She took it all in. It's amazing. You are so close to them for so many years and then you try to jump back in. They are in so demand. We are grateful to have to pay a premium. She has good residual value.”

Hip 636 is out of Birdie Birdie (El Prado {Ire}), who breeder and consignor Nursery Place purchased for $160,000 carrying a Twirling Candy foal at the 2016 KEENOV sale. She is also responsible for MGSW Free Rose (Munnings) and SP Sylven Park (Wildcat Heir).

McCarthy has been pleased to see such a high demand for the offspring of City of Light both this week and at last month's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale.

“It is wonderful to see,” McCarthy said. “It is always nice to play a small part in a horse like him and I am glad to see he is carrying it on in his second career.” @CDeBernardisTDN

Evans Buys Out Partner on Mendelssohn Filly

Bart Evans teamed up with Stonehaven Steadings to breed a Mendolssohn filly out of his MGSW & GISP-placed mare Wasted Tears (Najran) (hip 590). He loved her so much he couldn't part with her, going to $750,000 to buy out his partners.

“I liked the mare,” Evans said. “I raised her, trained her, ran her and bred her. I don't have a filly out of her. She had one we had to put down this year and now she is going to be 17. I want the blood and I liked her. She reminds me of her mother with her attitude and her looks.”

Evans purchased Wasted Tears's dam Wishes and Roses (Greinton {GB}) for just $20,000 at Keeneland September back in 1992. Wasted Tears won 12 of her 22 starts–with half of those wins coming in graded stakes–for her owner/breeder/ trainer and earned $941,463. Wasted Tears is also the dam of $1.5-million OBS April topper Corniche (Quality Road), who romped to 'TDN Rising Star'-dom on debut at Del Mar Sept. 4.

This is the first crop for GISW Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy), who was a $3-million KEESEP topper and is a half-sibling to future Hall of Famer Beholder (Henny Hughes) and superstar sire Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday). Another Mendelssohn summoned $900,000 from Solis/Litt just a few hips later (hip 603).

“I like Mendelssohn,” said Evans. “I saw him when they got him and, my God, I think he was the best-looking horse I've ever seen. They took him all over the world. I looked at all the Mendelssohns I could to see how they are, but she showed more of her mother than they did.” @CDeBernardisTDN

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