Keeneland April Horses of Racing Age Sale Monday

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American Bound | Coady

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The Keeneland April Horses of Racing Age–an amalgamation of live and digital auctions–will be conducted Monday, with bidding beginning at 1 p.m. The auction will be held with live auctioneers at the Keeneland sales pavilion and with horses presented for sale both physically at Keeneland and at off-site locations. Buyers have the option of attending the sale live or of bidding online.

Elite Sales will offer 10 horses at the auction and all but one will be on-site Monday afternoon. The racing/broodmare prospect Mary's France (Fr) (Acclamation {GB}) (hip 4) is entered to run at Churchill Downs Tuesday and will remain at Mike Maker's barn in Louisville. She will be one of just two offerings in the auction not on the Keeneland grounds Monday.

“We are not expecting much from the digital sale,” Elite's Brad Weisbord said Sunday. “We have had no success with it to date. We are going to try Mary's France on there and the main reason to try her in the digital sale is because she is entered on Tuesday at Churchill Downs and we didn't want to take the chance of shipping her down, showing her for two or three days and potentially not having her run her race. And you never know what can happen in this environment, so it's not fair to a trainer to ship her back to his barn to run her. The owners decided against shipping her down here, so she is going to go in the digital portion of the sale.”

The remainder of the Elite consignment will be on hand at Keeneland for the sale.

“We have encouraged the owners to have the horses on site,” Weisbord said. “I think COVID put a delay into the takeoff of the digital sales. Outside of [subsequent stakes winner] Fiya (Friesan Fire) who sold at Wanamaker's [for $400,000 last July], there really hasn't been a racehorse that has broken out yet. If you have an exceptional horse, people will go to the racetrack and find it. But we have a lot of $60,000 to $175,000 horses and I think those sort of models do better in person.”

Keeneland unveiled its digital sales last year, but the auctions have yet to find traction in the marketplace. Weisbord thinks the concept will eventually pay dividends.

“If you have a superstar, people will find a way to have somebody see it,” he said. “That's the sort of horse who would do well in the digital sales. Outside of that, I think it's going to take a little time to introduce it to the marketplace. It's been so well received in Australia and I think when people are allowed to travel again–COVID has prevented a lot of people from getting into racetracks, getting into training centers–it will take off. It's so hard to get to see these horses, watch them train, talk to the trainers. I do think there is hope, but we are probably a year or a year plus away from really having it take off.”

Two fillies in Elite's consignment are coming off recent wins at Keeneland, with Brooke Marie (Lemon Drop Kid) (hip 48) taking a turf NW2X allowance Apr. 17 and A Thing of Beauty (Bernardini) (hip 41) winning a turf maiden Apr. 7.

“It was really easy to keep them here at their barns with Todd Pletcher and Jonathan Thomas and ship over to us just this week,” Weisbord said. “We did have a couple others ship up from New York and Florida to us. I am excited that most of the owners trusted us to bring them onsite. That's important because I think that will help these horses sell tomorrow.”

Weisbord sees plenty of upside for buyers looking for horses ready to run.

“Every horse of ours is eligible for at least an allowance condition, some are maiden conditions and almost all of them are 2X eligible. That's going to be a big deal. The Del Mar Ship and Win rules have changed. You can now earn the Ship and Win bonus throughout the entire meet, not just the first race. We have heard a couple buyers say that that's a very interesting change that they've made, so people are going to be potentially buying for that meet. And now with the purses in New York being close to $100,000 for these allowance races, these horses are always going to fit that model.”

Of the activity at the barn Sunday, Weisbord said, “We have seen 15 to 20 shows on a horse. It's the same faces from Kentucky. A lot of people just got back from the OBS sale, especially if they stayed in Florida for an extra day or so, so they will be coming back today. We have seen the right traction from the local agents.”

When Keeneland first hosted its April Horses of Racing Age Sale in 2019, it was twined with its revived 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale and was held at the beginning of the month and early in the track's spring meet. Weisbord said he thinks this new date will be well-received.

“I think the date change is a positive compared to two years ago when it was earlier in the meet,” he said. “When owners were allowed to come and enjoy the race meet, bring their friends, potentially stay for Derby week, I do think this could be a permanent date for Keeneland.”

The Horses of Racing Age catalogue also includes a pair of juveniles coming off wins at Keeneland. American Bound (American Freedom) (hip 40) gave her freshman sire his first victory when she won impressively Apr. 2. She is consigned by Joe Sharp, agent. Baytown Frosty (Frosted) (hip 77) broke his maiden Apr. 18. He is consigned by McEntee Racing and is entered in the Kentucky Juvenile S. at Churchill Downs Wednesday.

Selling off-site is hip 56, an unnamed 2-year-old colt by Quality Road. He is consigned by Claiborne Farm and is out of Fashion's Flight (Dixie Union), a full-sister to Justwhistledixie, who is the dam of GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day (Street Cry {Ire}) and Grade II winner Mohaymen (Tapit). The colt is at Harris Training Center in Morristown, Florida.

A total of 78 horses were catalogued for the April sale, but 30 had already been withdrawn by Sunday afternoon.

“Keeneland, like Fasig-Tipton, has been very amenable to entering horses 30-45 days out and allowing the owners to get a good result prior to the sale and allowing us to scratch these horses,” Weisbord said. “When you have to recruit these horses two months out, you are going to have a lot of outs because the horses are either going to fail vets or not run well prior to the sale. There is no point bringing horses like that to auction. It's still a select marketplace. Keeneland is not looking for a bunch of $20,000 horses. They are looking for $75,000 and up and that's what they are trying to recruit.”

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