by Jessica Martini & Brian DiDonato
LEXINGTON, KY – The Keeneland September Yearling Sale lost none of its momentum following a dark day, with the two-session Book 2 opening with strong trade Friday in Lexington. The day was dominated by the Farish family's Lane's End Farm, which consigned the day's top three lots, and four of the top five, including the $1-million session topper by the farm's Union Rags, while Lane's End stallion Quality Road was responsible for two of the day's top four offerings.
The buying triumvirate of SF Racing, Starlight Racing and Madaket Racing, largely shut out of a competitive Book 1, purchased, along with various partners, five lots, including the million-dollar topper, a $900,000 son of Quality Road and a $800,000 Curlin colt.
“It was a solid start to Book 2,” said Keeneland's Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell. “We made a concerted effort with Book 2 this year to trim the numbers a little bit. We catalogued 367 horses, compared to over 410 last year. Our goal was to continue to keep the quality from Book 1 up as high as we could as we go into Book 2 and the numbers reflect that that worked very well.”
During Friday's session, 221 yearlings sold for $54,229,000. The average was $245,380 and the median was $210,000. With 94 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 29.84%.
While the revamped format of the September sale makes year-to-year comparisons inexact, Keeneland released figures comparing Friday's opening Book 2 session, and the auction's fourth overall, to the 2018 opening Book 2 session, which was the auction's fifth overall session. Last year's fifth session saw 284 yearlings gross $51,049,700. The average was $179,752 and the median was $140,000. The buy-back rate was 22.40%.
A total of 16 yearlings sold for $500,000 or over Friday.
“It was very vibrant and the last hour and a half was spectacular,” Russell said of Friday's trade. “But I thought all during the day, we saw some buyers left over from Book 1 and buyers buying a lot more horses than they could do in Book 1.”
In a Book 1 dominated by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation, SF/Starlight/Madaket purchased just two lots during the first part of the week. But the partners jumped into action with both feet Friday.
“I'm sure there are other people in the same position,” said SF's Tom Ryan. “If we are pushed back, it must be the same situation for most others. It's amazing when you see Sheikh Mohammed fly in here with his entourage. It's great for the market and for the business, but it also makes it hard to compete.”
The Mayer family's Nursery Place had its biggest sales result Friday when a colt by Quality Road sold for $900,000. That sale capped a perfect six-for-six day for the operation.
“It is a bull market, as they say,” Griffin Mayer said. “Today shows it. I thought we had a nice group, but this very much exceeded my expectations.”
The Keeneland September sale continues with a final Book 2 session Saturday and continues through Sept. 22 with bidding beginning daily at 10 a.m.
Patience Pays Off for Courtlandt
Don Adam's Courtlandt Farm has been active once again at Keeneland September, and saved its biggest purchase so far for last at the end of Friday's session in the form of a $975,000 filly (hip 923) by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and out of a half-sister to the dam of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. Lane's End consigned the Mar. 27 foal on behalf of Dixiana Farms, which had purchased the bay for $290,000 in utero at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.
“She was our top horse, even out of Book 1,” said Courtlandt's Farm Manager Ernie Retamoza, who was joined for the bidding process by trainer Mark Hennig. “We thought she was Book 1 quality, obviously, with that family, American Pharoah. What can you say? She's definitely the type of horse Mr. Adam's looking to buy. We were hoping it wouldn't go to the million, so we feel great getting her for the number that we did. She's just the type of horse Mr. Adam's looking for.”
Courtlandt has purchased 10 head at KEESEP '19 for a combined $5.72 million, including three buys Friday for $1.86 million total.
“It's strong on the ones we were after, I'll tell you that,” Retamoza said of the market. “We did what we wanted to do in Book 1. We were saving a little for this book, and particularly this filly, so I think we pulled it off.”
Hip 923's dam Momentary Magic (Indian Charlie) was a $230,000 September graduate herself and eventual Gulfstream Park maiden special weight winner, but was claimed out of her final career outing for $40,000. She is out of GISP Magical Illusion (Pulpit), who in turn is the dam of GSP Stage Magic (Ghostzapper), who produced Justify and GSW The Lieutenant.
An American Pharoah filly from another hugely important female family topped Book 1 at a record $8.2 million. —@BDiDonatoTDN
Quality Road Colt for Durant
Tom Durant added a colt by Quality Road to his racing operation when bloodstock agent Josh Stevens made a final bid of $950,000 to acquire the yearling from the Lane's End consignment at Keeneland Friday.
“Quality Road is one of the best out there now,” Stevens said after signing the ticket on the yearling. “Tom bought a couple at the 2-year-old sales this year and he's obviously looking for horses who are Derby prospects–like everybody else out here. We tried on some early and we just realized how strong it was going to get. After a couple of days of watching the prices, we just decided, let's find a couple that we really love and go after them. Tom gives me the orders and I follow them.”
The yearling (hip 646), bred by W. S. Farish and Kilroy Thoroughbred Partnership, is out of Storm Showers (Storm Cat). His second dam is graded winner Welcome Surprise (Seeking the Gold) and his third dam is blue-hen mare Weekend Surprise (Secretariat).
“The horse was just an elite physical; he had a great walk on him,” Stevens said. “He had everything you wanted to see in a physical. He was really well put together. He just has that look to him–a horse that can run early, but can stretch out and get you into those races you want to get into.”
Of the yearling's deep roots at the Farish family's operation, Stevens added, “If you look at what Lane's End has done over the years, if you see a nice colt at Lane's End's consignment who was raised there, you know what they are capable of getting to down the road. That gives you a little bit more excitement when you see these type of horses and you know they've been raised at the best farms possible in Central Kentucky.”
Durant's three purchases at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale included a $530,000 colt by American Pharoah (hip 350). At the OBS April sale, Stevens went to $275,000 to secure a filly by the Triple Crown winner (hip 725) on Durant's behalf.
Stevens agreed the market has been highly competitive at Keeneland this week.
“When you look at the paper and you look at the physicals and you appraise them, right now in the market, you might as well double that,” Stevens said. “There are a lot of guys who haven't signed their names yet at this sale, so you know there is plenty of money left. If you want to get horses like this, you have to step up and pay for them.” @JessMartiniTDN
Lane's End Offerings, Stallions Dominate
Lane's End couldn't have had a better day than it did Friday, both as a consignor and with its stallions. Lane's End consigned four of the day's five top lots, and the remaining member of the top five was a son of Lane's End phenom Quality Road. The Versailles-based operation led all sellers with 29 yearlings bringing $9.45 million.
“They lined up well for us,” said Lane's End's Bill Farish at the end of the session. “We just had some really good horses on this day, and it was great to see a couple of our stallions represented there at the top with Union Rags and Quality Road. Both of them had great days–not just our [consignment], but other people's.”
A colt by Union Rags was the day's session topper at $1 million, while Quality Road produced colts for $950,000 and $900,000 and was the day's leading sire by average with more than one sold at $495,625 (eight total for $3,925,000).
“His mare books got better and better and better, and this [crop of yearlings] is still [the product] of $35,000 stud fee mares,” Farish said of Quality Road, who had another $900,000 colt sell during Book 1 and is currently third on the 2019 general sires list. “Next year's $70,000, and then the next year is $150,000, so I think he's really going to be one of the top tier commercial stallions.”
As for the strength of the Book 2 market, Farish said, “It was crazy. I don't think we've ever seen more vetting on any day of the sale than we saw for today. I think a lot of the agents and lookers were trying to catch up, and they might've vetted more horses than they normally would because they had so many horses to see. It was incredible. I think the video scoping has really helped. They can get it done faster and get around a lot quicker.” —@BDiDonatoTDN
Career Day for Nursery Place
The Mayer family, which has been consigning horses under its Nursery Place banner for decades, enjoyed its biggest success in the sales ring Friday at Keeneland, selling a colt by Quality Road for $900,000.
“I owned this horse in partnership with my dad [John], my brother [Walker], my uncle [Happy Broadbent] and my two best friends,” Griffin Mayer said after congratulating the SF/Starlight/
Madaket team on the purchase of hip 851. “So this was really special. He has always been a really nice horse. Coming in here, we knew he was nice, but over the last couple of days, it became evident how popular he was.”
The yearling is out of stakes-placed Hot Spell (Salt Lake) and is a half to stakes winner Saratoga Heater (Temple City). The partnership purchased Hot Spell, in foal to Morning Line, for $85,000 at the 2015 Keeneland January sale.
“This partnership has about eight mares together,” Mayer said. “It's kind of new in the last three or four years, we started buying some mares. [Hot Spell] had already had a stakes horse at the time in Saratoga Heater, so that brought our attention to the mare.”
Since being acquired by the Nursery Place partnership, Hot Spell has produced stakes placed Malocchio (Orb), who sold for $190,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September sale.
Quality Road had two of the top four sellers during Friday's session. Of the decision to send the mare to the Lane's End stallion, Mayer said, “We really went out to Lane's End with this horse in mind. This mare had a really good Orb, but she was just a hair short on leg and we went out and saw Quality Road and said, 'This is the perfect fit for this mare.' When the foal got on the ground, I wasn't expecting that–he was awesome.”
Confirming the colt was the highest-priced Nursery Place consignee, Mayer said, “We had a baby bring $850,000 here a couple of years ago. But this one is great.”
The colt's sale capped a big day for Nursery Place, which sold all six sent through the ring Friday. The group included a $350,000 son of Air Force Blue (hip 840) and a $250,000 daughter of Hard Spun (hip 841).
“We've had a great day, we've gone six-for-six,” Mayer said. “It was a great day for the Nursery Place team. Our guys do a phenomenal job at the farm and they all come up here and work with us at the sales and I can't thank them enough for the good work that they do.” @JessMartiniTDN
SF, Starlight, Madaket Continue Building Their Empire
The powerful conglomerate spearheaded by SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables was perhaps slightly quieter than might have been expected during Book 1 of the Keeneland September sale, but sprung into action Friday, first securing an Empire Maker ridgling for $775,000 and eventually ending up with four of the top six lots and five in total once the day was done, including the session-topping $1-million Union Rags colt (hip 920) from the Lane's End draft.
The partnership purchased three colts for $1.61 million during Book 1, but still had some work left to do to match the $11.43 million outlay made last year on 24 Classic-leaning colts, all purchased with the plan of turning them over to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert. The group purchased a pair of yearlings at this year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale for a combined $985,000.
“It's the same group–Baffert calls us the Avengers. Everyone has a role and everyone adds value,” said SF Bloodstock's Tom Ryan after agent and Baffert buyer Donato Lanni signed the ticket on hip 763.
In response to a comment about the group's relative lack of purchases during Book 1, Ryan said, “It wasn't for the lack of not trying. It's a very strong sale. There are a lot of high-quality horses on the market and a lot of money around for them. And it's come from all over the world.”
The partnership's first group of purchases are 2-year-olds of this year, and include 'TDN Rising Star' Eight Rings (Empire Maker), who turned in one of the most impressive performances by a juvenile this season when taking his Aug. 4 Del Mar unveiling by 6 1/4 lengths, only to duck in and lose his rider at 1-2 odds in the GI Runhappy Del Mar Futurity.
“One thing we know right now is that Eight Rings is a very talented horse. All we know about [hip 763] right now is that he's a very athletic horse,” Ryan said when asked to compare the two. “He's just balanced, [has a strong] shoulder–the way his hind end ties in. He's a beautiful horse… These kind of horses are generally quite obvious. It doesn't take you a long time to pick them out. He was very well raised, too. He comes from a very good farm in Lantern Hill, he has a beautiful pedigree. There's no reason not to get excited about him.”
SF, et al. paid $900,000 later in the session for hip 851, a Quality Road colt consigned by Nursery Place and made their biggest splash of the session right at the end, securing the lone million-dollar yearling of the day in hip 920, a G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.-bred chestnut from the family of Grade I winners Dream Deal, Creme Fraiche, Clear Mandate, Strong Mandate and Romantic Vision.
“When pedigree comes together with physical and they work well veterinary wise, that's where we are at,” Ryan said of the session topper. “He's a big, obvious horse and the competition was strong for him all over the ring as far as I could see. We found ourselves in a position where that's what we had to give if we wanted to buy him.”
Overall, the partnership spent $3,975,000 to be leading buyer.
Others involved with the group are Fred Hertrich III, John Fielding and Ben Goldberg and Elliott Friman's Golconda Stables.
Stonestreet Joins in For Curlin Colt
Just when it seemed like the partnership involving SF Bloodstock, Starlight, Madaket, et al couldn't get any more powerful, Barbara Banke's Stonestreet joined in with them to partner on hip 900, an $800,000 son of Curlin. The grey was consigned by Lane's End on behalf of breeder Paul Pompa.
“We're very happy to have [Stonestreet] in–they've done a great job with Curlin to make him the stallion he is today,” said SF's Tom Ryan as Donato Lanni signed the ticket and with Bob Baffert, Banke and her advisor John Moynihan and SF's Gavin Murphy close by. “He's just a big, powerful horse. Unbridled's Song is a great broodmare sire, there's plenty of depth to the pedigree and there was clearly loads of competition for him.”
Hip 900 is the first foal out of Lyrical Moment (Unbridled's Song), a $500,000 OBS June graduate of 2015 who broke her maiden on the Belmont turf at three. She hails from the female family of GI Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles (Unbridled's Song).
Stonestreet's 2019 GIII Doubledogdare S. winner Electric Forest is the lone graded winner so far bred on the Curlin–Unbridled's Song cross. —@BDiDonatoTDN
Perfect 'Storm' for Sullivan, Shoemaker
Longtime owner/breeder Mary Sullivan typically isn't one to spend much time in the spotlight, or to sell her horses, but Lantern Hill Farm's Suzi Shoemaker picked a good time to convince her to give the latter a try. Out of a half-sister to the dam of this year's GIII Beaugay S. and GII New York S. winner and GI Diana S. third Homerique (Exchange Rate), the Sullivan-bred Classier (Empire Maker), offered as hip 763, garnered the attention of SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables to sell for $775,000 during Friday's Book 2 opener.
Florida-based Sullivan co-bred and co-campaigned hard-knocking Grade I-winning millionaire Kiri's Clown in the mid-90s, and more recently bred and raced three-time Grade I winner Get Stormy (Stormy Atlantic). Now standing at Crestwood Farm, Get Stormy has gained some momentum this season thanks in large part to the exploits of his 4-year-old daughter Got Stormy, who bested the boys in Saratoga's GI Fourstardave H. Aug. 10 and is the morning-line favorite to repeat the dose in Saturday's GI Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
“This is the first colt that I've been allowed to sell by his, breeder Mary Sullivan,” Shoemaker revealed. “She has raced and bred for many years–she bred and raced Get Stormy–and he is emerging as a good sire with low numbers and modest mares. She's a very modest person herself. She doesn't seek publicity. She never sells and I managed to talk her into selling this horse. Like all breeders, we end up with too many horses on our training and boarding bills, so I asked her to sell him and she did and he was perfect in every way… Homerique is a filly who obviously has a lot of class… There was just a lot of sizzle in the pedigree. It was definitely a perfect storm.”
Sullivan paid $300,000 for Classier's dam Class Will Tell (Bernardini) at the 2013 Keeneland September sale. Hailing from the female family of Group 1 winner White Moonstone and Grade I winner Desert Stormer, she graduated in the last of her 12 career starts in a Gulfstream maiden special weight going a mile on the dirt in 2016.
“This whole year has been kind of magical for Mary,” Shoemaker said. “Because she doesn't sell, the fact that we were able to have such a great sale for her is just a great thrill for me professionally… This colt has a 2-year-old full-brother in training with Ian Wilkes, and normally Mary just races. Tom Bush also trains for her, and she races everything. But, over the years, I've seen horses who maybe would fit a sales program and tried to suggest it, and not gotten anywhere, but this year she said, 'Okay. Let's give this one a try.'”
Classier's brother is named Make a Classic. Class Will Tell produced a Tiznow colt earlier this term and was bred back to Union Rags. —@BDiDonatoTDN
Team Shoplifted Take Another Home
The team buying on behalf of Robert Clay's Grandview Equine, Everett Dobson's Cheyenne Stables and the Roth family's LNJ Foxwoods was back in action Friday, striking for a $700,000 Speightstown colt out of the graded-placed 'TDN Rising Star' Tokyo Time (Medaglia d'Oro). The well-bred bay was consigned as hip 679 by Gainesway, Agent XXIV on behalf of breeder Emory Hamilton.
“He's a beautiful colt, lovely pedigree, raised on a spectacular farm,” said agent Jason Litt after signing the ticket. “We've had a lot of luck buying from Gainesway and with something raised on Helen Alexander's farm (Emory Hamilton's sister). He was just the classic 'checks all the boxes'–beautiful mover, lovely type. We're happy to have him.”
LNJ campaigns the flashy GI Longines Test S. heroine Covfefe (Into Mischief), who was bred by Alexander and her mother Helen Groves.
“It was good,” Litt said of the price paid for hip 679. “When you're signing the ticket, you're always feeling pretty good. If you're crying when you're buying, that's never a good sign. So, we're pretty happy.”
Litt said competition remained tough at the start of Book 2 and that he didn't expect it to get much easier.
“There are some lovely horses,” he said. “There's still good stuff, and there will be some good stuff for the rest of the sale. There's still quality and plenty of people here with money.”
Grandview, Cheyenne and LNJ co-campaign 2-year-old 'TDN Rising Star' Shoplifted (Into Mischief), who was second in Saratoga's GI Runhappy Hopeful S. as part of a Steve Asmussen-trained trifecta Sept. 2. The colt was an $800,000 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream buy signed for by Gatewood Bell's Cromwell Bloodstock.
Bell signed for the $950,000 Twirling Candy half-brother to Grade I winners Ascend and Roadster purchased by this same group Wednesday.
Tokyo Time is a half to graded winners Hungry Island (More Than Ready) and Soaring Empire (Empire Maker), and the colt's already jam-packed page got even more cramped thanks to the exploits of a son of another half to Tokyo Time–Preservationist (Arch) took the GII Suburban S. this July and added the Aug. 31 GI Woodward S. since the catalog was printed. This is the female family of Grade I winners Chic Shirine, Queena, Keen Ice, Somali Lemonade and Verrazano. —@BDiDonatoTDN
McElroy, Callaghan Right on the Money for Empire Maker Colt
Agent Ben McElroy and trainer Simon Callaghan stretched to secure an Empire Maker colt (hip 638) for $550,000 on behalf of a racing partnership early in Friday's Book 2 opener. The Feb. 6 foal was consigned by Denali Stud, Agent XLIX on behalf of breeder Don Alberto Corporation.
“Obviously, he's by a top-class stallion in Empire Maker out of a mare by a great broodmare sire in Bernardini,” McElroy said. “He's a top physical from great breeders–there wasn't a whole lot no to like.”
Don Alberto paid $625,000 for winning dam Spare Change (Bernardini)–an eight-length Saratoga maiden special weight romper at two for her breeder Phipps Stable–in foal to Distorted Humor at the 2013 Keeneland November sale. Spare Change herself is a daughter of MGISW Finder's Fee (Storm Cat) and granddaughter of GISW Fantastic Find (Mr. Prospector). A stakes-placed half to Spare Change produced GSW/MGISP Feathered (Indian Charlie), whose Tapit colt was a $1-million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga grad last month.
Yearlings out of Bernardini mares have been in high demand this week. Among the high-priced sellers with Bernardini on their bottom side have been a $1.2-million Curlin colt, a $1-million Union Rags filly, a $900,000 Quality Road colt and a $500,000 Quality Road colt who sold just a few hips before hip 638. The Darley resident is the broodmare sire of 2019 Grade I winners Serengeti Empress (Alternation) and Dunbar Road (Quality Road) as well as the versatile MGISW Catholic Boy (More Than Ready).
“That was definitely a [factor in the colt's appeal],” McElroy said. “And on top of that it was Bernardini over Storm Cat [on the dam's side], which is another good cross. Those were factors, but it was mainly about the physical. He was one of the best physicals today by a top sire. That's where we valued the horse and that's where we got him… that was our last bid. That's where I thought he would be. Maybe we got a little lucky because he was in early in the sale today. More times than not, you've got to go a few extra bids, but we got him right where we wanted.”
Later in the session, another son of Empire Maker out of a Bernardini mare sold for $775,000 to SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables (see more on hip 763 above). Hall of Famer Royal Delta is among the most noteworthy products of the Empire Maker–A.P. Indy (Bernardini's sire) cross. —@BDiDonatoTDN
Encore for Imagine and Applauding
Marne Fauber and Heidi Cecil's Imagine purchased the mare Applauding (Congrats) in foal to Curlin for $100,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November Sale and was rewarded for the purchase when that Curlin filly sold for $475,000 to Peter Brant's White Birch Farm at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale. The mare's second Imagine-bred foal, a son of Distorted Humor (hip 728), nearly matched his half-sister when selling for $400,000 to trainer Ken McPeek during Friday's session of the Keeneland September sale.
“Honestly, when I first bought her, I was trying to get a Curlin and she was in foal to Curlin,” Fauber said of the now 10-year-old mare's appeal. “But she was just a nice, pretty mare, she was very well-balanced. She was good all the way around. I thought I had a bargain when I was buying the mare for what I got her for when the stud fee was more than that at the time.”
Applauding has a weanling filly by Curlin and was bred back to the Hill 'n' Dale stallion this year.
“We might offer the weanling in November, but I'm not sure,” Fauber said. “We are doing pretty well with the yearlings, so far.”
The Imagine broodmare band currently numbers just three head, but Applauding is the only member acquired specifically as a broodmare.
“We do a lot of the 2-year-old-in-training horses, so the other mares that we have, for whatever reason, couldn't get sold,” Fauber explained. “But they are really well-bred, so we decided to breed them. I am happy with all of them.”
Fauber continued, “We have some racing, but they are racing because they didn't sell. The plan is to sell. Whenever we buy weanlings, we offer all of them as yearlings. We don't hold anything back. Everything goes to the sale and whatever doesn't go, just stays in the program.” @JessMartiniTDN