Keeneland January Book 1 Goes Out With a Bang

Session-topping Belgrade (Hard Spun) in the ringKeeneland

by Christie DeBernardis & Jessica Martini

LEXINGTON, KY–Keeneland saved the best for last during Wednesday's second Book 1 session of their January Horses of All Ages Sale with the 3-year-old colt Belgrade (Hard Spun), a debut winner at Fair Grounds, topping the day's action at $700,000.

A total of 263 head changed hands Wednesday for $18,859,500 with an average of $71,709 and a median of $40,000. Sixty-four horses left the ring unsold for an RNA rate of 19.57%. During the equivalent 2021 session, which was boosted by the Paul Pompa and Sam-Son dispersals, 247 horses sold for $23,319,400 with an average of $94,411 and median of $40,000. There were 71 RNAs that day for a buy-back rate of 22.33%.

“On this day last year, we had Paul Pompa's dispersal, as well as the Sam-Son dispersal, so there were big shoes to fill,” said Tony Lacy, Keeneland's Vice President of Sales. “We actually maintained the median at $40,000 and came very close to last year [overall]. Not having those dispersals and just having the core group of horses that we had, it really went well. I think the quality horses were extremely popular. It was strong and solid all the way through. It was great to end with Belgrade for Randy and Sandra Bradshaw.”

Through two Book 1 sessions, 511 Thoroughbreds grossed $36,848,700 with an average of $72,110 and a median of $40,000. There were 150 horses who failed to meet their reserves, making the RNA rate 22.69%. During the first two days of the 2021 renewal, 453 head brought $35,414,800 with an average of $78,178 and median of $37,000. There were 167 horses that went home with their original owners for an RNA rate of 26.94%.

Aside from Belgrade, broodmares dominated the market Wednesday, filling eight of the top 10 slots. Co Cola (Candy Ride {Arg}), dam of GISW Search Results (Flatter), and well-bred, stakes producer Susie's Baby (Giant's Causeway) were the most coveted mares at $600,000 each. The former was purchased by Peter Blum carrying a full-sibling to Search Results and the latter went to Cypress Creek LLC with a Constitution foal in her belly.

The day's top yearling was a $310,000 son of top sire Uncle Mo, purchased by Nick de Meric, who signed under the name Sand Hill Bloodstock. He was the day's leading buyer, taking six yearlings home to Ocala for a total of $1.015 million.

“I'd say it's the old truism of it's very strong on the ones you want,” de Meric said of the January market. “We got three [Tuesday] that we are very happy with, but we were also bridesmaids on a couple of others we really loved. Such is life in the big city.”

Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales, which led all consignors Wednesday with 18 head bringing $2.291 million, expressed similar sentiments.

“The market for the upper-end stuff is great,” he said. “The market for middle-end mares is very flat. The market for middle-end yearlings is even flat. The upper end is through the roof.”

The late, great Giant's Causeway was the session's top sire with seven offspring grossing $926,000. Thanks to Belgrade, Darley's Hard Spun was the leading sire for Book 1 with nine head bringing $1.128 million. Coolmore's Munnings was not far behind with nine of his progeny summoning $1.094 million.

The Keeneland January Sale continues through Friday with a pair of Book 2 sessions, both starting at 10 a.m.

Belgrade Rewards Bradshaw's Patience

The second day of the Keeneland January sale ended with a bang when impressive maiden winner Belgrade (Hard Spun) (hip 853H), the final horse through the ring, topped the session when attracting a final bid of $700,000 from bloodstock agent Jane Buchanan, acting on behalf of Carl and Yurie Pascarella. The newly turned 3-year-old will be trained by Graham Motion.

“We followed him after his last race,” Buchanan said. “I actually called [owner] Randy [Bradshaw] and [trainer] Brendan [Walsh] and we did try to buy him privately after his last race. We liked how he did it. He ran good numbers. Fingers crossed. It's all up to Graham now.”

While the Pascarellas now have a possible GI Kentucky Derby contender in Belgrade, the California-based already have a taste of Derby success. They were among the Team Valor partners on 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

“They were looking for a two-turn colt,” Buchanan said. “Brendan is a good friend and he does a great job. So he's a good trainer to buy from.”

Buchanan said there was plenty of competition for horses like Belgrade.

“It is terribly tricky to buy a horse like this,” she said. “We have been trying to buy privately all last year. [The price] was expensive, but that is what these horses are making right now.”

Belgrade was a delayed pinhooking score for Ocala horseman Randy Bradshaw. Bradshaw and his wife Sandra purchased the colt for $45,000 at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase. The youngster had originally been targeted for the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale, but some baby issues kept him on the sidelines and the Bradshaws rerouted him to the racetrack.

Debuting Dec. 18 at the Fair Grounds, Belgrade romped home a six-length victor and was supplemented to the January sale.

“We are just super excited,” Bradshaw's daughter Ashley Franz, part of the team at Four Star Sales which consigned the colt Wednesday, said. “It was a great result and he was a great colt. We felt confident bringing him with that impressive maiden win.”

It was a formula that has worked for Bradshaw before.

“He had done this in the past,” Franz said. “He's taken horses on and raced them and then sold them at public auction and he's done very well doing it. So he was really confident coming into the sale.” @JessMartiniTDN

Susie's Baby Proves Popular

Bluewater Sales' Ryder Finney, who was bidding on behalf of Cyprus Creek, won a furious round of bidding late in Wednesday's session to acquire Susie's Baby (Giant's Causeway) (Hip 845) for $600,000. Consigned by Gainesway, the 10-year-old mare is in foal to Constitution.

“We expected her to be popular,” Finney said. “We were hoping to get her for a little bit less, but $600,000 was always a possibility for a mare like this with a pedigree like hers. It is what it is. If you want the good ones you have to pay a little bit extra sometimes.”

Out of SW Mekko Hokte (Holy Bull), Susie's Baby is a half-sister to MG1SW Coolmore stallion Caravaggio (Scat Daddy) and GSW My Jen (Fusaichi Pegasus). Her first foal stakes winner Family Way (Uncle Mo), who was purchased by Godolphin for $775,000 at KEESEP in 2018. The gray's 2018 foal Baby Blythe (American Pharoah), a $325,000 KEESEP buy, broke her maiden at Saratoga last summer. Susie's Baby's 2019 filly Sebago Lake (Tapit) was a $160,000 KEESEP purchase and her 2020 filly by Justify brought $325,000 at FTKOCT. She had an Uncle Mo filly in 2021.

“We just love the pedigree,” said Finney. “We thought it was first class. Physically, she's beautiful and obviously throws nice babies. She has a great sales record. Her first couple of foals can run and we are very big fans of Constitution. We have high hopes for her.” —@CDeBernardisTDN

Co Cola a Pleasant Surprise for Blum

Co Cola (Candy Ride {Arg}) (hip 492) will be joining Peter Blum's broodmare band after selling for $600,000 at Keeneland Wednesday. Blum's farm manager Bridie Harrison signed the ticket on the 11-year-old mare, who is already the dam of Search Results (Flatter) and sold carry a full-sibling to that Grade I winner.

“She is a Grade I producer, so when they win those kind of races, it's hard not to look at them,” Blum said.

Search Results was a narrowly beaten second in last year's GI Kentucky Oaks for Klaravich Stables and trainer Chad Brown before earning top-level success in the GI Acorn S. She was also third in the GI Test S. and has recently returned to training with Brown in Florida.

“Search Results is back with Chad Brown, so hopefully she'll have a chance to do some more this year,” Blum said.

Co Cola, graded placed on the racetrack herself, RNA'd for $925,000 at the Fasig-Tipton November sale two months ago.

“It's too soon for that,” Blum said when asked about possible mating plans for the mare. “I frankly didn't think I was going to get her, so I hadn't thought about it, to be honest. But I'll breed her to something good. I thought she was a really nice mare and I am just happy to get her.”

Sandy Willwerth and her daughter and son-in-law Carrie and Craig Brogden co-bred Co Cola and purchased the mare back following her racing career. The family's Machmer Hall bred all of Co Cola's foals, including Search Results and her now 3-year-old full-brother Search Engine who sold for $625,000 at last year's OBS April sale.

“This mare throws nothing but runners,” Carrie Brogden said after selling Co Cola through James Keogh's Grovendale consignment Wednesday. “She was born in our foaling barn. The whole thing has come full circle for us. She has been the giving tree.”

Willwerth said it was a business decision to sell the mare.

“We had to decide to sell the mare or not,” she said. “Craig is always complaining we have too many broodmares. And with her update, this was a good opportunity to sell. It was my decision to sell, knowing that what she was going to bring takes some risk off. And I wish them all the luck with her. We are happy for other people to succeed with our horses and I am thrilled she is as good a producer as she is.”

Willwerth said the team had reevaluated its plan following Co Cola's RNA trip through the Fasig-Tipton sales ring last November.

“We had too high a reserve,” Willwerth explained. “Craig said, 'It's all about the new sports car, the new model.' And I think he hit it spot on. Yes, she is a Grade I producer and she has had a few other foals run well, but it just seems to be right now that it's all about the young stakes mares and mares carrying their first, or maybe second, foal. I'm not sure why the market shifted, but it has. We realized that and that we had overvalued her and it was a choice to make from there. So we came here and lowered the reserve.”

Keogh said Wednesday's result was a reflection of market conditions.

“I thought she would bring a little bit more than that,” Keogh admitted. “It was an excellent buy for Mr. Blum and we wish him the best of luck with her. She is a mare who excelled in the sales ring and clearly her foals are getting it done on the racetrack. The market is what the market is. It rarely gets it wrong. I wouldn't say we're happy with the result, but we accept it.” @JessMartiniTDN

Bella Vita to Return to Training

Bella Vita (Bayern) (hip 462) was purchased by Narvick International's Emmanuel de Seroux, acting on behalf of an undisclosed client, for $500,000 Wednesday at Keeneland. The 5-year-old multiple stakes winner was purchased for her breeding potential, but will be returned to training in the meantime.

“She is a very good racing filly,” de Seroux said. “She's a beautiful type and she has an excellent female line. So altogether, she was very attractive for breeding, but we would like to race her for a little bit before we breed her.”

Bella Vita is out of the unraced Queenie Cat (Storm Cat), a half-sister to champion Vindication (Seattle Slew) and graded winner Scipion (A.P. Indy).

De Seroux said no trainer had been picked out for the mare.

Bella Vita was purchased by bloodstock agent Ben McElroy on behalf of Kaleem Shah for $400,000 at the 2019 OBS April sale.

“She breezed very good at the OBS sale,” McElroy recalled of the mare. “Robby Harris had her and Kaleem loved the video. He raced the sire and won the GI Breeders' Cup Classic with him, so he was partial to the filly. We went back to see her at the barn and she was a lovely filly. We got her and she's lived up to expectations. She has kept on progressing through her 3-year-old and 4-year-old years.”

Bella Vita had her best year on the track in 2021, winning the Spring Fever S. and Betty Grable S. and finishing second in the GII Great Lady M S. on the West Coast for trainer Simon Callaghan. She came into the January sale off a runner-up effort in the Dec. 4 GIII Go For Wand H. at Aqueduct.

“She just turned five and the 2-year-old sales are right around the corner,” McElroy said of the decision to sell the mare. “Hopefully Kaleem is thinking about restocking and hopefully we will find another Bellafina or Donna Veloce.”

Shopping the juvenile sales for Shah, McElroy purchased Bellafina (Quality Road) for $800,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale and acquired Donna Veloce (Uncle Mo) for that same price at that auction in 2019. Bellafina became a three-time Grade I winner and Donna Veloce was second in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and GI Starlet S. @JessMartiniTDN

Terrazas Secures Mares for St. George Stables

Eduardo Terrazas of Terrazas Thoroughbreds was active throughout Book 1, buying mares for Mexican billionaire German Larrea's St. George Stables, which made plenty of headlines in 2021 thanks to the exploits of their star mare Letruska (Super Saver). Terrazas's biggest purchase on behalf of that operation came later in Wednesday's session when he went to $390,000 for the Scat Daddy mare Siempre Mia (Hip 752).

Consigned by Eaton Sales, the gray mare sold in foal to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“She is a beautiful, strong mare,” Terrazas said. “She kind of looks like a bully, which I love. I remember her yearling last year was a really nice horse too, so you can't go wrong. She will definitely fit their program.”

As for the price, he said, “I thought we were going to be around $325,000, but luckily we were able to keep on going.”

Terrazas's KEEJAN purchases on behalf of St. George Stables include $200,000 I'm So Anna (Fast Anna) (Hip 589), $155,000 Santa Rita (Curlin) (Hip 318) and $37,000 Ojai (Verrazano) (Hip 685).

Out of MGSW Shaconage (El Prado {Ire}), Siempre Mia was purchased by Eaton Sales on behalf of Forging Oaks Farm for $185,000 at the 2017 KEENOV sale carrying her first foal by the late Malibu Moon. Her second foal is newly turned 3-year-old Consumer Spending (More Than Ready), who captured the Selima S. last term. She had an Empire Maker colt in 2020, who was purchased by Donato Lanni for $120,000 at KEESEP and is named Baba Voss, and her 2021 filly by More Than Ready brought $240,000 from Cavalier Bloodstock at KEENOV.

“Consumer Spending is probably a better filly than we even got to see last year,” said Eaton Sales' Reiley McDonald. “She has great foals. They bought a really nice, middle-aged commercial mare. She is a great cash cow. She was a great buy. I bought her carrying her first foal and she has done a little better every year.” —@CDeBernardisTDN

Goff Builds Broodmare Band

Arkansas businessman Dash Goff continued to build his broodmare band Wednesday at Keeneland, purchasing Actually (Speightstown) (Hip 438) for $330,000. Consigned by Brookdale Sales on behalf of breeder Jack Swain, the chestnut is carrying her first foal by Nyquist.

“I liked her looks and her pedigree,” said Goff, who did his bidding alongside Chris and Bayne Welker. “She has an excellent female family. She is in foal early. I am putting together some more mares. I like the tax situations on them and everything.”

He added, “Bayne and Chris Welker keep my horses [at their Kentucky farm]. We bought one [Tuesday] and we are looking at one more.”

Goff's Tuesday purchase was MSW R Angel Katelyn (High Cotton) (Hip 288), who brought $240,000 carrying a foal from the first crop of champion Improbable. He also picked up I Do Declare (Declaration of War) (Hip 587) for $35,000 later in Wednesday's session carrying a foal by champion Accelerate.

Larkin Armstrong purchased Actually on Swain's behalf for $250,000 at Keeneland September and she was winless in four starts. A half-sister to MGSW Campaign (Curlin), the 4-year-old filly is out of the unraced Dynaformer mare Arania, who is a half to Grade I winners Acoma (Empire Maker) and Arch (Kris S.). This is also the family of dual champion Covfefe (Into Mischief).

“I wasn't surprised by the price because she is the perfect combination of Speightstown and Dynaformer,” said Brookdale's Joe Seitz. “She is elegant and has a lot of leg. She is from a good Helen Alexander family, so she really stuck out here. We are running out of time to get these really good broodmares before the breeding season, so I thought she stood out. She had a lot of interest.”

When asked why Swain chose to sell this mare, Seitz said, “He told me he needed to manage his numbers a bit. He hated to see her go, but he has to run it as a business, as do we all.”


De Meric Stays Active at KEEJAN

Ocala horseman Nick de Meric was quite busy during Book 1 of Keeneland January, securing a trio of yearlings on the first day and making his biggest splash on day two when purchasing a $310,000 colt by leading sire Uncle Mo (Hip 472). De Meric bought the colt on behalf of an undisclosed client and signed the ticket under his usual nom de course, Sand Hill Bloodstock.

“I bought him for a client that pinhooks and races, so to be determined,” de Meric said of future plans for the colt.

As for the price, he said, “We were stretched out there. My initial appraisal was a little lower than that, but every time I went to see him, we bumped it up a notch. We just had enough to get the job done.”

Consigned by Stuart Morris, the dark bay colt was bred in New York by Dr. Jerry Bilinski's Waldorf Farm. He is the second foal out of the unraced Smart Strike mare Canadian River, who Bilinski acquired for $27,000 in foal to West Coast at the 2019 KEENOV sale. Hip 472 hails from the family of GSW & G1SP Montgomery's Arch (Arch) and stakes winner Welcome Inn (Orientate).

“I have to say, I liked pretty much everything,” de Meric said. “I love the sire, but I love the colt. He is very mature. I liked his attitude every time I watched him show. He had a progressive, forward kind of attitude to his showing. He is beautifully balanced with a lot of size and substance. I have a hard time finding anything I didn't like about him.”

During the opening session of KEEJAN, de Meric purchased a $200,000 son of Street Sense (Hip 376), a $150,000 Ghostzapper colt (Hip 276) and a $100,000 colt by Upstart (Hip 397). The pinhooker was not done after buying Hip 472 Wednesday. He also secured a $210,000 colt by Vino Rosso (Hip 689), a $160,000 daughter of Twirling Candy (Hip 644), a $110,000 colt by Mineshaft (Hip 704) and a $75,000 Classic Empire filly (Hip 518). –@CDeBernardisTDN

Sacre Scores with Gun Runner Colt

Former Los Angeles Lakers player Robert Sacre enjoyed a career high in the racing game when he sold a short yearling by Gun Runner (hip 822) for $275,000 to the bid Peter Pugh, agent for Cherry Knoll Farm. Sacre co-bred the colt with Carl Grether, of Tom Grether Farms out of the only mare he currently owns, Usrah (Tiznow). The bay was consigned by Mulholland Springs.

“I knew Carl from college and he's been excellent at picking horses,” Sacre said. “I told him, 'Whatever you're doing, I want to be a part of it.' We sat down and made a plan and we executed it and it worked out great for us. I'm grateful to have Carl helping me and mentoring me through this whole process.”

Grether purchased Usrah for $25,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November sale and this is the second foal out of the mare the two men co-bred. The first, a filly by Collected RNA'd for $27,000 at the 2020 Keeneland November sale before selling for $40,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

“It felt like when I was drafted by the Lakers,” Sacre said of watching the colt go through the ring Wednesday. “It was the closest thing to a draft pick. It felt like the NBA draft. You don't know what to expect. Everything is unknown. But it worked.”

Asked if Wednesday's success made him want to get more involved in the sport, Sacre smiled broadly and said, “Absolutely. I am not trying to get more involved today, hopefully, but you never know.”

Grether, the son of the late racehorse owner Tom Grether, campaigned multiple Grade I winner Intangaroo (Orientate). @JessMartiniTDN

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