Keeneland September Sale Marches Into Book 2

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Session-topping Hip 506 in the ring | Keeneland

by Jessica Martini & Brian DiDonato

LEXINGTON, KY – The Keeneland September Yearling Sale continued to see strong action at the top, but an elevated buy-back rate at the first of two Book 2 sessions Wednesday in Lexington. A colt by Uncle Mo from the Gainesway consignment brought the day’s highest bid when selling for $950,000 to bloodstock agent David Ingordo.

In all, 185 yearlings sold for $40,861,000. The average was $220,870 and the median was $180,000. Through three sessions, 394 head have grossed $126,076,000 for an average of $319,990 and a median of $250,000.

Last year’s Keeneland sale opened with a power-packed three-session Book 1 which saw 340 yearlings sell for $160,463,000. The Book 1 average was $471,950 and the median was $355,000.

“Last year was sort of a surreal market, it was one of the strongest September sales I think we’ve seen in a long time, regardless of the [record-setting] $8.2-million [sale topper], the whole feel of the market was very strong last year,” said Keeneland’s Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell. “To replicate that in a normal year would have been difficult, so what we are doing at the moment in what is definitely not a normal year, I think we should be very appreciative of both our buyers and sellers who are here to make this market. And we are.”

Last year’s Book 2 session featured a pair of $1-million yearlings, including last week’s GI Del Mar Futurity runner-up Spielberg (Union Rags). But with five horses selling for $800,000, Wednesday’s session topper was the only to approach seven figures and the only one over $900,000.

“Book 1 is where million-dollar horses should be, if we do our job right,” Russell said. “Last year, we were fortunate enough to have Spielberg bring a million and he is Grade I placed now. Today we had one for $950,000. Last year at this session, we had 16 horses bring over $500,000 and this year we had 12 bring that. Given the era of COVID, I think that’s a pretty strong statistic. Buyers seem to be lighting on the same horses, driving those prices up. It’s a horse sale.”

Through three days of selling, the buy-back rate was 39.29% as sellers seemed to continue to struggle to adjust to an uncertain marketplace.

“When you breed at one end of the market and have to sell at another, it’s very difficult to come to terms with that,” Russell said. “I think we are seeing some of that. I think it’s coming to the adjustment now of, ‘What do I have in the horse and what am I getting out?’ We hope that adjusts as we go forward.”

The domestic buying bench continued to dominate the top of the market, but foreign buyers remained active with Wednesday’s bidding featuring 150 bids, and six sales, from internet bidders.

“We were looking at it closely and I think, at a time when there is such uncertainty about how much international participation there would be, we were really happy with the buyer base,” said Keeneland President Elect Shannon Arvin. “It’s a very diverse buyer base and they are participating in different ways. We continued to have a lot of activity on the internet today, particularly from Japan.”

The Keeneland September sale continues through Sept. 25 with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.

Uncle Mo Colt to Ingordo

Bloodstock agent David Ingordo, bidding out back, outlasted the SF/Starlight/Madaket partnership bidding in the show ring to acquire a colt by Uncle Mo for a session-topping $950,000 early in Wednesday’s third session of the Keeneland September sale. The yearling was consigned by Gainesway as agent for his breeder, Three Chimneys. He is the first foal out of the unraced Bella Rafaela (Smart Strike), a half-sister to Grade I winner Twirling Candy (Candy Ride {Arg}).

“I saw this horse at Three Chimneys Farm a few weeks before the sale,” Ingordo said. “He is one of the best prospects I saw and I probably looked at 1,500 on the farms before the sale. He was my personal top pick. We have Twirling Candy [at Lane’s End] and he looks like the family. This is the horse we wanted to have.”

Ingordo signed the ticket on the colt (hip 506) in the name of Mayberry Farm and, while he declined to name the client he was buying for, he was bidding alongside owner Lee Searing of C R K Stable.

Several high-priced offerings at Keeneland this week have been purchased by partnerships made up of major buyers, with SF/Starlight and Madaket leading the way.

“We try to buy the best horse. We have our price in mind and we know you have to stretch for the better ones,” Ingordo said. “What’s hard, and what we do have to figure out how to adjust to, is that my clients are usually their own entities. So it’s one person’s finances, in some instances, against many people’s finances. I work for a lot of private individuals and what we have to adjust for is partnership stuff. That’s the hardest thing when you have a partnership going in and buying 20. It’s a great strategy and I have to figure out my own plan for that. But when you’re bidding for one person against an entity that is many-headed and many-walleted, that’s something we have to figure out how to adjust for.”

Chris Baker of Three Chimneys said he was happy with the result in what has been a challenging market for sellers.

“He was a really nice colt and, in what has proven to be a pretty selective market, it’s great to see him jump through all of the hoops and do well,” said Baker. “His price isn’t surprising, but it’s certainly encouraging in this market. And he’s in good hands to do well, so we are excited about that also.”

Baker continued, “For us, the market this week has been kind of moderate at best. This is the first colt that has exceeded expectations on any level. The others, we’ve gotten some traded, had some RNAs. It’s been a challenging, selective market with a lower ceiling.”

Of the decisions on which of the Three Chimneys foal crop is taken to market, Baker explained, “We try and bring 50% of the value of the crop to market. So it’s not a number, it’s more of an internal appraisal. We are trying to meet some budget restraints and to generate some revenue. If you kept what are your best half and sold the lesser half, we’ve got a business to run and operational expenses and all of that. So we’ve got to generate revenue. Something has to sell and sell well. You’ve got to feed the beast.” @JessMartiniTDN

Second Time a Charm for Into Mischief Colt

A colt by Into Mischief (hip 564), led out unsold at $230,000 as a weanling at last year’s Keeneland November sale, proved more popular in his second trip through the Keeneland sales ring, selling for $875,000 to the bid of bloodstock agent Demi O’Byrne Wednesday. The yearling is out of Divine Heart (Divine Park), a half-sister to multiple Grade I winner Include Me Out (Include) and Grade I winner Check the Label (Stormin Fever). He was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of breeder Fred Hertrich.

“It’s really hard to get something to sell well, but we thought that was a really special horse,” said Taylor Made’s Duncan Taylor. “He’s a great mover and looks like an Into Mischief is supposed to look.”

Taylor said bidding was selective at the September sales, but when the right people hooked up on a horse, sellers could be rewarded.

“We’ve sold Into Mischiefs in this sale that were similar for $400,000 or $450,000, but if you can get two of the right people hooked up on a horse, it can make the difference by $200,000 or $300,000.”

Asked about the difference in results from November to September, Taylor said succinctly, “I think the Derby winner,” referring to GI Kentucky Derby winner Authentic (Into Mischief). “[In September] there are more end users and people visualizing and saying, ‘I could win a Classic with an Into Mischief and this looks like a two-turn horse.’ It’s just a different market. Here there are people that want to take them and race them and win the big races.”

Into Mischief has dominated both the Fasig Showcase last week and the early sessions of the Keeneland sale, but that is no surprise to Taylor.

“He’s probably going to have a greater effect on the breed than even Storm Cat did,” Taylor said of Into Mischief. “His conformation is good whereas Storm Cats, they were beautiful horses, but they were pigeon-toed. [Into Mischief’s] sons like Practical Joke are throwing the same thing. Into Mischief is here to stay. He’s going to keep at it.” @JessMartiniTDN

Repole & Viola Continue Spending Spree

Prominent New York-based owners Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola, who co-campaigned last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic S. winner Vino Rosso (Curlin), have been loading up for the future this week and last in Lexington. With the help of agent Jacob West, they bought two colts at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearlings Showcase for a combined $600,000, and have spent $6.38 million on 15 head so far at KEESEP. They waited until Book 2 for their largest expenditure yet, an $875,000 Into Mischief colt consigned by Gainesway, Agent XVII as hip 701.

One of Repole/Viola’s Fasig buys was a $450,000 son of Into Mischief, and Viola’s St Elias Stables signed for another $300,000 daughter of the Spendthrift stalwart across town. They’ve now purchased four sons of Into Mischief at Keeneland (hip 211, $450,000; hip 290, $360,000; and hip 646, $350,000), and one grandson of Into Mischief from the first crop of Practical Joke (hip 725, $575,000).

“Into Mischief, having Authentic win the [GI Kentucky] Derby has taken that stallion to another level,” said West, after doing his bidding in the back ring alongside trainer Todd Pletcher, and fending off the likes of agent Donato Lanni to snag the colt. “I think at some point in time [Into Mischief] probably had a reputation of getting horses that were more the sprinter or miler-type animals, but now he’s shown he can get a Classic-distance horse and it’s put him in the upper echelons in Kentucky.”

Into Mischief’s 34 sellers through Wednesday have grossed a leading $18.83 million at an average of $558,824. He has had four reach seven figures and 14 meet or exceed $500,000.

“I think at the end of the day, the market has always dictated that good horses are going to sell no matter who they’re by or what they’re out of,” West said. “But obviously, Authentic winning the Derby has put Into Mischief into another stratosphere. He’s always been an incredible stallion, but now he’s moved a couple rungs up the ladder because he’s shown he can do things people didn’t think he could do.”

Repole and Viola are one of a few groups who have teamed up to take home many of the top lots at KEESEP–particularly colts.

“Mike Repole, Vinnie Viola and their families are extremely supportive of the horse business,” West said. “But what the summary here doesn’t show is how many horses we’ve bid on. We’ve been active at several levels. In Book 1, we focused primarily on colts and now they’ve dipped their toes in a little on fillies. But we’ve been outbid on more horses than we have bought if that tells you anything. There are a couple of groups that we consistently butt heads with, but that is how the market is today. We’re just excited to get this horse.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Nicols Rides Into Mischief Train to Big Score

Loren Nichols, who operates Trackside Farm in Williston, FL, was all smiles Wednesday as he and Gainesway general manager Brian Graves celebrated the $875,000 sale of hip 701.

Nichols paid just $47,000 for the colt’s unraced dam Mimi’s Tiz (Tiznow) while she was carrying her first foal, a colt by Will Take Charge, at the 2017 Keeneland November Sale. The resulting foal only brought $32,000 last September, but Nichols more than got out on that purchase with Mimi’s Tiz’s second foal.

“Oh, I just loved the mare,” Nichols, who has a background in breeding and training Arabians, of Mimi’s Tiz’s appeal. “I took one look at her–she was carrying what I thought was going to be a very nice baby by Will Take Charge. That didn’t turn out so good, but she’s a lovely mare. She’s got a beautiful Bolt d’Oro baby at home. This horse was just perfect all the way through.”

Mimi’s Tiz, a $300,000 FTSAUG yearling, is a full-sister to SW Summer House out of SW Mimi’s Bling (Bernstein). She hails from the family of speedy Custom for Carlos, a leading sire in Louisiana.

Nichols, who keeps a broodmare band of approximately 10, hinted that he may have another reason to celebrate at Keeneland in a couple of months.

“I’ve got a real special [Into Mischief] filly at home who’s going to be in the November sale,” he revealed. “We’re excited about that one–she’s better than this one.”

The Mar. 22 foal is out of stakes-placed Conway Two Step (Spanish Steps), who is a half-sister to the dam of MGISW Miss Temple City (Temple City). Nichols paid just $11,000 for that one at the 2013 OBS Winter Mixed Sale, and has already sold a $475,000 Into Mischief yearling out of her. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Owens, Fincher on Lookout for ‘The One’

There were a pair of fresh faces slugging it out with the usual suspects Wednesday, and the relative newbies won out as Lori Owens of B-4 Farms LLC and top New Mexico-based trainer Todd Fincher refused to back down and went all the way to $870,000 to take home hip 757. The Quality Road colt was consigned to the sale by Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck’s Summerfield on behalf of Stonestreet Bred & Raised. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was overheard saying to Owens and Fincher afterward something to the effect of, “You bought my horse!”

Owens and Fincher did their bidding in the show barn alongside agent Pete Bradley and his daughter Devon, and Fincher said the Bradley Thoroughbreds team provided he and Owens with a list of about a dozen horses before they eventually pared that list down to three. Hip 757 was the third and final to go through the ring.

“This is the top of the line, and that’s where we all strive to get to some day,” said Fincher, a prolific conditioner on his circuit of both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds who has racked up close to $30 million in career earnings. “Hopefully, this horse will take us there. He was just perfect-bodied; perfectly balanced. The breeding was there. We just couldn’t fault him in any way.”

Of Owens, who is from Abilene, TX, Fincher said, “She just got in the business a few years ago and had some success. She loves the game, and she wanted ‘The One’, so we’re looking for ‘The One.’ Hopefully, this colt is it.”

He continued, “Her friends got in on a couple Quarter Horses–which I didn’t have–and I told her that in Thoroughbred game around here, you can buy them pretty cheap; have fun and win some money. The first one I bought her won a [$157,000] futurity, and she paid [$32,000] for the horse. She just loves it; she loves the excitement. She understands the game–it’s a gamble–and she understands it. She loves it, and she loves the sale… She doesn’t just call in and say, ‘Go find me a horse.’ She loves to be here, and you’re here for hours every day, but she’s figured it out.”

Owens’s current runners include Canoodling (Pioneerof the Nile), a $180,000 buy here last season who Fincher prepared at Sunland Park and Ruidoso Downs before shipping her to Jeff Mullins at Del Mar. She won on debut in a turf sprint at the seaside oval July 31, but was fifth with a troubled trip in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf S. Sept. 6.

Hip 757, whose dam was acquired for $460,000 at KEENOV ’17 in foal to Harlan’s Holiday, is half to GSW Poker Player (Harlan’s Holiday) and two more stakes-placed runners. This is the female family of recent GI Forego S. hero Win Win Win (Hat Trick {Jpn}).

@BDiDonatoTDN

Shadwell Active in Book 2

Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Company Ltd., typically the first or second-leading buyer at Keeneland September, was a bit quieter in Book 1 than usual, but struck early in the Book 2 opener Wednesday to land hip 474–a colt by sire of the moment Into Mischief–for $700,000.

The full-brother to MGSP Class Act was bred by George Krikorian and consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency.

“He’s a really nice colt,” said Shadwell general manager and vice president Rick Nichols. “I’m surprised; he should have been in the first book. We’re very pleased with that…I got beat out one the other night, and actually I like this one better.”

Hip 474 is bred on the same Into Mischief–Distorted Humor cross as GISW and first-yearling sire Practical Joke. His third dam is Sheikh Mohammed’s Group 2 winner Colour Chart (Mr. Prospector), who produced the likes of champion 2-year-old filly Tempera (A.P. Indy).

Shadwell’s 2-year-old colt Mutasaabeq (Into Mischief) was named a TDN Rising Star for his Saratoga unveiling Aug. 1 and was third in the GI Runhappy Hopeful S. there last week.

Nichols admitted that Sheikh Hamdan’s absence at this year’s yearling sales had made an impact on Shadwell’s expenditure.

“Well, he sometimes doesn’t stop when I have to stop,” Nichols chuckled. “It’s definitely had some effect. We got beat out on four Monday night, and I think if he had been here we would’ve owned one. I have to follow instructions–he doesn’t.”

Shadwell later added an $800,000 Speightstown full-brother to SW/MGISP Dawn the Destroyer (hip 559) and two more for $270,000 total. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Stonestreet Products Continue to Prove Popular

Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Bred & Raised sold the $2-million Tapit topper during Book 1 of KEESEP Monday, and its crop of high-quality yearlings continued to be well received into Book 2 Wednesday.

Among Stonestreet’s five sellers for $2.81 million in gross receipts Wednesday was the aforementioned $870,000 Quality Road and hip 559, the Speightstown colt picked up by Shadwell for $800,000. The dark bay was consigned by Jody and Michelle Huckabay’s Elm Tree Farm.

“He is a very, very nice horse–thanks to Stonestreet, Ms. Banke, for letting us sell him,” Jody Huckabay said. “We saw him back in April, and Michelle and I got back in the car and our mouths dropped open. We loved him. He’s a very, very good horse, and obviously the buyers thought so too. We had a lot of interest. Shadwell has bought a lot of horses from us and thank goodness they believe in the product we bring up here.”

As for hip 559 being offered in Book 2, rather than Book 1 where he would have fit well on pedigree and physical, Huckabay said,

“We didn’t put any horses in Book 1. We’re kind of middle-of-the-road sellers, if you will, but this horse certainly could’ve gone in Book 1. Absolutely.”

Of the markte, he added, “We’ve carried three through, we’ve sold sold three. The ones they’re on, you know when you leave the barn if you’re going to be ok or not, in general. If there’s nobody on them, it’s pretty tough.”

Hip 559 is out of TDN Rising StarDashing Debby (Medaglia d’Oro), who romped in Calder’s J J’dream S. at first asking in 2009 before being acquired privately by Stonestreet.

While she failed to hit the board in four subsequent tries, Dashing Debby has made up for it in the breeding shed. Her first foal Bronze Star (Tapit) was a $500,000 KEESEP yearling in 2013 and eventually became a stakes winner. Dawn the Destroyer racked up better than $556,000 on the track for Stonestreet, capped by a third-place run in last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup F/M Sprint. She was bred to Into Mischief this past season.

Hip 559 was bred on a potent and popular cross responsible for the likes of Grade I winners Competitionofideas and Rock Fall and GSW ‘Rising Star’ Strike Power. A $475,000 Speightster (Speightstown) filly (hip 629) who sold Wednesday is bred the same way.

Stonestreet’s 2019 September sellers grossed $17,040,700 from 49 head. Its 2020 tally is up to $5,745,000 for eight.

“I hope [marketing the horses as Stonestreet Bred & Raised] gives buyers more confidence,” Banke said after thanking Nichols. “We raise racehorses; we don’t ‘hot-house’ them. We do all the right things and try to raise a racehorse that is sturdy and has great breeding.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Breeze Easy, Baccari Score With Gun Runner

Mike Hall and Sam Ross’s Breeze Easy is partnering with Chris Baccari on a commercial broodmare band of some 60-90 head and the partnership scored late in Wednesday’s session of the Keeneland sale when selling a son of Gun Runner for $775,000 to bloodstock agent David Ingordo, signing as Mayberry Farm. The bay colt (hip 812) is out of Sweet Shirley Mae (Broken Vow), who was second in the 2012 GI Spinaway S. Breeze Easy purchased the mare, in foal to Giant’s Causeway, for $225,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton November sale.

“This is our goal, to raise good quality horses. That is what our goal has been the last two years,” Baccari said. “We are looking to acquire really good mares and mate them the best we can and try to come up with good results.”

Of the yearling, who is a half-brother to stakes winner Mae Never No (Ire) (No Nay Never), Baccari added, “I knew he was very popular. In this particular market, sometimes they are really on and fireworks happen. If they aren’t enough on them, there is a little bit of fizzle, but not enough bang. That’s how I look at the market right now, there is a lot of value here for people. If you are in the top 10% of your day, I don’t care if you are in Book 5, you are going to probably have a good result.”

While Breeze Easy has enjoyed success on the racetrack, Baccari said the partnership is focused on selling its foals.

“There is a time and a case where it’s not going over good and it’s worth keeping them at a normal or realistic price, if you like the horse,” Baccari explained. “There was a More Than Ready filly we kept at Fasig-Tipton. We thought it would be hard to replace her and we bought her back for not much money. I think that’s fine. But when people want to buy your horses, you have to let them buy. Our goal was to set this up as a commercial operation.” @JessMartiniTDN

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