Million-Dollar Yearlings Pace KEESEP Book 1 Opener

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Session-topping hip 43 in the ring Keeneland

by Jessica Martini, Brian DiDonato & Christie DeBernardis

LEXINGTON, KY – The Keeneland September Yearling Sale, led by a trio of million-dollar yearlings, opened with a day of steady trade in Lexington Monday.

A total of 95 yearlings sold during the session for $38,172,000, at an average of $401,811 and a median of $325,000.

“I think the trade was really strong,” Keeneland's new vice president of sales Tony Lacy said at the close of business Monday. “The numbers may have stacked very comparably to last year, but I think there was a lot more confidence and the money was spread out over more horses. I think it's a healthier market in many ways. The energy on the grounds was very strong.”

During last year's first session, 109 head sold for $40,680,000. The session average was $373,211 and the median was $330,000.

From a catalogue of 201 head, 45 horses were withdrawn and 61 failed to meet their reserves for a buy-back rate of 39.10%.

“I think a lot of people got shut out today,” Lacy said. “I know there was one group of buyers, we actually sent them a bottle of bourbon because they were underbidders on 15 or 16 horses. That in itself is a very strong sign. When you have some higher RNA's that OK because these are people who want to race, they like their horses and that's not a sign of weakness, that's actually a sign of strength. So from a trading environment, I think it was excellent.”

A filly by American Pharoah (hip 43) was first to hit seven figures during the session when bloodstock agent Alan Quartucci bid a session-topping $1.4 million to acquire the yearling on behalf of Joe Allen. The youngster, a half-sister to recent GI Spinaway S. winner Echo Zulu (Gun Runner), was consigned by Betz Thoroughbreds. Also bringing seven figures Monday was a colt by Into Mischief (hip 177) who sold for $1.35 million to Winchell Thoroughbreds and a filly by Uncle Mo (hip 89) who brought a final bid of $1.1 million from Courtlandt Farm.

A standout among the buy-backs was a colt by Quality Road out of Justwhistledixie (Dixie Union) consigned by Clearsky Farms who RNA'd for $1.9 million. While connections plan to retain the yearling to race, there were seven horses who failed to sell Monday who have been added to Keeneland's new RNA Reoffer program which takes place at the end of Tuesday's second session of the auction.

“That might change,” Lacy said of the number of yearlings entered into the initiative. “We had two that were entered earlier and they got sold privately. And that's exactly the way it's supposed to work. And some of these may be sold privately before the end of the session tomorrow. That is a mechanism to allow free trade. And if something is not done by tomorrow evening, it allows them to run back through. It's been well received by the people who are using it. I think there was a little bit of uncertainty about what it really was, but now we are at the stage of the day where you may have had one or two people who thought the market didn't treat them the way they thought it would. It allows them to come back and hopefully have a better reception tomorrow.”

The seven yearlings currently scheduled to be reoffered Tuesday evening are: hip 6, hip 70, hip 72, hip 111, hip 179, hip 195, and hip 197.

Donato Lanni, bidding on behalf of the partnership of SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables which was such a powerhouse buying group at last year's September sale, purchased four yearlings Monday for a total of $2,225,000.

“We bought two horses in the first 50 lots,” said SF Bloodstock's Tom Ryan. “The market seems to be strong. There is plenty of depth here and a lot of international participation. I feel like the rest of the sale will be strong.”

With a further 200 Book 1 yearlings to be offered Tuesday, consignor Chris Baccari admitted he has concerns about the number of yearlings who meet the session's elite standards.

“There only need to be 100 to 150 horses, that's all there is of Book 1 horses,” Baccari said. “Great sires, great female pedigrees, that vet, there are only 100 horses, maybe 150 horses, on the planet that meet all those requirements. It's like diamonds. If diamonds where as common as gravel, they wouldn't be worth anything.”

The Keeneland September sale continues Tuesday at 1 p.m. Book 2 sessions Wednesday and Thursday begin at 11 a.m. and, following a dark day Friday, the auction continues through Sept. 24 with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.

Allen Comes Out on Top for Echo Zulu Sis

Northshore Bloodstock's Alan Quartucci, acting on behalf of owner Joe Allen, was the first to sign a seven-figure ticket at Keeneland September Monday as he went to $1.4 million to secure hip 43, an American Pharoah half-sister to leading juvenile filly Echo Zulu (Gun Runner). The May 8 foal was consigned to the sale by Bill Betz's Betz Thoroughbreds and bred on an apparent foal share by Betz, J. Betz, Burns, CHNNHK, CoCo Equine, Ramsby and Ashford Stud.

“She looks like a real runner,” Quartucci said. “She has a fantastic pedigree that's still going forward every day. The filly who won in Saratoga was amazing. She was the whole package, I think.”

Quartucci said the filly would likely end up in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

A $300,000 purchase here 12 months ago, Echo Zulu was turned over to Steve Asmussen by L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds and romped on debut at Saratoga July 15, good for 'TDN Rising Star' status and a gaudy 92 Beyer Speed Figure. She doubled up with similar flash in the GI Spinaway S. Sept. 5, and looms the likely favorite for the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at this stage.

Hip 43's dam Letgomyecho (Menifee) annexed the 2005 GII Forward Gal S. and later sold to Betz and partners for $135,000 in foal to Congrats at the 2011 Keeneland November sale. Since then she has also produced the likes of GSP Unbridled Outlaw (Unbridled's Song, $300,000 KEESEP '14); Grade III winner and 'Rising Star' J Boys Echo (Mineshaft, $485,000 KEESEP '15); and Echo Town (Speightstown, $100,000 KEESEP '18), winner of last year's GI H. Allen Jerkens Memorial S. and now a member of Coolmore's stallion roster.

“She is a lovely filly,” Betz said of hip 43 last week. “She has strength, balance, good movement and temperament. She also has pedigree. Obviously the mother was a graded stakes winner and produced graded stakes horses, including Echo Town, who won the Jerkens last year at Saratoga. So, now with Echo Zulu, it's a pretty nice package.”

He added, “Anytime you get something current happening in the pedigree it is a pretty big plus. In her case, it is icing on the cake because you already had all that to begin with. To have a half-sister as exciting as Echo Zulu just solidifies her place as an elite filly.”

Allen and Quartucci struck again later in the day for an $850,000 Candy Ride (Arg) colt (hip 181) from the super deep female family of top-level winnners Verrazano, Chic Shirine, Queena, Keen Ice, Preservationist, Librisa Breeze, Harmonize, et al. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Winchell Wins Battle for Into Mischief Colt

Winchell Thoroughbreds's Ron Winchell went toe-to-toe with the Courtlandt Farm team late in Monday's KEESEP session to land hip 177, a son of leading sire Into Mischief, for $1.35 million. The bay was consigned by his breeder, Greg Goodman's Mt. Brilliant Farm.

The Feb. 14 foal is the first out of Superioritycomplex (Ire) (Hard Spun), a 400,000gns Tattersalls December purchase as part of the Ballymacoll Stud dispersal in 2017 who would go on to take a pair of allowances for Mt. Brilliant and Orrin Ingram the following season. His third dam is G1 Yorkshire Oaks heroine Hellenic (Darshaan), who in turn produced the great Islington (Ire) (Sadler's Wells).

“Into Mischief is great,” said Goodman. “We bought the mare in Europe, in England, at Tattersalls a few years ago. We just love the family–we also bought her sister [1,050,000gns MGSP Abingdon (Street Cry {Ire})] at the same time because it was a dispersal.”

As for hip 177, Goodman said, “He has always been outstanding. He's always done everything right. A calm horse, smart, we're really happy with him and we're really happy Mr. Winchell got him and that he's going to a good home.”

Winchell, who enjoyed a banner Saratoga meet thanks in large part to his Grade I-winning juveniles Gunite (Gun Runner) and Echo Zulu (Gun Runner), also picked up a $700,000 Into Mischief colt (hip 116) earlier in the session and a $150,000 son of American Pharoah (hip 183) a few hips after signing for 177.

“[Hip 177's] probably an Into Mischief who doesn't look like an Into Mischief, and I've had Into Mischiefs that look like Into Mischiefs and I can't seem to find the winner's circle with them, so I figured I would go a different direction,” Winchell quipped. “I knew he may be expensive, but you always hope for a little less.”

As for his leading freshman sire Gun Runner, whose four offerings Monday averaged $288,750, Winchell said, “To me, he is the perfect mix of speed and stamina and obviously that's proven now. His offspring are hitting the racetrack and obviously we have had a lot of success with them lately and we hope to continue to do that.” —@BDiDonatoTDN

Quality Road Colt to Coolmore

A colt by Quality Road attracted a final bid of $950,000 from Coolmore's M.V. Magnier during Monday's first session of the Keeneland September sale. The bay yearling (hip 64) is out of multiple graded-placed Milam (Street Sense), a half-sister to champion Rushing Fall (More Than Ready).

“We liked the horse, he's very athletic,” said Magnier. “Quality Road is doing very well. And this is a very nice horse. We plan to leave him in the U.S.”

The yearling was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of his breeder, WinStar Farm. WinStar purchased Milam for $175,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale.

“He's done well his whole life and we are very proud of him and that Coolmore got him,” said WinStar's Elliott Walden. “We wish them nothing but the best with him.”

Walden said he saw a lot to be optimistic about heading into the two-week September sale.

“I feel really good. I have a lot of confidence,” Walden said. “There are six racetracks running with maiden races over $100,000. It's crazy. I trained 15 years ago now and we were running for $30,000, so it's just amazing. I think the purses have caught up with the expenses. It gives a person a chance to make money on the racetrack instead of just building equity in the horse.”

Walden continued, “I think it should translate all the way through the sale. Looking around here on day one, I've never seen so many people in there sitting down. So I feel very encouraged about it.”

Milam's filly by Curlin sold for $250,000 to BSW/Crow Bloodstock at last year's Keeneland September Sale and Liz Crow, bidding alongside trainer Brad Cox, was an underbidder on the mare's yearling Monday.

Also Monday, Magnier signed for a colt by War Front (hip 29) for $400,000. @JessMartiniTDN

Mori Justifies the Trip

Hideyuki Mori struck for three colts by Justify during Monday's first session of the Keeneland September sale. The Japanese trainer warmed up by purchasing a son of the Triple Crown winner who is a half-brother to champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) (hip 133) for $625,000 from the Bluewater Sales consignment and he came back to acquire a half-brother to multiple graded stakes winner Pretty N Cool (Scat Daddy) (hip 161) for $950,000 from Baccari Bloodstock. Mori wrapped up his day one by buying with a son of Justify out of Grade I winner Streaming (Smart Strike) (hip 170) who was consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency.

“I have seen a lot of the Justifys and I really like them,” Mori said through an interpreter. “They have a beautiful line and they move very well. Based on their action and physical form, I think they will probably perform quite well on the Japanese turf.”

Consignor Chris Baccari is another fan of Justify. Baccari purchased hip 161 for $435,000 at last year's Keeneland November sale.

“I went out in search of the very best Justify I could possibly find, privately or at public auction,” Baccari said. “And I felt he was it. He is a great strong physical and I am a believer in the horse and I took a swing.”

While the gray colt, out of stakes-placed Stayclassysandiego (Rockport Harbor), was the first horse Baccari sent through the ring at the September sale, the horseman is looking forward to more success with Justify later in the fall.

“We had several Justifys that we've raised that are very nice–a couple that I raised were born later, they aren't as big as him because he is a January foal,” Baccari said. “But we have several others that are very nice. We have a couple others that are going to October that were born in May. I like how buoyant Justify was and how strong he was. I am trying to sell commercially, but the most important thing is for me to sell horses who run. And that is why I wanted to get tied to a horse like him.”

Baccari admitted he had hoped the gray colt would have attracted more bids.

“The air gets thin when you get past $800,000,” Baccari said. “A few years ago, we used to have buyers who were concerned about buying racehorses. The price didn't matter. I think people lose sight of one thing. Whether you give $300,000 or $3 million, if they are brilliant it doesn't matter. The price doesn't matter anymore. Being brilliant is what counts. And I think buyers sometimes lose sight of that, in my opinion. Because if you don't have brilliance it doesn't matter. If you have brilliance, it doesn't matter what they cost.” @JessMartiniTDN

Courtlandt Win Out on Uncle Mo Filly

Courtlandt Farm's Don Adam and his farm manager Ernie Retamoza were determined to take a home hip 89, a filly by Uncle Mo, and they fought off an equally resolute Donato Lanni to take the dark bay home for $1.1 million.

“She's an April foal, but you can see that she's still a little high behind and see she's gonna develop still,” said Retamoza. “A real athletic, typey filly, young mare, fits our program to a T. Not sure where we'll send her, but we'll get her home and break her. She acts like she's gonna be the right type of filly that we're looking for. Had to stretch, obviously, to get her, but Mr. Adam looked at her this morning and loved her, we all loved her, and we felt like she was a filly worth stretching for.”

Consigned by Paramount Sales, hip 89 was bred by Dr. Aaron Sones and hails from the family of Canadian champion Charlie Barley (Affirmed).

“She was a beauty,” said Paramount's Pat Costello. “She didn't put a foot wrong from the day she was here and we could see with the way the vetting was going, everybody was on her. She deserved to bring the kind of money she brought because she's just stunning. She came from a client of ours and she was always nice, very much so. We were delighted with the price. It was a little bit more than we thought she would bring.”

Courtlandt also struck earlier in the session for a $575,000 son of Speightstown (Hip 17).

“We loved him, but we had to stretch on him a little too,” Retamoza said. “We had Strike Power (Speightstown), who was pretty successful for us and he reminded me a lot of Strike Power. Speightstown is a great sire. We are really happy to get him.”

Courtlandt Farm was also back in action later in the day, purchasing a $400,000 City of Light colt (Hip 166); a $325,000 Flatter colt (Hip 158); and a $200,000 Union Rags filly (Hip 191).

@CDeBernardisTDN

Sones Scores With Uncle Mo Filly

Dr. Aaron Sones experienced the biggest success of his breeding career at Keeneland Monday when an Uncle Mo filly out of Nikki's Choice (Forestry) brought $1.1 million from Don and Donna Adam's Courtlandt Farm.

“We always knew she was special, but you can never expect that,” said Sones, who founded and sold Physicians Management Group and currently serves as Director of Jackson Hole Trust. “I love Uncle Mo and knew this cross would be successful as it is the same cross as [champion] Nyquist. I'm thrilled.”

Sones became interested in hip 89's female family on a tip from Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Bloodstock agent Mersad Metanovic helped Sones acquire Nikki's Choice's half-sister GSP Moyo Honey (Mizzen Mast), who he raced in partnership with Lorill Harlingten.

“My good friend D. Wayne Lukas turned me on to this family,” Sones said. “Moyo Honey had one of the quickest turns of foot I had ever seen. I went out and bought her mother [Charming Lauren (Meadowlake)] and then began acquiring more of the family.”

Sones breeds between 15 and 25 mares a year and keeps his broodmare band at Dr. Naoya and Marie Yoshida's Winchester Farm.

“We race quite a few colts, but we can't keep them all,” Sones said. “So we usually sell 50% and keep 50%. Our goal is to win the [GI] Kentucky Derby.” @CDeBernardisTDN

Grace Adler Partners Go for Gold

Willow Grace Farm and Michael Lund Petersen, who campaign recent GI TVG Del Mar Debutante S. romper Grace Adler (Curlin), added another fancy filly to their roster Monday when acquiring hip 86, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro from the Claiborne Farm draft, for $950,000. Agent Donato Lanni advised on the purchase, and three hips later was the underbidder on the $1.1-million hip 87.

“She's a really nice filly from a hot family,” said Claiborne's Walker Hancock. “She's a great filly–she's going to be a star, so I'm glad for the new buyers.”

Hip 86 was bred by The Estate of Edward A. Cox, Jr., who passed away in 2019. She hails from a deep female family that includes dual Grade II winner Live Lively (Medaglia d'Oro), last year's champion sprinter Mitole (Eskendereya) and this year's standout sophomore Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow).

“She wasn't a hard one to find–she had everything,” Lanni said of hip 86. “She was bred by a very good man who passed away. I really liked her and was just happy to buy her… [Medaglia d'Oro is] just a proven sire over and over. He's got good fillies, colts. [Hip 86 has] a great female family. She's an athlete, she's classy, and she's got pedigree. I hate to say it, she just checked all the boxes.”

The filly was the third high-dollar purchase Lanni had been credited with by nearly midway through the opening session.

“[The market's] really been strong all year,” he said. “There's a big appetite for really good horses out there and it's nice to see us get back to some kind of normalcy.”

Willow Grace Farm is the nom de course of Jim Burrows, who directed the hit TV show Will & Grace. Grace Adler is the sitcom's co-main character. —@BDiDonatoTDN

Avengers Strike at KEESEP

The ownership group nicknamed The Avengers was quite active as expected at the KEESEP opener, acquiring four colts to be trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. One of their first big purchases of the day was an $850,000 son of Into Mischief, a stallion who has already been quite good to the group headed by SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables with champion Authentic. Hip 53 was consigned by Taylor Made Sales on behalf of breeder Town & Country Farms.

“He will go to Bob Baffert,” said SF's Tom Ryan. “We are excited about him and I can't say enough about the horse. He looks like a nice two-turn colt. We will put him into the program and hopefully we will be talking about him this time next year.”

Town & Country Farms acquired hip 53's GSP dam Majestic Presence (Majestic Warrior) for $360,000 carrying her first foal by Runhappy at the 2017 KEENOV sale. The resulting foal, a now-3-year-old gelding named Gruntled, brought $230,000 from DJ Stable and her 2019 Candy Ride (Arg) colt sold to Brandon Parlante for $250,000 at KEESEP last year.

Donato Lanni also struck on the Avengers' behalf for hip 8, a $650,000 Quality Road colt out of MSW Inspired (Unbridled's Song); a $400,000 Into Mischief colt (hip 114); and a $325,000 son of Spendthrift's super sire (hip 155).

@CDeBernardisTDN

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