Momentum Continues To Build As Book 3 Concludes at KEESEP

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Session-topping hip 1913 | Keeneland photo

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LEXINGTON, KY – With five sessions of selling still to come, the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale surpassed the total gross of its 12-session 2020 renewal during a final Book 3 session which featured competitive bidding through to the very end Sunday night in Lexington. By the end of business Sunday, 1,169 yearlings had sold during six sessions for a total of $278,883,000. The auction's total 2020 gross, recorded during the uncertainty of the pre-vaccination pandemic, was $200,750,700.

During the two-session Book 3, 571 yearlings sold for $80,011,500 for an average of $140,125 and a median of $110,000. With the inclusion of post-sale transactions, the 2020 Book 3 sections saw 483 yearlings sell for $42,269,700 for an average of $87,515 and a median of $60,000.

With just 84 horses reported not sold Sunday, the session's buy-back rate was 23.08%. Through six sessions, the buy-back rate stands at 27.53%.

With 29 yearlings sold for $3,557,000, Taylor Made Sales Agency was Sunday's leading consignor.

“It's been really strong,” Taylor Made's Marshall Taylor said of Book 3 trade. “We probably RNA'd only three or four horses. We've sold most of our horses today, so it's been really good for the day. I think it's been a lot stronger, especially compared to last year. The momentum has almost picked up in Book 3. New people came into town and people were hanging around from Books 1 and 2. It's been a perfect storm of people being forced to stay longer and new people coming in. I thought yesterday and today were really strong. I hope it continues keep going into Books 4 and 5.”

Pinhookers, largely shut out in earlier books, started breaking through in Book 3, but as plenty of buyers are still getting repeatedly shut out, the rest of the week at Keeneland figures to be competitive.

“What I have heard from buyers is that it's been very difficult to buy the horses that they have orders for,” said breeder Fred Hertrich. “So I think there are still a lot of horses to be sold.”

First-crop sire City of Light, in high demand all week at Keeneland, had the top two yearlings during Sunday's session. Bloodstock agent Jacob West bid $700,000 for a son of the Lane's End stallion from Farfellow Farms (hip 1913) and Breeze Easy secured a filly (hip 1860) by the young sire for $525,000 from the Warrendale Sales consignment.

Through six sessions, 44 yearlings by City of Light have sold for $17,050,000.

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

West Strikes Late for City of Light Topper

The hour was late, but most of the major players were still milling around the pavilion when bloodstock agent Jacob West made the highest bid of Sunday's sixth session of the Keeneland September sale, going to $700,000 to acquire a colt by Lane's End's in-demand sire City of Light.

“It's 8 o'clock at night, it's way past my bedtime,” West quipped after signing the ticket on hip 1913 on behalf of the partnership of Mike Repole and Vinnie Viola's St Elias.

“He's a beautiful horse,” West continued. “I knew we were going to have to fight them off. I had a pretty good feeling when I walked back and saw who was still hanging around that everyone was going to be on him. And that was exactly what it was. But Mike and Vinnie were dead set on getting him. He has a stallion's pedigree and a stallion's look. He just happened to be put in this book and this is where he sold. But he stood out like a sore thumb. He was the obvious horse today for us.”

It was another standout result for the Knelman family's Farfellow Farms. The operation's only other yearling to go through the ring at the auction was a $1-million son of Street Sense (hip 1022) who sold Thursday.

Sunday's session topper is out of Hessie's Girl (Giant's Causeway), a half-sister to Grade I winner Bullsbay (Tiznow) and to graded winner Our Khrysty (Newfoundland), whose daughter Grace Adler (Curlin) won the Sept. 5 GI Del Mar Debutante.

“He was physically so impressive and he's out of a nice Giant's Causeway mare,” Jak Knelman said of the yearling. “There is a lot of activity in the family. We bought the mare a few years ago, and I'll give a lot of credit to my mom, she picked the mare out of the catalogue. The stallion is really showing that he's throwing a nice physical.”

The Knelmans purchased Hessie's Girl for $150,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale, but almost missed out on the session-topper when putting her back through the ring while she was carrying the colt at the 2019 Keeneland November sale. The mare failed to sell at $190,000.

“We are pretty excited she didn't sell,” Knelman said with a smile. “To be honest with you, the City of Light momentum was already starting in utero with these mares. So we thought we would put her in the sale. And for whatever reason, this mare just didn't get picked up by that wave. So a little bit of dumb luck. And I don't think we will be putting her in the sale again any time soon.”

Hessie's Girl produced a colt by Liam's Map this year and was bred back to Game Winner.

“It's a testament to our farm manager Josh Hennessy and to Emmanuel,” Knelman said of the farm's outstanding September results. “They work so hard every day, so a lot of kudos to them.”

Breeze Easy Takes Top Filly

Breeze Easy, which sold the session-topping daughter of Curlin Saturday at Keeneland, purchased the top-priced filly during Sunday's session when going to $525,000 to acquire a filly by City of Light (hip 1860) from the Warrendale Sales consignment.

“We've been waiting all day for this horse to come through,” said Breeze Easy's Mike Hall. “We haven't bought very many, but we loved this horse and this was one we wanted to take home.”

Hall is already dreaming of Saratoga with Breeze Easy's newest acquisition.

“I think she's an early type horse and she can go to Saratoga,” he said. “She is a little different type of City of Light. She's a little more typey. I think she might be a little earlier than some of them. We are looking forward to her.”

Of the two session toppers on opposite sides of the ledger, Hall said, “The horse we sold yesterday, we loved her also, but you have to sell some horses. We are trying to build a business.”

Hip 1860 is out of stakes-placed Donna Getyourgun (Stormy Atlantic), a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Clearly a Queen (Lucky North). The yearling is a half-sister to stakes winner Mizzen Beau (Mizzen Mast).

The yearling was bred by Tony Holmes, who purchased Donna Getyourgun, in foal to Speightster, for $26,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.

“I had a conservative reserve on her,” Holmes said after the filly went through the ring. “For us to go buying horses back at big prices would be changing the goal posts for me. But this was brilliant.”

City of Light's big success in the sales ring made setting a reserve more difficult, according to Holmes.

“You should have to protect her along with those figures, which was a nice problem to have,” he said. “When you are trying to set a reserve, it was a bit higher than what we normally would do.”

Asked to compare the filly to other City of Light yearlings, Holmes admitted, “I didn't see a lot of them. I've just been looking at her every day since she was born.”

Of the yearling, he added, “She looks very athletic with a lovely big rear end. She is a smooth, smooth horse.”

Donna Getyourgun produced a filly by Catholic Boy this year and was bred back to McKinzie.

When told he had sold the day's top-priced filly, Holmes said, “I should probably go get a drink then.”

Violence Colt Rewards Hertrich and Fielding

A colt by Violence (hip 1717) took the lead at Keeneland Sunday when selling for $500,000 to WinStar Farm's Elliott Walden. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the dark bay yearling was bred by Fred Hertrich and John Fielding.

“He was just a really good invidual,” Hertrich said. “I probably never had a horse that had as many vets look at him or came and did single shows. I knew that was the type of horse that Elliott likes to buy. He's a big, scopey horse. You'll probably see him in the Derby in a couple of years.”

The colt is out of graded-placed Tulira's Star (Congrats), a half-sister to graded winner Mountain General (Mountain Cat). Hertrich purchased the mare for $145,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale.

Even though bidding at Keeneland this past week has been strong, Hertrich said he is still seeing polarization in the marketplace.

“Everybody will tell you the market is absolutely wonderful, but that's probably for the top two-thirds,” he said. “There are certain sires that people don't seem to want to buy. You never know until you get here what is going to be the horse that everybody wants to buy or a sire that nobody wants to buy. Certainly, with the first-crop sires, you have the Gun Runners that everybody wants to buy and the Arrogates that are maybe less popular. Next year, it could be the opposite.”

Buchanan Gets Her Gun Runner

Bloodstock agent Jane Buchanan, working with BBA Ireland on behalf of an existing client, had an order to fill for a yearling by Gun Runner. It took until the sixth session of the Keeneland September sale, but Buchanan got the job done when signing the ticket on hip 1647 for $475,000. The dark bay colt was consigned and co-bred by Jim and Pam Robinson's Brandywine Farm.

“We had an order to try to find a Gun Runner colt in the sale,” Buchanan said. “And as you know, it's been proving very tough. He was an excellent individual from a great nursery in Brandywine Farm. We are just delighted.”

Buchanan said it was likely the yearling will be heading overseas.

“He will possibly go abroad, most likely, but I'll have to talk to [BBA Ireland's] Michael [Donohoe] about that,” she explained.

The yearling is out of Royal Irish Lass (Saint Ballado) and is a half-brother to graded winner and Grade I placed Royal Mo (Uncle Mo) and multiple stakes winner Tara From the Cape (Leroidesanimaux {Brz}).

“We had a $149,000 reserve on him and I thought he might bring $200,000 to $250,000,” Jim Robinson, celebrating his birthday with strong sales result Sunday, said. “We had a lot of activity on him. So it was a little more than I expected.”

It was the colt's second trip through the Keeneland sales ring. He RNA'd for $95,000 at last year's November sale.

“He was just too nice to let him go,” Pam Robinson said of last fall's buy-back.

“Just a tick,” Jim Robinson said with a broad smile when asked how much impact Gun Runner's hot start to stud might have had in the change of sales fortunes. “The timing couldn't be any better. And he was a lovely horse with a tremendous walk on him. Perfect X-rays, according to our vet. All the stars just lined up.”

Ward Sees the Light

Trainer Wesley Ward signed the ticket to acquire a colt by City of Light (hip 1692) for $460,000 midway through Sunday's sixth session of the Keeneland September sale. The bay yearling was bred and consigned by Woodford Thoroughbreds.

“We have been going through the day's horses that are coming in and he was a the top of the list,” Ward said. “He was the one I felt most confident in. He's back here in a later book and I think I would have had to pay a little more if some of the people who were here earlier hadn't already headed out of town. So, we got a little bit of a value even though it was quite dear. I think he's going to be a really nice horse.”

Lane's End's first-crop sire City of Light has set the Keeneland sales ring on fire this week and Ward said he has liked what he's seen of the stallion's first yearlings.

“I've been very impressed with them,” Ward said. “They are beautiful horses and they look like they've got athleticism. We will see next year as we get a little closer, but right now, it looks like he's going to make it.”

Speightstown Filly Heads West

A filly by Speightstown will be heading to the West Coast after bloodstock agent Phil Hager signed the ticket at $425,000 on hip 1612 in the name of Lee and Susan Searing's CRK Stable.

“We bought two in Book 2 and we wanted to buy one more,” Hager said. “It's taken us until now. But we really like this filly. She looks fast, like a 2-year-old type.”

Hager said the filly will be trained by Peter Eurton, while adding of his involvement in the purchase, “I'm just helping out.”

The filly is out of the unraced Poetic Justice (Pioneerof the Nile), who is a daughter of graded winner Draming of Liz (El Prado {Ire}). She was consigned by Burleson Farms, which co-bred the filly in partnership with Becky Thomas's Sequel Thoroughbreds and Louis Trudel. The partners purchased Poetic Justice, with the filly in utero, for $165,000 at the 2019 Keeneland November sale.

“We are big Speightstown fans,” Lyn Burleson said of the mare's appeal while selling two years ago in foal to the WinStar stallion. “And she's a beautiful mare. Every year, we try to add a couple mares to the program. This was a young mare who was pricey for us, but a really pretty physical and we thought she would cross well with Speightstown.”

The result was extra special because the partnership on the mare includes Trudel, a longtime Sequel employee.

“Louis Trudel, one of my longtime guys, has 5% of the mare,” Thomas said. “This is his first group of mares, so he has 5% of five mares. I first met up with him because he was working for Cavalia [as stable coordinator] at that time. And someone told me this guy wants to get into the Thoroughbred business. It was many, many years ago and this is his first real participation in owning horses. At home, he has 5% of a City of Light yearling who is going to the 2-year-old sale. He's is the ultimate Thoroughbred man right now.”

Of the yearling's final price tag Sunday, Burleson admitted, “We weren't expecting anywhere near that much. We are smaller players in that, so we are all just delighted with that. And he went to a really good home and there were a lot of good underbidders.”

Mathiesen, Jennings Have Big Day Before The Big Day

Hannah Mathiesen and Aidan Jennings will celebrate their nuptials in two weeks, but the couple had an early big day with a group of stellar pinhooks at Keeneland Sunday.

First up, they sold a colt by Violence (hip 1541), purchased earlier in the year for $65,000 at the Fasig-Tipton February sale, for $165,000 to BBN Racing. Next up, a Nyquist colt (hip 1576), purchased at Keeneland January for $40,000, sold for $200,000 to S 3 L, LLC. A colt by Accelerate (hip 1765), purchased for $110,000 at Keeneland last November, sold for $200,000 to Atlas Bloodstock and completing the standout day, a colt by Kantharos (hip 1818), purchased for $125,000 at last year's Fasig-Tipton November sale, sold for $250,000 to Ben McElroy, as agent for Wesley Ward.

Of their topper seller Sunday, Mathiesen said, “He was strong and very leggy for a Kantharos. A lot of them are quicker, speed horses. Since he is out of a Street Sense mare, he had a lot of stretch. I think that appealed to a lot of people. We loved him all the way along.”

Mathiesen's experience in racing and sales spans the globe. Vice president of the Nexus Racing Club, which looks to promote the sport to younger fans, the California native also spent time in Australia and has managed pinhooking partnerships in both hemispheres.

Jennings, a native of Ireland, has plenty of international experience as well.

“My uncle is a National Hunt trainer in Ireland, Gerry Lynch is his name,” Jennings said. “He got me into racing. I went to college and studied equine management and science. Then I went on my own little Flying Start. I went to Japan, I went to France and worked in Australia. And I worked at Coolmore as well.”

Mathiesen and Jenning's Keeneland pinhooking success also included a son of Arrogate (hip 721) who sold in Book 2 for $250,000 to the bid of Colts Neck Stables. He had been purchased for $150,000 at Keeneland last November.

“All of these horses we bought with the option to race,” Mathiesen explained. “So we brought them to market to see how it would go and thankfully, it went very well.”

Jennings admitted luck, as well as skill, played a part in their success.

“I think we were probably lucky,” he said. “The horses went the right way. It's a small sample size. The five went well, but if you had 10, I'm sure you'd have five that go well and five that don't. The market was good, but we had good horses. All of those horses looked like stakes horses. They looked the part.”

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