by Jessica Martini, Brian DiDonato and Christie DeBernardis
LEXINGTON, KY – A $2.2-million colt from the first crop of Horse of the Year American Pharoah garnered top billing during the first session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale Monday.
A total of 138 head changed hands for gross receipts of $48,620,000. The average was $352,319 and median was $260,000. The RNA rate was 34.91%. Last year's super-select Book 1 took place over one day, while this year's Book 1 has been spread out over four days with significantly more horses total. Therefore, session-to-session comparisons at this point of the sale would be inexact.
“It's hard to do some comparisons because of the format change,” acknowledged Keeneland's vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston. “Last year, we had a day one of 167ish horses and a three-day Book 2. This year ,we have effectively a blended Books 1 and 2. So if you try to do some comparisons, our thinking is what was the average and median after four days last year and what was the RNA rate? And in every one of those [categories today], they were dynamite. After four days last year, the average was $288,000. This year it is $352,000. That's about 24% growth over that average. The median last year after four days was $200,000. It was $260,000 today. I think there was strength in the middle market; the $250,000-$500,000 horses were here in a big way. And then the RNA rate was literally right on top of what the clearance rate was for last year. We are very encouraged and optimistic that the sale got off like we wanted it to.”
Godolphin landed the topper–offered by Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm as hip 91–after fending off a stern challenge from the Coolmore contingent. Godolphin's principal Sheikh Mohammed was in attendance at the auction for the first time in a number of years, and his operation was leading buyer with nine acquisitions for a total of $7.28 million.
“Every year, we have hopes [that Sheikh Mohammed will attend],” Elliston said. “It really is an honor when Sheikh Mohammed is able to clear his schedule to come here. I think it's been about 10 years since he was last here. He's been such a huge supporter of Keeneland and the Keeneland September sale, so to see him on the grounds and to see him step up and participate like he did today, is very rewarding for all of us here at Keeneland.”
Book 1 will continue tomorrow starting at 1:00 p.m.–each session was pushed back from 11:00 a.m. due to wet weather over the weekend that interfered with inspections.
“There are a lot of people that we usually see up front that aren't on the list yet–I think they are going to be heard from still,” Elliston said of expectations for future sessions. “There is still a lot of money to be spent over the next few days and from all that we've heard from the buyers and our inspection team, there are still a lot of quality animals to come. I've heard speculation that tomorrow's book is really good relative to today. I don't know if that's accurate, everyone has their own opinion, but if that is anywhere close, based on what we experienced today, I can't wait to go home, get up and get here to work in the morning. It's going to be a great day tomorrow, I think.”
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Godolphin, Coolmore Clash for American Pharoah Colt
It's been years since clashes between Godolphin and Coolmore truly dominated the top of the bloodstock market, but the two international powerhouses hooked up for old time's sake at Keeneland Monday on hip 91, a colt by American Pharoah. With Sheikh Mohammed and his team bidding out back, Coolmore's M.V. Magnier, Michael Tabor and Paul Shanahan positioned themselves in the pavilion. Once the dust had settled, Godolphin was left holding the ticket thanks to a winning bid of $2.2 million.
The son of MSW/MGSP Kindle (Indian Charlie) was consigned by Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm. He had been acquired by O'Callaghan for $400,000 as a Keeneland November weanling.
“He was the most I ever paid for a foal,” O'Callaghan noted. “He was a really special horse. I think he's probably the best yearling we've ever had going on 17 years now… I'm very grateful to Sheikh Mohammed for buying him. I knew when he saw him today, his eyes just lit up. I just had a feeling he was going to try hard to buy him.”
Of the dynamics that helped propel hip 91 to session-topping price, O'Callaghan said, “That's the perfect scenario for any of us [sellers]–to have two of the great racing powers both get stuck on your horse and go at it. We were just lucky that it happened to us today.”
He also acknowledged that the presence of Sheikh Mohammed himself likely helped fuel the fire: “It does everything for the sales; it changes the atmosphere. When Sheikh Mohammed sees the horse himself and gives the ok, it gives his team added confidence to go out and buy them.”
Hip 91 is the second foal out of Kindle, who won sprint stakes out in California on both dirt and turf and who also won on two different synthetic surfaces. A $50,000 KEESEP yearling, she was campaigned by hip 91's breeder, HnR Nothaft Horse Racing. Kindle has an unraced 2-year-old colt named Made in America (Tiznow) and a foal colt by American Pharoah's sire Pioneerof the Nile. Her third dam is French champion 2-year-old filly Play it Safe (Ire) (Red Alert).
“We paid an awful lot for him at the beginning, so he was exceptional the day we bought him, but he did just continue to get better and better,” said O'Callaghan of what made hip 91 special. “Everything that he should've done, he did for us. He's a tremendous physical specimen, but his demeanor was almost his biggest selling point for me… Out in the field, he's a true leader of the pack. If you knew nothing about horses and saw him, he'd make an impression on you.”
Trainer John Gosden, part of Godolphin's buying team, later said of the colt: “He is a gorgeous horse. He was a very expensive foal. He's by a phenomenal racehorse and he looked the part. He was strong and a great mover. The principal really liked him and he bought him. It was very much his decision.”
Gosden said a decision hadn't been made yet as to where hip 91 would be sent for training.
The purchase of hip 91 marks the continued trend of Godolphin being more apt to purchase horses by Coolmore stallions–see Godolphin Goes for Scat Daddy from last year's September sale.
Members of Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah's first crop sold extremely well at the summer yearling sales, and his 12 youngsters to change hands Monday brought a combined $6,335,000 at an average of $527,917. Godolphin also bought a $200,000 colt (hip 69) by the former Bob Baffert trainee.
“We were very impressed with an American Pharoah at [the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale] that we bid on and, in fact, I think we were close to underbidders on him; a lovely bay horse from Saratoga,” Gosden noted. “They are gorgeous horses, strong and well-proportioned and great movers.” —@BDiDonatoTDN
Godolphin Leads All Buyers Monday
Headlined by a pair of seven-figure yearlings, Godolphin was the leading buyer by gross during Monday's first session of the Keeneland September sale. Sheikh Mohammed's operation purchased 11 yearlings during the first session of the auction for a total of $7,280,000. During the entire 2017 September sale, Godolphin purchased 17 head for $8,065,000. Its most expensive purchase a year ago was an $800,000 colt by Scat Daddy.
Sheikh Mohammed himself was making his first visit to the Keeneland September sale in eight years, helping to give the auction an extra buzz.
“Everybody, obviously, the staff at the farm, we are so excited for him to come over here and have the opportunity to go through the farm and see the yearlings,” Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin USA, said. “He just enjoys the horses so much and Keeneland, he loves the sales. It just makes for a great trip. We are delighted he is here. It makes it exciting for everybody.”
Godolphin's acquisitions at Keeneland Monday were led by the $2.2-million session-topping son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (hip 91). Later in the session, the operation made its second seven-figure purchase when going to $1.3 million for a son of Medaglia d'Oro (hip 218).
Godolphin also purchased a son of Into Mischief (hip 79) for $875,000; a colt by Medaglia d'Oro (hip 30) for $800,000; and a son of Kitten's Joy (hip 185) for $600,000. The operation acquired another son of American Pharoah (hip 69) for $200,000 and a second colt by Into Mischief (hip 52) for $170,000. The 11 yearlings also include a pair of fillies: a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro (hip 201) for $475,000 and a daughter of War Front (hip 220) for $300,000.
“Book 1 is a big book, but at the same time there are some very nice horses amongst them,” said trainer John Gosden, part of Godolphin's buying team. “You just have work very hard to get through them.”
“That would be Mr. [Harry] Sweeney [president of Godolphin in Japan] buying for horses to race in Japan,” Gosden explained. “He had a reduction of a number of mares and he is looking for some horses to race under the license in Japan.”
Of his experience shopping at Keeneland, Gosden added, “I am impressed with the way horses are always presented in this country with all the full sets of X-rays. It makes a big difference to us. You get to know the farms and the consignors. And overall, I think it's a great presentation of horses. They all look in great order, on the whole. And this is a sale that we like coming to and we have a lot of faith in.” @JessMartiniTDN
Curlin Colt Adds to Banner Year for Summerfield
“He is a very fancy horse and people really liked him,” said consignor Summerfield's Francis Vanlangendonck. “Everyone is buying the quality like that and his mother was a great racehorse. These guys are really sharp. They know which ones they want. They have money and what they don't have is a good horse, so they are buying horses.”
Hip 211 added to a banner year for Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck's Summerfield, which sold a $1 million American Pharoah bred by longtime New York breeder Joanne Nielsen at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale last month.
“It feels pretty good,” Vanlangendonck said of their recent success. “It's pretty exciting for somebody like Summerfield to come up with these kinds of horses. It is only because people like the Nielsens and Stonestreet let us sell them. We can't do it without them. They have been awful good to us.”
In addition to her top-level success, Molly Morgan won three under graded events and earned $882,159 while under the care of trainer Dale Romans. Stonestreet Stables purchased her at the conclusion of her career for $1.35 million at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November Sale and Hip 211 is her first foal. She traces her lineage back to graded winners Tricky Creek, Parade Ground and Parade Leader.
“He is a perfect horse,” said Best. “He is the only colt in the first session that I really fell in love with. He has a good pedigree. I think he is flawless. Now the big question is can he run.”
He added, “I will wait til after he gets through his early training with Eddie Woods and Eddie and I will decide where he should go.” —@CDeBernardisTDN
Don Alberto Looking for the Next 'Bella'
With their champion female sprinter and 'TDN Rising Star' Unique Bella forced to retire last month, the Heller-Solari family's Don Alberto Corp. was back in action at Keeneland Monday looking for their next superstar filly by Tapit. Unique Bella “only” cost $400,000 during Book 1 of the 2015 September sale, but Don Alberto had to go to $1.4 million for its latest acquisition (hip 203).
The daughter of GSW Miss Macy Sue (Trippi) and half to MGISW Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song), GSW/GISP Not This Time (Giant's Causeway) and GSP Taylor S (Medaglia d'Oro) was consigned to the sale by Taylor Made Sales Agency, Agent CLIX on behalf of Albaugh Family Stable.
“We had a few fillies by Tapit that we looked at. We liked the others as well, but I think this one, with her pedigree being a half to Liam's Map and Not This Time, was a great buy,” Don Alberto's Fabricio Buffolo said. “Hopefully, with some luck, she's the new Unique Bella.”
As for Unique Bella, who was last seen third career Grade I in Del Mar's Clement L. Hirsch S. July 29, Buffolo said, “She's fantastic; she's doing great. She's very calm and relaxed, just enjoying her surroundings on the farm. By the end of the year, we'll have a tough decision as to who she going to be bred to.”
Albaugh Active on Both Sides of Market
Miss Macy Sue, a $42,000 OBS June acquisition in 2005 early on in Iowa's richest man Dennis Albaugh and his family's racing endeavours, annexed the GIII Winning Colors S. two years later but has continued to reward her owners on the track and in the sales ring since then. The aforementioned Liam's Map was an $800,000 KEESEP yearling who would go on to highest-level wins in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and Woodward. The Albaughs kept Not This Time, and saw him annex the 2016 GIII Iroquois S. before just missing in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Miss Macy Sue's first foal sold for $500,000 at KEENOV '15 carrying this year's GII Adirondack S. runner-up Virginia Eloise (Curlin).
“We had mixed emotions all day,” said the stable's general manager Jason Loutsch. “Any time you have a filly who looks like that, you want to sell her, but you don't. Sometimes you have to make the economic decision to sell. We want to buy a lot of colts this sale, so we decided to sell her. It was a tough decision, but we're happy she's going to a great home. We couldn't be more excited. It's a great family, and that mare has done so much for us, so we couldn't be more thankful.”
Team Albaugh had already picked up a Ghostzapper colt (hip 40) for $325,000 earlier in the session, and wasted little time putting the proceeds from the sale of his 203 to use. They grabbed hip 214, a colt by Empire Maker out of GSW/MGISP More Chocolate (Malibu Moon) for $650,000; and another son of Ghostzapper (hip 240) out of a daughter of MGISW Pure Clan (Pure Prize) for $370,000.
Albaugh Family Stable spent $2.57 million on six colts here 12 months ago. —@BDiDonatoTDN
Godolphin Strikes for Medaglia d'Oro Colt
Godolphin continued its busy day of shopping at Keeneland with the $1.3-million purchase of a colt by Medaglia d'Oro. The yearling (hip 218) is the first foal out of graded stakes winner Moulin de Mougin (Curlin) and was consigned by Lane's End on behalf of breeder Ran Jan Racing. Jan Vandeboss's Ran Jan Racing campaigned the yearling's dam, who won the 2014 GII John C Mabee S., as well as his granddam Cambiocorsa (Avenue Flag).
“The very good Medaglia d'Oros, they just show themselves,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Godolphin's American division at Jonabell Farm, which also stands the stallion. “They step up every time. They have a great walk, great moving, a great presence and great behaviour–all the things you want to see. Sheikh Mohammed loved [hip 218] from the first time he saw him and followed him up here and is happy to have him.” @JessMartiniTDN
Coolmore Wins Out On 'Chrome' Sibling
A Tapit half-brother (Hip 141) to two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) proved quite popular Monday, becoming the second seven-figure horse of the session when selling to the Coolmore contingent for $1.1 million.
“He is a very nice horse and when Michael Tabor saw him, he was really taken by him,” said Coolmore's M.V. Magnier. “The mare is a good producer and he is a brother to a very good horse. He is going to stay here and go to Todd Pletcher. Let's hope he is good.”
He added, “It is a lot of money, but he probably deserved to make it. He has a lot of quality. He's a scopey horse and great mover.”
Coolore spent $900,000 on another son of Tapit at this auction back in 2014 and were handsomely rewarded. The colt became $1.7 million-earner Cupid, who won the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita, as well as, a trio of Grade II events. He covered his first mares at Ashford this year.
“[Hip 141] is by a very good sire, obviously, in Tapit,” Magnier said. “It is remarkable the amount of mares Cupid got in his first season at stud, so if [this colt] is anything like him, hopefully it will work out.”
Consigned by Bedouin Bloodstock, Hip 141 is out of Love the Chase (Not For Love), who was purchased by breeder SF Bloodstock with this colt in utero for $1.95 million at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton November Sale. The California-bred mare was made famous by her superstar son California Chrome, who won the 2014 GI Kentucky Derby and GI Preakness S. en route to his first two championship titles as that year's top 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year. He was named Horse of the Year again and champion older male in 2016 after a season highlighted by wins in the G1 Dubai World Cup, GI Pacific Classic and GI Awesome Again S.
“We are very pleased with the sale and delighted with who bought the horse,” said SF's Tom Ryan. “It is always great to have one under their management. He was a superstar colt from day one, as you see reflected in the price. She has been a wonderful mare. We have an amazing Pioneerof the Nile out of her and she is back in foal to a Coolmore stallion in Uncle Mo. We are very excited.” —@CDeBernardisTDN
SF/Starlight Partnership Strikes for PON Colt
The relatively new partnership between SF Racing anf Starlight West was quite active at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale last month and they made their presence known early in the opening session of Keeneland September, going to $950,000 for a Pioneerof the Nile colt.
“We loved everything about this horse,” said SF's Tom Ryan as bloodstock agent Donato Lanni signed the ticket on Hip 44 while standing alongside Bob Baffert. “He is a beautiful horse by a great stallion. He looks like the perfect horse to go to war with next year.”
Ryan continued, “He is so mentally strong. He never turned a hair. He is fantastic in every way. He is balanced and he was like all the Pioneerof the Niles. He is a very athletic horse.”
Breeder Stonestreet Stables purchased Hip 44's dam, MGSP Inny Minnie (Hard Spun), for $350,000 att the 2013 Keeneland November sale. She is a half-sister to English GSW and G1SP Montgomery's Arch (Arch) and juvenile stakes winner Welcome Inn (Orientate).
“He's very professional,” said consignor Denali Stud's Conrad Bandoroff. “Every single show that he had, he just came out and showed himself with so much presence. He made you look. Even if you were in another show ring, you would always know where the Pioneerof the Nile–Inny Minnie was. Stonestreet raises a great horse and Robert Turner, their manager, does a great job. He said it best, the horse just walks like a panther and does everything right. It is nice when you have smart horses that come out and act like professionals.”
SF and Starlight Racing were part of the group who owned undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) and have started a new partnership this year focused on buying two-turn dirt colts for Baffert to train with an eye on the Classics. The partnership also bought hip 199, a $200,000 Hard Spun colt of SP Miss Centerfold (Tiznow). —@CDeBernardisTDN
Career Score for St George
Archie St. George and Roger and Tony O'Callaghan of Tally-Ho Stud enjoyed a career high in their long-term pinhooking partnership when a colt by Into Mischief (hip 79) sold to Godolphin for $875,000 Monday at Keeneland. The group had purchased the bay colt for $320,000 at last year's Keeneland November sale. He was consigned to the September auction by St. George Sales.
“We obviously had high expectations, but we tried to keep them realistic,” St. George said. “He was a very nice horse. He had a lot of action from a lot of big players.”
The yearling is out of the unraced Katherine'skadence (Mr. Greeley), a half-sister to group winner White Crown (Secreto) and Grade I placed Dr. Caton (Seattle Slew) and from the family of Group 1 winner Confidential Lady.
“I love the stallion, like everyone,” St. George said of the youngster's appeal last fall. “He is a phenomenal stallion. The weanling was a raw, good-looking horse with a great walk. His biggest thing was his action.”
The youngster proved popular at the sales grounds this week. “He had a wonderful temperament,” St. George said. “He showed 200-plus times and every time he came out he showed the same at eight in the morning as five in the evening. He was just a cool horse. I wish Darley and Sheikh Mohammed and his whole team all the best. I can't thank them enough and anyone who was interested in the horse. I hope we'll see him down the road. That's the most important thing.”
St. George has been pinhooking with the O'Callaghans, who stand Kodiac at their Westmeath-based Tally-Ho Stud.
“Roger and I were school friends and we've been pinhooking together for, I don't know how long,” an obviously thrilled St. George said. “This is the most expensive yearling we've ever sold. I can't describe it. It's a real team effort. Roger and Michelle, my wife, do all the hard work. I just show up for the glory.”
He concluded, “Especially when someone like Darley buys them, it's what you dream about. You hope these days happen. You have to cherish them.” @JessMartiniTDN
Medag Colt Heading Overseas
A striking dark bay colt out of talented turfer Hungry Island (More Than Ready) will be heading to Europe after agent Anthony Stroud went to $800,000 to secure the son of Medaglia d'Oro for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin. The Feb. 1 foal was consigned to the sale by Gainesway, Agent XXV as hip 30 on behalf of breeder Emory Hamilton.
Hip 30 is the second foal out of Hungry Island, who motored home to victories in the 2011 GII Lake Placid S. and 2012 GII Churchill Distaff Turf Mile. She also hit the board in three Grade I events en route to earnings of nearly $760,000. Hungry Island's first foal, the unraced juvenile filly Hungry Kitten (Kitten's Joy), most recently breezed on the turf at Saratoga Sept. 1. This is the deep female family of Grade I winners Chic Shirine, Somali Lemonade, Verrazano, et al.
“He was a very good horse, out of a very good mare, from a very good farm,” said Stroud after exchanging pleasantries with Hamilton and her sister Helen Alexander. “He'll go to Europe for Godolphin–that's the plan at the moment.”
Trainer John Gosden was close by during the bidding process, but Stroud said a trainer decision would be made at a later date. —@BDiDonatoTDN