Steady Opener to Keeneland January

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Session-topping hip 26 in the ring | Keeneland

by Jessica Martini and Christie DeBernardis

The four-day Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale opened with a workmanlike session in Lexington Monday as the industry continued to adjust to the market’s new pandemic-induced reality.

“I think it was a continuation of the November sale,” said Keeneland’s Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell. “I think people have adjusted to the marketplace and I think it was a good, steady start to the January sale. Consignors are very happy because they have adjusted to the new normal.”

From a catalogue of 407, a total of 302 head went through the sales ring Monday with 207 selling for a gross of $12,155,400. The average of $58,722 dipped 8.8% from the 2020 January opener, while the median held steady at $35,000. With 95 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate for the session was 31.5%.

Ten horses sold for $200,000 or more during the session, compared to 18 reaching that mark during last year’s first session of the auction.

A colt by Munnings (hip 26) was the day’s top-priced offering when selling for $475,000 to Larry Best’s OXO Equine.

“He was very highly touted beforehand,” Russell said of the short yearling. “Munnings is starting to get the recognition that he deserves. I think this was the highest-priced of any Munnings progeny. There was very competitive bidding until the last two broke out amongst themselves. It was very exciting–and to do so early in the sale helped us to build some momentum.”

WinStar Farm made the day’s second-highest bid when going to $400,000 to acquire 2019 GII Prioress S. winner Royal Charlotte (Cairo Prince) (hip 17). The 5-year-old mare, who sold as a racing or broodmare prospect, was consigned by Elite.

“It feels a little lighter to me than November,” Elite’s Liz Crow said of the January market. “There just isn’t quite as much energy. That being said, we did see a yearling bring $475,000 today. Royal Charlotte sold well. I am sure the dispersal will help it pick up tomorrow. We felt good about our results today and we were happy with the market. There have been people there for our horses, so the market seems steady.”

Tuesday’s action at the January sale is expected to be highlighted by horses from the dispersals of Sam-Son Farm and the estate of the late Paul Pompa, Jr.

The Keeneland January sale continues through Thursday with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.

Best Gets Quick Start at Keeneland

Larry Best, who purchased 17 head for $7,965,000 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, was quick to get on the board at the January Horses of All Ages Sale, going to a session-topping $475,000 to acquire a short yearling by Munnings (hip 26) from the Hunter Valley Farm consignment. The chestnut colt is out of stakes-winning Sea Shadow (Jump Start) and is a half-brother to stakes-placed Rising Seas (First Defence).

“I think he was the standout weanling in the first session,” Best said of the colt. “I bought him based on the physical, but then when you add in the pedigree with Munnings and Speightstown–which has been performing pretty well–it all just fit together very well. He was very popular, I knew that. A lot of the larger buyers were on the horse, so it didn’t surprise me that the price got a little high.”

Best also purchased the session’s second-highest priced short yearling, going to $320,000 to acquire a daughter of Munnings’s sire Speightstown from the Buck Pond Farm consignment.

Hip 378 is out of the unraced Our Smile (Medaglia d’Oro), a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Order of St George (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}). The dark bay filly was bred by La Bahia Stud, which purchased Our Smile for $100,000 at the 2014 Keeneland January sale. Our Smile preceded her yearling into the ring, selling for $80,000 to More Luck Bloodstock.

Also Monday, Best acquired a colt by Nyquist (hip 107) for $185,000. Consigned by South Point Sales Agency, the short yearling is out of Venturini (Bernardini), a daughter of multiple Grade I winner Ventura (Chester House). He was bred by Brushy Hill.

“I have a Nyquist who is about ready to race who I bought as a weanling two years ago and so far he looks like a runner,” Best said. “So the Nyquist sire line looks like it is starting to strengthen up and this was a nice specimen. I wasn’t going to go too high on the horse, but I was able to get him at a price that I thought was worth the bet.”

Best’s weanling purchases at last year’s November sale included a colt by Mastery (hip 266) for $450,000 and a son of Into Mischief (hip 818) for $400,000.

“I tend to buy more colts at the weanling sales because you take on a little more risk because you’re early, but you don’t have to invest quite as much into a bloodline in a racing prospect,” Best said of the weanling/short yearling market. “So for colts, it’s risk-adjusted and probably smart to look at weanlings. Fillies, I tend to buy at the yearling sales.”

Best, who has racetrack graduates like Instilled Regard and Rowayton standing at stud for the first time this year, also expects to be shopping for broodmares at the January sale.

“I am also buying mares, but I haven’t bought one here yet,” he said. “Right now, I’m kind of in all facets of the industry. I have a couple stallions, that’s why I’m in the broodmare market.”

From a relatively short time in the industry, Best’s racing ventures cover the spectrum. Asked if he had found a favorite part of the industry, he said, “I’m still figuring it out.” He added with a chuckle, “At least I’m still trying to figure it out.” @JessMartiniTDN

Munnings Colt a Score for Colebrook

Trainer Ben Colebrook enjoyed a win in the sales ring Monday at Keeneland when selling a colt by Munnings (hip 26) for $475,000 to Larry Best’s OXO Equine. Colebrook and his father, John, bred the short yearling, who was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm.

“We are really happy with this result,” Colebrook said Monday morning. “The colt was a great individual and the stallion has been so hot. He seemed to be well-received and had all the right people on him. But you never expect that. We are super excited.”

The Colebrooks bred and raced the yearling’s stakes-winning dam, Sea Shadow (Jump Start). They also campaign the mare’s first foal, Rising Seas (First Defence).

“We bought the dam of Sea Shadow [Evening Shadows] in 2008 with a partner and we bought the partner out,” Colebrook said. “I raced the first one out of Sea Shadow, Rising Seas, just to see if we could get the mare off to a good start. And we did.”

When Rising Seas finished third in the Qatar Fort Springs S. at Keeneland last October, the Colebrooks decided it was a good time to sell her half-brother.”

“We made the decision not to sell in November because of COVID and everything,” Colebrook said. “We were thinking about selling him as a yearling in September, but the market looked strong in November and the half-sister got the black-type, so we made the decision to sell him in January.”

Monday’s result was the second straight strong sales result for Sea Shadow. The mare’s colt by Speightstown, a foal-share with WinStar Farm, sold for $350,000 to Shadwell Estate Company as a weanling at the 2019 Keeneland November sale.

“We will race a filly, it just seems like we’ve gotten three straight colts out of Sea Shadow,” Colebrook said of plans for their foals.

In addition to Sea Shadow, Colebrook has one other broodmare in Just a Look (Lookin At Lucky), a half-sister to Fault who is currently in foal to that Grade I winner’s sire, Blame.

That broodmare band will likely eventually expand to include Rising Seas.

“Absolutely, we will breed out of her,” Colebrook said of the

4-year-old. “That was always the plan. She’s very, very pretty. She is by First Defence, so she was never going to be very commercial. I bred to First Defence with the intent of racing. I was just looking to not have an expensive stud fee in her first season.”

After an interrupted 3-year-old season, Rising Seas is gearing up for a 2021 campaign.

“I will probably try to run her in an allowance down at Oaklawn,” Colebrook said of plans for the filly. “She still has that allowance condition and the money is so good down there. She seems to like the dirt more than the synthetic. We tried her on the synthetic at Turfway and I didn’t really feel like she loved it. So we will try to keep her on the dirt and try to win a stakes with her and maybe get some graded stakes placings as a 4-year-old. She had a little hiccup last year–nothing major, we just couldn’t get her perfect until the end of the year and then when I got her good she ran two really good races, but then her 3-year-old year was over quick.”

“That was kind of 2020 in a nutshell,” he added with a rueful chuckle.

The 10-year-old Sea Shadow was bred to Speightster last year.

“The mare is kept at Amaroo Farm with Jamie Frost and Jaye McCraken and the colt was raised there,” Colebrook said. “They do a great job.” @JessMartiniTDN

Royal Charlotte Sparks Early Fireworks at KEEJAN

MGSW Royal Charlotte (Cairo Prince) got the action going early at Keeneland January’s opening session Monday, hammering to WinStar Farm for $400,000 just 13 hips into the day. Hip 17 was consigned by Elite as a racing/broodmare prospect.

Elite’s Liz Crow picked out Royal Charlotte for Steve Laymon’s First Row Partners as a yearling, purchasing her for $65,000 after she RNA’d for $70,000 at Keeneland September. The gray opened her account with a quartet of victories, including the 2019 GIII Victory Ride S. Parkland Thoroughbreds bought in after that victory and she suffered her first loss at the hooves of dual champion Covfefe (Into Mischief) next out in the GI Longines Test S., but rebounded with a win in the GII Prioress S. at the Spa.

Winless in 2020, the Chad Brown trainee was third in the Oct. 3 GII Gallant Bloom H. and was off the board in the McConnell Springs S. at Keeneland last time Nov. 7. The 5-year-old mare’s record currently stands at 12-5-2-1 with earnings of $408,150.

“She is a filly that means a lot to me because I bought her as a yearling in 2017 for $65,000 for Steve Laymon and his partners,” Crow said. “Steve was a very early supporter of mine. I was very thankful to him to let me buy some yearlings for them. She was a fun racehorse for them. She won the first four races of her career and then won the Prioress. All the partners were there that day at Saratoga. We have a lot of fun memories with her. She showed herself really well here. She is a very classy filly. We are happy with the price today.”

The bloodstock agent continued, “I believe she will have quite the array of stallions and I am sure [WinStar’s] Elliott [Walden] will do a great job mating her. It will be fun following her.”

@CDeBernardisTDN

The Elkstone Group Expands its Scope

Stuart Grant has experienced a lifetime of racing success, with his The Elkstone Group co-owning champions Monomoy Girl and British Idiom, and breeding Grade I winner Mor Spirit, but the Delaware attorney recently embarked on a new challenge in the industry with the purchase of stallion shares. Grant was shopping for mares for his new shares at Keeneland January when he purchased a pair of broodmares by Curlin for matching $260,000 bids Monday.

“I have bought a few shares in some stallions, nice ones, too, so I was looking for quality mares that would cross well with the stallion shares that I bought,” Grant said, while declining to name the specific stallions. “So that was what I was doing. These two happened to cross particularly well with both the stallions that I was looking for.”

The Elkstone Group first struck Monday for the 11-year-old Theogony (hip 80). The multiple graded-placed mare sold in foal to Omaha Beach and was consigned by Hunter Valley Farm. Later in the session, the operation acquired Curlin’s Fox

(hip 203) from the Denali Stud consignment. The 9-year-old mare, a multiple stakes winner on the racetrack, sold in foal to Uncle Mo.

“I sort of got both things,” Grant said. “They were quality mares and mares that would mate well to the stallions that I bought shares in. And they are also carrying what I thought were very attractive foals in utero.”

Grant said the plan would be to race the foals, but he added, “But you know everything is for sale, we are just talking price.”

Of his decision to venture further into the stallion business, Grant explained, “I’ve had some stallion shares before, but in the last year and a half this is the first time I’ve really stepped up and put up significant money for proven stallions. I have basically done everything else in the business and it just seemed like this was the last aspect of the business that I really hadn’t played in yet.”

In addition to the two Curlin mares, The Elkstone Group also purchased Really and Truly (Pulpit) (hip 5) for $30,000 and Sokie (Indian Charlie) (hip 42) for $47,000 Monday at Keeneland. The four acquisitions bring the Maryland-based farm’s broodmare band to 24 head.

While he paid more for Theogony than he expected and less than he expected for Curlin’s Fox, Grant said early returns from the January sale might indicate a soft market.

“I think it has been [a soft market],” Grant said. “But that’s based on getting to see half of one day, so you’ve got to be careful drawing those conclusions. There have been a couple that went for more, Elite sold a really nice broodmare prospect [Royal Charlotte for $400,000] to WinStar and I thought she brought full price and there were a couple others that I thought brought full price. When we get to see the whole day, we can see, but I didn’t think it looked that strong. But it’s January, it’s not November. It’s easier for things to slip through, I think, in January.”

Asked if he was done bidding at the January sale, Grant said, “We may be out buying tomorrow, but having gotten the two that I wanted to get, I am not sure we will be as aggressive tomorrow. But we will be there.” @JessMartiniTDN

Into Mischief Filly Set to Return to Keeneland

A yearling filly (hip 310) by red hot sire Into Mischief became the third-highest priced foal and second highest-priced filly of the day when bringing $210,000 from Beryl “Sonny” Stokes. The filly is likely to return to the Keeneland auction ring this September, according to horseman Hoby Kight, who purchased the youngster on Stokes’s behalf.

“She is by the right horse,” said Kight. “He is the hottest sire in America. Her broodmare sire, Tapit, is the second or third hottest sire in America. She was one of the best individuals at the end of the shank for today and tomorrow. He will probably sell her back as a yearling, most likely in September.”

Stokes did not attend the sale and instead remained home in Florida, saying the weather in Kentucky was too cold for him at this time of year.

“Hoby buys horses for me and we partner on them,” Stokes said. “He has the experience and the ability. I just buy them and get them into a good place to be trained and sell them at the next sale, usually. This will make 12 for this year, so this will probably be my last one for the season.”

He added, “I really wanted an Into Mischief. I tried to get one at the November Sale.”

Consigned by Hunter Valley Farm for breeder Capital Bloodstock, hip 310 is out of the unraced Tapit mare Keesha, who was purchased by Horse France for $220,000 in foal to Into Mischief at the 2017 KEENOV sale. The resulting colt, a now-3-year-old named Midway Mischief, was bought by Team Casse for $300,000 at FTKOCT. Keesha is a half-sister to GSW Shumoos (Distorted Humor). This is also the family of GSW Jennifer Lynnette (Elusive Quality). @CDeBernardisTDN

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