by Jessica Martini & Christina Bossinakis
LEXINGTON, KY – The Keeneland September Yearling Sale continued to match the figures from its blockbuster 2022 renewal with colts by Curlin and Not This Time bringing seven figures during a competitive concluding Book 2 section Thursday.
“Today was a very steady, good healthy market,” said Keeneland Vice President of Sales Tony Lacy. “We were tracking the median all through the day and it never moved at all. It was very, very steady. Overall, I think people were very happy. I think there was a confidence that, if you brought a product that people really liked, you were going to get well rewarded. There was definitely a lot of trade going on and there was good energy. It wraps up the first week that equates almost identically to last year, which was incredible.”
The two sessions of Book 2 saw 416 head gross $117,375,000 for an average of $282,151 and a median of $225,000.
During the 2022 Book 2 section, 449 yearlings sold for $123,330,000. The book average was $274,677 and the median was $225,000. Eight million-dollar yearlings, including a $1.7-million son of Quality Road, sold during the section.
Through four sessions, 637 horses have sold for $234,300,000. The average is $367,818–up 3.83% from the corresponding 2022 figure–and the median was up 9.09% to $300,000.
Thursday's buy-back rate was 30.77%, up from the 2022 fourth session figure of 28.13%, while the cumulative buy-back rate stands at 28.67%. It was 25.50% at this same point a year ago.
“I think today there was a great energy for the preferred offerings,” said Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Cormac Breathnach. “The RNAs were a little higher, there is selectivity creeping into the market, but it's still a very healthy robust market with a lot of good trade, a lot of domestic interest.”
Seven horses sold for $1 million or more during Book 2, bringing the total for the four-day auction to 30. That matches the figure from the 2022 and is the most at a September sale since 32 sold for seven figures in 2007.
Bloodstock agent Lauren Carlisle made the highest bid of Thursday's session, going to $1.1 million to acquire a colt by Curlin from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment. Earlier in the session, West Point Thoroughbreds and Mike Talla paid $1.05 million from the St George Sales consignment.
Despite the strength at the top of the market, sellers were casting a wary eye at both the buy-back rate and the number of late outs as the September sale marches into its second week.
“I think the market is very good on the top end, you know for very, very top offerings, the market is outstanding,” said Taylor Made's Mark Taylor. “I think in the middle market, we're finding more polarization and the buyers are a little finicky. If there's any vet stuff, that's even a miss at all, people are taking a wait-and-see cautious approach. And that's why I think the buy-back rate is trending a little bit higher throughout the sale. It will be interesting to see what happens in Book 3. Keeneland has done a nice job at pushing better physicals forward into Book 1, and I think in some ways that might have weakened Book 2 physicals a little bit. There might have been some well-pedigreed horses that were average physicals that used to go into Book 1, but now are in Book 2 and I think that Book 3 is going to be really strong physicals at the heart of the middle market and there's going to be more buyers that we haven't even seen. So I expect things to keep kind of just the domino effect going forward with some strength in the market. We'll see, we're not even to half time yet. We still have to see what the market will do the rest of the way.”
Lincoln Collins oversaw a contingent of Woodford Thoroughbred offerings, with the operation selling five of six yearlings during the first four September sessions.
“This is a funny market here,” Collins said. “We've been fortunate so far. That's something of an exception the way it is going at the moment. When you look at the number of horses that aren't selling–when you calculate the buy-backs and the late outs–it's slightly nerve-wracking. It's very much all or nothing. Sometimes even if you have the right horse, it doesn't come out to your expectations.”
With a dark day Friday, the Keeneland September sale continues through Sept. 23 with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.
$1.1M Curlin Colt Tops Thursday Action
“He looks really fast and, hopefully, he proves that,” said Carlisle. “He has a really good walk and looks very athletic. We're looking for a nice two-turn colt. Hopefully, he can be that horse.”
Weighing in on the price, she said, “I was worried that the price would be that high. I did not want it to be but that is how it is right now.”
The Mar. 3 foal is out of GII Lexus Raven Run S. scorer Miss Sunset (Into Mischief), who also finished runner up in the GI Madison S. This family also represents dual graded stakes winner Prayer for Relief.
The colt was bred by Breeze Easy, who purchased the mare for $825,000 at Fasig-Tipton November Sale in 2018.
“He is a very just well balanced colt, and the main thing about him was he was very athletic–he has good angles and is well put together,” said Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Sales, who consigned the colt. “When you see him walk, he just barely hits the ground. He just kind of floated.”
Taylor added, “He is a very nice horse bred by Breeze Easy, which is Mike Hall and his late partner Sam Ross. Sam passed away, so it was a nice tribute to their program. He was well prepped coming into the sale, looked great and really we had the easy part. We just had to show him for a couple days and let him do his thing, and we're very happy with the result.” —@CbossTDN
West Point, Talla Team for Not This Time Colt
Mike Talla and West Point Thoroughbreds partnered up to acquire a Not This Time colt (hip 879) for $1.05 million at Keeneland Thursday. The bay, who was the sixth seven-figure yearling of the auction's Book 2 section, was consigned by St George Sales. He is out of Foreign Affair (Exchange Rate), a half-sister to multiple group winner So Perfect (Scat Daddy), and was bred in Virginia by Audley Farm.
“He's just a beautiful horse,” said West Point's Terry Finley. “[Trainer] John Sadler loved him. John just got here a day and a half ago and this is one of the horses that he put at the top of his list.”
The yearling was the fourth seven-figure purchase of the four-day auction for West Point, which teamed with Chuck Sonson and Woodford on the $3-million sale topper.
“Power of the partnership–it's great to join forces with someone like Mike,” Finley said. “John [Sadler] will train the horse on the West Coast and we think he's a really, really good prospect.”
Hip 879 was the second seven-figure pinhook for Archie and Michelle St George, who teamed with Roger and Tony O'Callaghan to purchase the colt for $375,000 at last year's Keeneland November sale.
“It's a big thrill when it all works out,” Archie St. George said. “It's a big team effort with Roger and Michelle and everyone at the farm. He's just a nice horse. Not This Time continues to go from step to step and he was raised a very nice farm.”
St George continued, “Most importantly, I'd like to thank the buyers, David Ingordo, Terry Finley, John Sadler, and Mike Talla. I hope he goes on and he's a runner.”
During Tuesday's second session of the Keeneland sale, St George sold a colt by Into Mischief (hip 283) for $1.8 million to M V Magnier. That yearling had been purchased for $550,000 at Keeneland last November.
Asked if he came into the auction thinking he might have two seven-figure sales, St George said, “Certainly not. We just got lucky. These yearlings, they have to vet and do all of that. And some years it's good and some years it's not. We are just very fortunate to have a horse like him.” –@JessMartiniTDN
Omaha Beach Colt brings $950K Day 4
Continuing the successful run for Spendthrift's freshman sire Omaha Beach, Hip 920 went to Jim and Dana Bernhard's Pin Oak Stud for $950,000 during the second day of selling in Book 2.
“Obviously, Omaha Beach is off to a great start at stud with his first crop. I thought he was a beautiful colt,” said Equine Analysis Systems' Matt Weinmann, advisor to the Bernhards. “Every colt that we buy is really nice and well balanced, physically. If he's the real deal, he'll be a nice stallion prospect.”
He continued, “I know being at the 2-year-old sales this year, we saw a lot of Omaha Beaches that we liked, so you know by seeing a lot of good ones out on the sales grounds. It's a little early, but he's had a lot of winners and impressive horses on the track.”
Consigned by Burleson Farms, the Apr. 9 foal is out of the unraced Infraction (Tapit), a daughter of GSW and MGISP Andujar (Quiet American). The 8-year-old mare is a half-sister to SW Marion Ravenwood (A.P. Indy), the dam of champion 3-year-old filly Nest (Curlin) and GI Santa Anita H. winner Idol (Curlin). She is also responsible for stakes winner Lost Ark (Violence).
Weinmann added, “We kind of let our testing procedures do the judging most of the time, but traditionally judging the horse, he had a beautiful great walk and was an outstanding individual.” —@CbossTDN
Nice Guys' Colt Makes Most of Delay
When Lyn Burleson sent a colt by Omaha Beach (hip 920) through the sales ring at Keeneland last November on behalf of Steve Spielman's Nice Guys Stables, the weanling was led out unsold at $175,000. The colt's next trip through the ring, again with Burleson Farms, proved more profitable when he sold for $950,000 to Pin Oak Stud Thursday.
“Before the sale, I didn't expect that, but I knew when he was pretty active today that it was going to be good,” Burleson said of expectations Thursday. “I just didn't know how good. But all of the right people were on him.”
Last November, the colt followed his dam, the unraced Infraction (Tapit), into the ring at Keeneland. The mare, a half-sister to the dam of champion Nest, sold for $600,000 to Steve Young as agent for Ramona Bass.
“We had him in November with the mare and we thought we would sell the foal, but we used the foal to help showcase the mare a little bit,” Burleson said. “We sold the mare and we ended up RNA'ing the colt as a baby.”
“All of the foals that I have seen out of the mare have been late-maturing and that was the case with this foal,” Burleson continued. “Sixty days ago, he was nothing like the horse that he was today. And the 2-year-old was the same. The more time these babies have the better. It just worked out that he peaked at the right time to come to this sale.”
Nice Guys Stables purchased Infraction for $120,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November sale. Her 2-year-old filly Shore War (Omaha Beach) sold for $350,000 at this year's OBS April sale.
“Nice Guy Stables are very loyal clients and very good to deal with and he gets all of the credit,” Burleson said. @JessMartiniTDN
Big Day for Woodslane Led by $700K Curlin
Lauren and Rene Woolcott's Woodslane Farm enjoyed a banner day at Keeneland Thursday, led by Hip 1020, a filly by Curlin that brought $700,000 from Green Lantern Stables and Patrick Masson. The chestnut was consigned by Hidden Brook.
The Mar. 1 foal is out of Prospector's Moon (Malibu Moon), the dam of a pair of winners, including GSP Malibu Curl (Curlin). The 11-year-old mare is a half-sister to Florida Oaks winner Ender's Sister (A.P. Indy), herself the dam of GISW A.P. Indian (Indian Charlie), GSW Tiz Shea D (Tiznow) and GSP Its All Relevant (Hard Spun). Prospector's Moon was a $350,000 purchase by the Woolcotts at this venue in 2013.
Legacy Runs Deep $550K Ghostzapper Filly
To say that the Woolcott's have a deep connection with family of Hip 856 would be an understatement. Having already campaigned a Grade I winner out of the mare Dynaire (Dynaformer), Lauren and Rene Woolcott watched as their homebred filly by Ghostzapper realized $550,000 in the ring Thursday. Consigned by agent Hidden Brook, the Apr. 28 foal was purchased by Texan Doug Scharbauer.
“I like this filly a lot,” said Scharbauer, who purchased four yearlings in Book 1, highlighted by a $900,000 Uncle Mo filly. “I thought she might bring closer to $1 million. From now to the end, it's going to get better [for buyers].
Through Book 1 and 2, Scharbauer, whose family is best known for campaigning dual Classic winner and Horse of the Year Alysheba, purchased seven head for $4.3 million, including a grey colt by Tapit (Hip 348, post sale $525,000).
“I really like [the colt],” he affirmed. “This is the most I've ever bought in my life.”
Now 15 years old, Dynaire has already shown she can produce runners with both ability and longevity, as is the case with GI Sword Dancer S. winner Sadler's Joy (Kitten's Joy), who started in 37 starts over six seasons, amassing over $2.6 million in earnings for trainer Tom Albertrani. Coupled with four victories at the graded level, the chestnut also hit the board in an additional five Grade Is.
“He was just a fantastic horse,” said Lauren Woolcott. “He gave 100% every time. If he wasn't getting black-type in a graded race, that was unusual. Unfortunately, distance and turf didn't make him appeal to American farms, so a stud in Turkey was interested in him so he went there.”
For the Woolcotts, Dynaire–a $360,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase in 2009–also produced this season's Kentucky Cup Classic winner Wolfie's Dynaghost (Ghostzapper), an earner of $596,805.
“We bought the mare here as a yearling and put her in pre-training. Since we couldn't race her [because of injury], we sent her to the breeding shed,” she explained.
In his latest start at Kentucky Downs, the 6-year-old won a valuable money allowance Aug. 31. Dynaire is also responsible for the stakes-placed pair of Lunaire (Malibu Moon) and Dyna Passer (Lemon Drop Kid).
“With Wolfie, we tried to develop a more versatile horse. He's not Sadler's Joy but he just delivers,” Woolcott explained.
Currently residing at Hidden Brook, Dynaire has a Munnings colt by her side and is back in foal to Not This Time. Her daughter, Dyna Passer, has a yearling filly by Speightstown (Hip 1685) slated to sell in Book 3 Sunday, also under the Hidden Brook banner. She currently has a filly foal by Munnings in tow.
“It's a business, and we have to generate revenue,” said Woolcott. “It was a hard decision to sell this filly today. We really liked this filly. She obviously has a great pedigree. But we needed to put her out there and see what would happen. We're thrilled because somebody gave a fair price for her. I had a figure in my mind and the buyer agreed. We're very happy.”–@CbossTDN
Steve Young Gets the (Blue) Point
Amongst a sea of Into Mischiefs and Uncle Mos, a filly by Blue Point (GB) (hip 800) was always going to stand out as the only yearling by the European first-crop sire sensation catalogued for the 12-day Keeneland September sale. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency as agent for breeder WinStar Farm, the dark bay yearling sold for $400,000 Thursday to the bid of bloodstock agent Steve Young.
Through Howson & Houldsorth Bloodstock, WinStar Farm purchased the unraced Birdwatcher (Uncle Mo), in foal to Blue Point, from the Godolphin draft for 160,000gns ($231,835) at the 2021 Tattersalls July sale.
“We asked Matt Houldsworth to look at Tattersalls for anything of interest with an American slant and he came back with her,” explained WinStar's Elliott Walden.
The mare is out of multiple graded stakes winner Bizzy Caroline (Afleet Alex), a half-sister to champion Lady Eli.
Blue Point, a four-time Group 1 winner, recorded a memorable double at Royal Ascot in 2019 when he won his second G1 King's Stand and returned five days later to win the G1 Diamond Jubilee S.
“Blue Point was an interesting horse because we were at Royal Ascot with Yoshida when he won twice in five days,” Walden said. “So we did have some respect for him. But being his second crop, we didn't know how it would turn out.”
Blue Point, who stands at Kildangan Stud, has gotten off to a flyer with his first crop to hit the track this year. The stallion has already been represented by over 30 winners and four stakes winners.
“We brought the mare back [to the U.S.], we foaled her out here and, since we sell most of them, she was always going to come here [to Keeneland],” said Walden. “It's nice that the stallion has gotten off to such a great start. When you buy those type of mares, you weigh that in on the front end. You're not sure how it's going to work out. We just got lucky that Blue Point is a good stallion.”
Of the yearling, Walden said, “She's always been a really nice filly. She's been one of the best fillies that we had on the farm physically for a long time. She had such a great walk. I was kidding with Steve Young and Ramona Bass that we almost just walked her over from WinStar Farm to Keeneland. She would have done it in four jumps. She has a big, loose walk.”
Young said the sire was just one part of the equation in his decision to bid on the filly.
“He was obviously a tremendous talent for Sheikh Mohammed and I have great respect for Blue Point, but I wouldn't have bought her just on that one piece of the puzzle,” Young said. “I don't think one part of the equation is worth more than any other. I think she was the total package.”
Young continued, “I think some people pigeon hole horses for where they are from as to what they want to do. And that can be right, but it doesn't have to be. If you look at all of those horses that Bull Hancock went and brought to America, they were good horses. They weren't dirt horses when he brought them here, but it worked out that they were.”
Walden said there was plenty of interest in the filly from European buyers at Keeneland before she sold to a domestic buyer.
“I think it's nice that the market is so interwoven and you have European buyers appreciating the American bloodstock and now you have Americans appreciating the European bloodstock,” Walden said. –@JessMartiniTDN
Simple Math With Complexity
In a sale where several of the industry's marquee stallions were firing off cannons balls with a bevy of seven-figure yearlings, others struck a lower key while still offering big rewards for breeders who jumped in to support them early in their stallion career. In that group, Airdrie Stud's Complexity (Maclean's Music), who is represented by his first crop of yearlings in 2023, made a good showing with four yearlings selling through the first two books.
“He was a fast and early horse, and everything you see from the yearlings leads you to believe that the babies will fit that same pattern.” said Airdrie's Bret Jones. “We are thrilled and have been thrilled since the babies have started hitting the ground. He's always been a very popular stallion and we've put a great group together to support him. Those breeders are enjoying the same success we are. These are exciting times.”
Leading the small but select group, Hip 1042, a filly out of Rushin No Blushin (Half Hours), reeled in a $400,000 final bid from Arnmore Thoroughbreds Thursday. Consigned by Paramount Sales, the Feb. 16 foal is a half-sister to GI Champagne S. and GI Allen Jerkens Memorial scorer Jack Christopher (Munnings). Airdrie also sold a pair of fillies by the GI Champagne S. winner–Hip 356 and Hip 951–both for $375,000. The former was secured by Mike Ryan, while the latter was purchased by Thomas Bachman/Fairview LLC.
“The two fillies we sold are as good as anything we have had in the barn,” Jones said. “Both are exceptionally nice. They give you a lot of reason to get excited about next racing season.”
The foursome generated $1,450,000 in gross receipts, averaging $362,500.
While those numbers are impressive for most stallions, they offer a little extra glitter for a sire that stood for a bargain $12,500 fee in 2023. With a total of 63 still slated to sell as of Thursday afternoon, it appears there are many more bullets left in Complexity's holster at Keeneland.
Jones said, “You love it when your breeders get rewarded and the momentum we have going right now, the breeders with the Complexity's in Book 3 and 4 will get rewarded as well.”–@CbossTDN
John Sykes's Woodford Thoroughbreds, which closed its Kentucky branch to consolidate operations at its Florida farm in 2018, will now be shutting the Ocala farm and downsizing its commercial broodmare band.
“The farm in Florida is closing down–if anyone wants to buy it, get in touch,” said Woodford advisor Lincoln Collins said with a laugh Thursday at Keeneland. “We are selling 18 mares in November. Not especially because we don't like the mares, but because we've decided we want to keep a band of 20 really nice mares here in Kentucky. We're just downsizing and reorganzing. The mares are boarded at Town and Country, they will be sold probably with similar consignors that we are using now and we will continue with the operation just at a smaller and hopefully at a tighter level.”
Of the decision to downsize, Collins said, “John has been in this a long time. Obviously, he is getting on, but he's still very active. He decided he wanted to continue in the business because he likes it, but on a smaller and on a more selective scale.”
It was recently announced that Woodford trainer and general manager John Gleason would be joining Margaux Farm as farm trainer. Woodford director of sales Beth Bayer has joined Elite Sales, while the farm's director of client relations Shannon Castagnola has been named Airdrie's new director of sales.
“John Gleason, Shannon Castagnola and Beth Bayer have all got new jobs,” Collins said. “They are great people and we are very happy that they are well-settled.” @JessMartiniTDN