A quiet sense of optimism pervaded the Keeneland sale grounds this weekend as buyers completed their short-lists ahead of the company’s September Yearling Sale.
The Keeneland September Sale, which opens on Monday, is not for the fainthearted, consisting of 4,644 lots and 13 days of selling. However, as we are often reminded, gems lurk within all levels of the market; look no further than the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn, the $3 million sale-topper of 2016, or five-time Grade 1 heroine Midnight Bisou, who was bought back for just $19,000 as lot 4,015 in the same year.
The 2019 sales season so far has been one of tumbling records. In New York last month, Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Sale fired in a record average of $411,459 for 135 yearlings sold. Then at Doncaster, the Goffs UK Premier Sale celebrated a new ceiling of £440,000 as MV Magnier paid £440,000 for a Kingman colt from Hillwood Stud. The BBAG September Sale at Baden-Baden later that same week also hit a new high, courtesy of a Sea The Stars filly bought by Godolphin for €820,000.
Underneath, however, there remains a fragility to the market. Quality is the key word and a driving force. Against that, anything that misses that lofty level, even by the slightest touch, seemingly suddenly becomes harder to move on. We continue to live in an unforgivingly selective market and with that, there will undoubtedly be plenty of occasions over the next two weeks when the pendulum swings into buyer favour.
The top end of the market, though, is expected to be strong. As ever, an array of leading international buyers are in town, including Sheikh Hamdan and members of the Coolmore buying team. It is also understood that Sheikh Mohammed, whose Godolphin spent a total of $19,290,000 last year as leading buyer, will once again be in attendance, while a significant Japanese presence is also expected. And as ever, Keeneland will be graced by the participation of a sizeable portion of the European breeze-up community.
“From what we’ve heard, buyers seem to be liking the new format”
“The traffic through the barns has been strong,” says Michael Hernon, Director of Sales at Gainesway. “There’s a real good flavour of domestic and European buyers here. I feel we have a strong consignment for Book 1 – we have some lovely yearlings by the likes of Tapit, Curlin and War Front – and I’m quite optimistic.”
Keeneland have tinkered with the format again this year, reducing Book 1 by a day to three sessions, all of which begin at noon. Following a dark day on Thursday, selling resumes on Friday with Book 2 and continues through to September 22. It is a move that has been warmly received by a number of consignors, including Duncan Taylor of perennial leading consignor Taylor Made Sales.
“We’re liking the new format and from what we’ve heard, buyers seem to be liking the new format as well,” he said. “They have condensed it down and while not every horse in it will be spectacular, what we need is for those buyers coming in for Book 2 to say ‘wait, I need to be at Book 1 too’.
“It’s been steady in the barns so far. I don’t see any reason why the sale shouldn’t be good. The stock market is good, our economy is good, so it should be a good sale.”
KEENELAND SEPTEMBER SALE
Aggregate: $377,130,400 (fourth highest gross in history)
Average: $129,331 (+7.3% – record figure)
Median: $50,000 (-12.3%)
No. of million-dollar lots: 27
Top price: $2,400,000 paid by M V Magnier for St James’s Square (War Front – Streaming), sold by Hill ’n’ Dale Sales Agency
SIX TO WATCH OUT FOR
106) b c Pioneerof The Nile – Stage Magic (Ghostzapper)
As bloodstock agent James Bester wryly noted on Twitter this week, it’s a shame that the name ‘Six Crowns’ is not available as few would be more deserving of that moniker than this colt.
Why? John and Tanya Gunther’s homebred is a brother to American Triple Crown hero Justify and from the penultimate crop of Pioneerof The Nile, himself responsible for the other Triple Crown icon of the recent era in American Pharoah.
Justify, himself a $500,000 purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September Sale by the China Horse Club and Maverick Racing, packed a mighty amount in during his brief career with Bob Baffert, going from Santa Anita maiden winner to Triple Crown hero within the space of four months before his retirement to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
— Lucas Marquardt (@ThoroStride) September 5, 2019
Not only that, their Grade 3-placed dam, fellow Gunther homebred Stage Magic, has also bred Grade 3 winner The Lieutenant.
“The first thing that springs to mind with this colt is how well balanced he is,” says Tanya Gunther. “Like Justify, he’s a smart horse, intelligent. He’s easy to handle though, whereas Justify could be a little aggressive.
“He’s more compact than the typical Pioneerof The Nile, more typey and looks like he could be a two-year-old. He’s just a classy horse and very classy to deal with.”
Pioneerof The Nile’s current crop of yearlings were bred when the late WinStar stallion stood for $110,000 as the memory of American Pharoah’s championship season continued to burn bright. As such, the stallion heads into this year’s sale with a loaded group of representatives that also includes the three-parts brother to Group 1 Phoenix Stakes runner-up Monarch Of Egypt (173), the first foal out of Kentucky Oaks heroine Cathryn Sophia (301; filly) and the half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird (540).
124) b c War Front – Sun Shower (Indian Ridge)
War Front has reigned as a driving force behind the fortunes of Keeneland’s September Sale for many years now, his sale record highlighted by the presence of 14 million-dollar yearlings.
And chances are that he’ll play a similarly influential role this time around with 34 catalogued, all of whom were bred off a fee of $250,000.
One yearling that holds particular European appeal on paper is lot 124, the brother to Tattersalls Gold Cup winner Lancaster Bomber and half-brother to top miler Excelebration.
Claiborne Farm, meanwhile, offers a homebred colt out of the Group 3-placed Queen Nefertiti, herself a sister to The Gurkha (37), alongside a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Force The Pass (95).
Group 1 Canadian International heroine Sarah Lynx is the dam of lot 66, a filly bred by Don Alberto Corporation, while Group 1 EP Taylor Stakes winner Curvy is the dam of lot 333, a colt bred by Rhinestone Bloodstock. The brother to Group/Grade 1 winners Brave Anna and Hit It A Bomb, bred by Evie Stockwell, also takes the eye (503).
135) gr c Tapit – Take Charge Brandi (Giant’s Causeway)
It took a sale-topping bid of $6 million for John Sikura of Hill ’n’ Dale Farm to secure Take Charge Brandi when she came under the hammer at the 2015 Keeneland November Sale. And understandably so. At the time, the hardy daughter of Giant’s Causeway had just wrapped up a career highlighted by Grade 1 victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Starlet Stakes, and as such, had been crowned the champion two-year-old filly of her generation.
Take Charge Brandi is also member of one of the most active families in the stud book as a granddaughter of Grade 1 heroine Take Charge Lady, herself dam of Grade 1 winners Will Take Charge and Take Charge Indy. Indeed, this family was again in the spotlight only earlier this year thanks to Take Charge Brandi’s half-brother, the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach.
This colt, bred by Hill ’n’ Dale and Elevage II, is Take Charge Brandi’s second foal following Take Charge Curlin, a Curlin colt who made $850,000 to John Oxley here last year.
As ever, his sire, former champion Tapit, is represented by an outstanding draft. And the fireworks could arrive as early as lot 1, who is the first foal out of Italian Group 1 winner Odeliz. The Gainesway stallion also looks likely to be well represented by the full or half-siblings to Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (75; colt), champion Unique Bella (172; colt out of Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic heroine Unrivaled Belle), top sprinter Lord Nelson (206; colt) and Grade 1 winner and leading young sire Constitution (247; colt).
Stonestreet Farm also offer Tapit daughters of champions Dayatthespa (344) and My Miss Aurelia (555) while triple Grade 1 winner Hard Not To Like is the dam of a filly offered by Denali Stud on behalf of Dattt Farm (434).
Hill ’n’ Dale Sales Agency
347) b f Medaglia d’Oro – Debonnaire (Anabaa)
This filly has significant international appeal as a half-sister to popular Australian galloper Hartnell.
Winner of the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy during his time with Mark Johnston, Hartnell has forged a real name for himself in Australia since then, whether as winner of the Group 1 BMW, Tab Epsom Handicap, C F Orr and Turnbull Stakes or in his role as a regular and brave bridesmaid to Winx.
Once again, sales darling Medaglia d’Oro promises to play a prominent role in overall proceedings as the sire of 39 entries in Book 1. In addition to lot 347, they also include the sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine New Money Honey (185) and the half-brothers to Grade 1-winning juveniles Dreaming Of Julia (370) and Klimt (453).
Mt Brilliant Farm
375) b c Dubawi – Eblouissante (Bernardini)
The second living foal out of Zenyatta’s half-sister Eblouissante, herself the subject of a 1.1 million guinea transaction when sold to this colt’s breeder Summer Wind Farm at the 2016 Tattersalls December Sale.
Zenyatta needs little introduction as one of the greatest American runners of the modern era, her 19 victories highlighted by 13 wins at the highest level.
Nor must another of Eblouissante’s half-sisters, Balance, be forgotten as the winner of three Grade 1 races, including the Santa Anita Oaks.
Dubawi invariably boasts a smattering of representatives at this sale and this year’s similarly select group also includes the first foal out of Chilean Group 2 winner Guapaza, a filly bred by Don Alberto Corporation (432).
498) b f American Pharoah – Leslie’s Lady (Tricky Creek)
With three stakes winners already to his credit, American Pharoah has made a flying start to his stud career at Ashford Stud, all of which should make his second crop of yearlings particularly hot commodities this week.
Few will likely come hotter than this filly, the half-sister to Into Mischief, Beholder and Mendelssohn.
“She has tremendous presence and that American Pharoah mind”
Grade 1 winner Into Mischief today sits among the elite of American stallions having forged an outstanding reputation off the back of cheaper early crops. Advertised in 2019 at $150,000, he is currently on course to win his first North American sires’ championship and with a series of powerful six-figure crops in the pipeline, looks set to assume an even greater standing as time goes on.
Beholder, meanwhile, was a four-time champion whose 11 Grade 1 victories included three Breeders’ Cup events. And who could forget Mendelssohn? The $3 million September sale-topper of 2016, he went on to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf before that devastating victory in the UAE Derby.
And to think their dam, Listed winner Leslie’s Lady, cost Clarkland Farm ‘just’ $100,000 out of the estate of James T. Hines Jr at Keeneland in 2006.
“She’s a filly that gives you chills,” says Marty Buckner of Clarkland Farm. “She has tremendous presence and that American Pharoah mind. Having raised Beholder, we can see several similar traits to her. She’s a tremendous physical, there’s a lot of natural muscle to her.
“We bought Leslie’s Lady when Into Mischief was still a yearling and a year later he had won a Grade 1 – that just goes to show anything can happen in this business. She’s a tall mare with a good hip and a lot of leg. And she throws the right genes!”
>> European interest
A cluster of three entries by Galileo and the aforementioned pair of Dubawi youngsters are the headline acts among a sizeable group of yearlings within Book 1 with European interest.
Galileo’s entry comprises fillies out of Irish Listed winner Sing Softly (86) and top American runner Turbulent Descent (167) alongside a colt out of Grade 1 winner Acoma (204).
Interestingly, Galileo’s son The Gurkha will also come under scrutiny as the sire of two well-related fillies in lots 99 and 413.
Camelot, meanwhile, boasts two entries in relations to Alpha Centauri (377; filly) and Eight Belles (164; filly) while No Nay Never’s three entries include lot 441, a €90,000 Goffs November pinhook.
Lope De Vega is represented by a half-sister to Irish Listed winner Sarrocchi (147).
>>First for Phipps
The likes of Bold Ruler, Buckpasser, Personal Ensign, Easy Goer and Orb have enthralled American racegoers for decades, their illustrious race records symbolic of the might of the Phipps family’s racing and breeding empire.
Now for the first time ever, the operation will offer their entire crop of yearling colts at auction through Claiborne Farm, a name itself synonymous with the Phipps’ racing interests.
A total of eight yearlings will be offered over the next two weeks, starting with three lots in Book 1; lot 58 is a War Front colt out of a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Imagining, lot 254 is an Union Rags grandson of Storm Flag Flying from their mighty Personal Ensign family and lot 345 is a Curlin half-brother to the aforementioned Imagining.
>> Australian connections
The result of significant investment in Australian bloodlines by some of the major North American operations means that there is a distinct Antipodean flavour to this year’s catalogue.
Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farm and John Sikura of Hill ’n’ Dale Sales Agency are two such players who thought outside the box – and chances are both will be well rewarded this week.
Banke in particular has already reaped dividends in the purchase of champion sprinter Bounding at the 2016 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale; although not cheap at A$1.9 million, the transaction does mean that Stonestreet are today in possession of a Group 1-winning half-sister to this year’s Epsom Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck.
Bounding’s first foal, a Curlin colt offered by Eaton Sales, comes under the hammer on Tuesday as lot 274.
Sikura’s international draft, meanwhile, includes a Medaglia d’Oro relation to Redoute’s Choice (141).
He is the third foal out of the winning Taste Of Heaven, an Encosta De Lago mare sourced with James Harron for A$1.5 million at the 2014 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. As that figure suggests, Taste Of Heaven boasts exceptional connections, in her case as a half-sister to Group 1 winners Redoute’s Choice, later one of the great Australian sires of his era.
Also of interest from a southern hemisphere perspective is the Uncle Mo colt out of Coolmore’s Group 1-winning miler Irish Lights, herself already dam of the Group 2 Silver Shadow Stakes winner Omei Sword (455).
>> Bargain pinhook adds to Book 1 interest
Book 1 draws to a close on Friday with one of the sale’s boldest pinhooks in lot 545, a son of sire-of-the-moment Into Mischief who was acquired last November for $500,000 by Pacific Union Bloodstock.
However, lurking within the bowels of Book 1 is one youngster at the other end of the spectrum – a $1,000 pinhook.
Representative of a level more associated with the later books, the yearling in question is lot 224, a colt from the first crop of Juddmonte’s multiple Grade 1 scorer Flintshire, who was picked up for the minimum selling price by Big Oaks Farm at this year’s Keeneland January Sale. Bred by the China Horse Club out of Listed winner Amie’s Dini, he sells on Tuesday through Taylor Made Sales Agency.
Connections of the colt will be hoping that he performs in a similar vein to last year’s Book 1 bargain pinhook, a colt by Declaration Of War; bought for just $3,000 as a foal by Willow Creek Farm, he went on to resell for $70,000 to Hideyuki Mori.