09/14/2011 2:35PM

Bernardini colt fetches $625,000 at Keeneland sale

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Photos by Z/Keeneland
A Bernardini colt out of Ava Knowsthecode sold for $625,000 on Wednesday at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland’s marathon September auction rolled into its fourth day Wednesday with momentum from the previous day’s double-digit gains and appeared to be on its way to another strong day of selling.

At the session’s midpoint at 3 p.m., the session-leader was a $625,000 Bernardini half-brother to track record-setter Keyed Entry and two other graded winners, Justin Phillip and Successful Mission. Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s agent, John Ferguson, bought the dark bay colt from Valkyre Stud, the consigning agent for Oakbrook Farm.

The Bernardini colt, a son of the stakes-placed Cryptoclearance mare Ava Knowsthecode, was one of seven yearlings to bring $300,000 or more at that stage. Through Hip No. 644, the session’s average and median prices at that point were $144,868 and $125,000, respectively, running well ahead of last year’s day four final figures of $121,730 and $85,000.

The $625,000 colt capped an outstanding Book 2 for Valkyre Stud owner Catherine Parke. Parke brought just two yearlings – both by Bernardini – to sell in Book 2. She went home with $1.2 million for her own Bernardini-Silk n’ Sapphire filly on Tuesday, followed by the $625,000 session-leader Wednesday.

“I think it’s a boost in the arm for the smaller farm, the smaller breeder, and the smaller consignor,” Parke said. “Thank goodness for the big farms, because they attract the stallions and very powerful clients. But everybody needs to be healthy. It’s kind of like when the 30-1 shot wins a Grade 1.”

Parke’s $1.2 million Bernardini filly and half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Shared Account, kicked off Book 2 on Tuesday. That session ended with huge increases after 200 horses brought $32,756,500. Gross was up 20 percent, and that was the smallest of the rises. Average leaped 22 percent to $163,783, and median rocketed 31 percent to $127,500.

Through Tuesday, the third session overall, the auction had sold 329 yearlings for $78,356,500, and average and median were running well ahead of last year’s figures. Median was up 33 percent, from $150,000 to $200,000. The cumulative average looked pale by comparison, but it, too, was plenty bouncy on a 10 percent gain from $216,305 to $238,166.

Importantly, the buyback rate also dropped sharply from 32 percent to 28 percent. There were 34 outs, a modest number in a session that cataloged about 300 horses.

On Wednesday, the walking ring immediately behind the bidding arena was heavily populated by pinhookers, yearling-to-juvenile resellers, restocking for the spring 2-year-old sales. But with major buyers like Ferguson still bidding, the speculators were finding Wednesday tougher sledding than Tuesday.

“I’m finding it really hard to buy ’em,” said Hoby Kight. “I bought two yesterday and I haven’t bought another one since. I’ve bid on 20, and I stretched for them.”

The Keeneland September auction was to continue through Sept. 24, except for a dark day Friday.