Updated on 09/15/2011 9:02AM

Bernardini filly brings $1.2 million at third session of Keeneland September sale

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Bolstered by a $1.2 million filly, figures for the third session of the Keeneland September yearling sale were running far above last year’s comparable figures approximately halfway through the session on Tuesday afternoon.

With 87 horses sold, average was $165,632 at late afternoon, a 23.8 percent jump over the average for the entire third session last year. Median was $130,000, a 33.3 percent increase over the median of $97,500 for last year’s third session.

KEENELAND SEPTEMBER: Live sale updates, video report on select sessions »

The average was significantly influenced by the $1.2 million filly, and the market had pockets of weakness that were in evidence by a 30.5 percent buyback rate through approximately half the cataloged yearlings for the Tuesday session. But the jump in median price signaled that the market had far more strength than weakness, a good sign for a segment of the racing industry that has been battered by the recession over the past three years.

The $1.2 million filly was the fourth horse to sell for $1 million or more at this year’s marathon September sale, which runs through Sept. 24. Last year, three horses sold for $1 million or more, one each on the first three days of the sale.

The filly, a well-made, compact April foal by Bernardini, was bought by Benjamin Leon, the Miami health clinic owner who has been active at yearling sales over the last several years. Leon said after he signed the ticket that he did not expect the filly to bring such a high price. Leon refused to back down as the filly’s underbidder, the agent John McCormack, quickly parried every one of his $50,000 raises but the last.

“It was more than I expected,” Leon said. “But then again, going around trying to find a filly that is the genuine package, that’s not easy.”

The filly’s dam, Silk N’ Sapphire, has had four registered foals, including Shared Account, the longshot winner of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last year at Churchill Downs. Shared Account has also won the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes and the Grade 3 All Along Stakes, all on turf.

The next highest priced horse to sell on Tuesday, an Unbridled’s Song colt out of the mare Smooth As Silk, was purchased by George Bolton for $410,000. The colt was the property of Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings. The Banke and Bolton families are friends.

The other two highest priced horses were both purchased for $400,000. The first, a Bernardini colt out of the mare Sincerely, was bought by Mayberry Farm, and the second, a Medaglia d’Oro colt out of Street Sass, was bought by Whitehorse Stables.