11/16/2016 2:06PM

Conquest goes out with a bang

Keeneland Photo
Conquest Enforcer was the top-selling male, at $785,000, at the Conqest Stables dispersal.

No one could blame Mark Casse for being tired on Tuesday night.

The bleary-eyed trainer reclined in a Keeneland sales pavilion seat having just completed a two-week stretch that included a title-clinching Breeders’ Cup Juvenile score by Classic Empire, a gut-wrenching runner-up effort by Tepin in the Mile, cross-country travel, and finally a large chunk of his barn population being sold in the dispersal of Conquest Stables at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Casse was asked what came next, and he replied with all the enthusiasm of a man who just spent three hours waiting in line at the DMV, “I’m going to Disney World.”

The 96 horses in training for Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables were placed on borrowed time under Casse’s watch in August when Semersky announced his exit from the Thoroughbred business after four years due to personal reasons.

Consignor Lane’s End handled the dispersal, which also featured a handful of Conquest-owned broodmares and weanlings offered in other parts of the catalog.

Managing the dispersal proved to require traits befitting not only skilled horsemen, but a figurative air traffic control crew to place and monitor the Conquest horses when it became clear they would not race again before the November sale.

Horses from Casse’s string at Churchill Downs were sent to Skylight Training Center in nearby Goshen, Ky., while other race-ready horses went to Ashwood Trinity Training Center in Paris, Ky. Runners making their final starts closer to the auction stayed under Casse shed row until shipping to Keeneland.

“You need to keep training,” said Bill Farish of Lane’s End. “That was the hard part. You need to find places that have good riders. You always fear bringing horses in and them getting hurt.”

Fillies in need of some brief turnout were sent to Dixiana Farm in Lexington, Ky., while more intensive layups were directed to Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky.

Four Conquest horses were scratched from the auction to be offered during the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, and a handful of geldings that were poised to retire from the track were re-homed instead of being offered as racing prospects.

“I thought from start to finish, the Conquest dispersal went very well,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, who credited Lane’s End and its sales director Allaire Ryan for the logistics. “Selling this amount of horses all with the same first name can be very trying. I think Allaire did a spectacular job getting it all done.”

In total, 85 horses of racing age went through the ring, grossing $8,572,000 with an average sale price of $100,847. That figure did not include Conquest’s broodmares and weanlings, which pushed the total over $11 million through Tuesday.

“I thought they sold well,” Casse said. “It was sad. I knew tonight would be sad, but this is a tough business. I was really proud watching them all go around, how many good horses that we had bought. Ernie came in fast and went out fast. That’s him.”

Casse said six or seven of the horses would return to his barn. Among them was the racing-age portion’s most expensive horse, Conquest Serenade, a half-sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet who sold to Stonestreet Stables for $800,000.

The 3-year-old Unbridled’s Song filly has won 2 of 4 starts for earnings of $74,800. Her most recent start came on June 4 in the Penn Oaks at Penn National, where she clipped heels and fell in the stretch.

“I looked at them all, all the ones that were good on paper,” Stonestreet bloodstock adviser John Moynihan said about the dispersal. “She was a pretty Unbridled’s Song, half to a champion, she could run some. We just thought we’d take a shot.”

Leading the contingent of males was Conquest Enforcer, who sold to Ron Paolucci’s Loooch Racing for $785,000.

A 3-year-old Into Mischief colt, Conquest Enforcer has won 4 of 7 starts, with four stakes victories on turf and synthetic, and $360,640. He most recently finished third by a neck in the Grade 2 Nearctic Stakes on the Woodbine turf.

Zach Madden, who signed the ticket as agent, said the decision on where the colt would race and for what trainer would be made later.

“We vetted probably 10 horses, and [Paolucci] said, ‘Go after him,’ ” Madden said. “I was actually out of the door at $750,000, and he said, ‘Don’t hang up.’ The guy that delivered the ticket said, ‘I thought you were gone,’ and I said, ‘I thought I was gone, too.’ ”

Conquest Farenheit, a 2-year-old Scat Daddy colt who was runner-up in the Grade 2 Summer Stakes at Woodbine in his most recent start, sold to Rockingham Ranch for $735,000, and will go to the Southern California barn of Peter Miller.

Conquest Vivi, a 2-year-old multiple-stakes-winning half-sister to Conquest Enforcer, by Court Vision, sold to Adena Springs for $480,000, and will be pointed toward a 2017 campaign at Woodbine after some time off.