11/14/2017 7:49PM

Keeneland November: $440,000 You're to Blame leads Tuesday session

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Book 4 of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale lacked the star power it had last year, with the dispersal of Conquest Stable’s racing-age stock headlining the section. But all factors considered, this year’s returns were competitive between comparable sessions, led by the $440,000 racing prospect You’re to Blame sold on Tuesday.

Sessions seven and eight, which comprised Book 4, finished with a combined 562 horses sold for $19,486,400, down 19 percent from last year’s comparable days of trade, when 541 horses brought $24,054,800. The book’s average sale price dipped 22 percent to $34,673 from $44,464, while the median went unchanged at $25,000. Book 4’s buyback rate improved to 18 percent compared with 22 percent last year.

In comparing this year's Book 4 figures to last year's similar section, it must be taken into account that last year's fourth book and the horses of racing age portion included the bulk of the Conquest Stables dispersal, 85 horses sold for a combined $8,572,000. Last year's Book 4 opener was led by an outlier in $1.075-million stakes winner Uptown Twirl, followed on the leaderboard by five Conquest horses. The top three prices of the Book 4 closing session came from that dispersal, led by $785,000 and $735,000 colts.

Tuesday’s eighth session of the Keeneland November sale finished with 270 horses sold for $10,174,500, down 6 percent from the same session in 2016, when 287 horses brought $10,833,700. Even without a marquee dispersal, the average sale price declined just 0.2 percent on Tuesday to $37,683 from $37,748, and the median rose 35 percent to $27,000 from $20,000. The buyback rate was 19 percent, compared to 18 percent.

Bloodstock agent Steven Young signed the $440,000 ticket for You're to Blame. He declined to name a buyer, but said the colt would go to trainer Todd Pletcher. 

You're to Blame, a 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt who has been trained to this point by Mike Maker, won twice from his first five career starts. He has competed creditably in stakes company both sprinting and routing this year, pushing his career earnings to $189,325.

The colt finished third in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes, beaten a neck for second; fourth in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile, beaten a head for third, on the Kentucky Derby undercard; second in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont undercard; and fourth in the Curlin Stakes in July. He was most recently second in an allowance-optional event Sept. 15 at Belmont. 

Young said that how well the young horse stood up to that campaign, and his upside potential on the track, were major factors in the purchase. 

"He's in very good shape," Young said. "For a horse that's 3, turning 4, he's got a lot of blue sky to him. I'm taken aback a little bit how well he vetted for a horse that's 3 turning 4. I think that's a horse who's got a chance to build on what he's done." 

You're to Blame, who was consigned by Lane's End, as agent, is the lone winner out of the Grade 1-placed stakes-winning Malibu Moon mare Bon Jovi Girl. The mare is a half sister to three other stakes horses, including champion Gio Ponti. 

The Keeneland November horses of racing age portion has grown in recent years, with graduates just last year including eventual Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Diversify and graded stakes winner Honorable Duty. As a result, bidding was robust in the section, with nine six-figure horses, including six of the top 10 horses in Tuesday's session, emerging.

As You're to Blame stood in the ring, activity was snappy, with bid-spotters shouting from several different places in the ring until the $350,000 point, at which point Young slugged it out against one underbidder. 

"This is a sale we've done good out of," said Young, who last year landed Grade 3-placed Conquest Babayaga out of this session. "I can only speak for myself - I've done awful good out of this sale." 

Tuesday’s most expensive mare was That’s a Lady, a stakes-placed City Zip filly who was purchased by the Brogden family’s Machmer Hall for $240,000 with plans to continue her racing career.

The 4-year-old filly has won once from of 19 starts for earnings of $132,910, and finished third in the Southern Truce Stakes in June at Santa Anita. She previously raced for owner Michael Talla and trainer John Sadler.

“We waited all day for this one,” said Machmer Hall’s Sandy Fubini after signing the ticket near the end of the session. “She’s beautiful. Her mother - every horse is a stakes horse [out of her]. She’s by a good stallion. She was a good race mare. It’s a lovely family, it’s a breeding family.”

Bred in Kentucky by Robert Tillyer and Martin Keogh, That’s a Lady is out of the unplaced Dixie Union mare Competition, whose five foals to race are all winners. That’s a Lady is a half-sister to Grade 3-placed Desert Dynamo and Ambusher, stakes-placed Bartolome, and Puerto Rican Group 1-placed Afleet Accompli. Her extended family includes Grade 1 winners Sailor’s Valentine and Coup de Fusil.

Lane’s End also consigned That’s a Lady, as agent.

The day’s top weanling was Imwaytoocoolforyou, a Tiznow filly who sold to Global Thoroughbred for $105,000.

The gray or roan filly is out of the Grade 2-winning Pulpit mare Mini Sermon, who is the dam of two starters. Her page reaches back through the Edward P. Evans breeding program, featuring Irish champion Minstrella, Grade 2 winners A Little Warm and Colonial Minstrel, and Grade 3 winners Minidar, Pleasant Strike, and Almasty. The filly was bred in Kentucky by Theta Holding 1, Inc. and she was consigned by Denali Stud, as agent.

Mini Sermon was a $77,000 purchase out of last year’s Keeneland November sale, with Tuesday’s top weanling in utero. She sold for $450,000 in foal to Candy Ride during Evans’ record-breaking dispersal at the 2011 Keeneland November sale.

WinStar Farm resident Tourist was Tuesday’s leading covering sire by gross, with five pregnant mares sold for $168,000. The mare’s offered came from the Breeders’ Cup Mile winner’s first book at stud. Violence, a current freshman at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms, was the day’s top covering sire by average sale price among those with three or more mares sold, with four mares bringing an average of $36,500.

WinStar Racing, the vanguard of Keeneland November’s racing-age segment, was the day’s leading consignor by gross, with 24 horses sold for $1,275,500. Leading the way was D’Ambrosio, a Tapit colt who sold to Young for $150,000. Young finished as the day’s leading buyer, with two purchases totaling $590,000, including the session-topper.

At the close of eight sessions, a total of 1,734 horses changed hands for revenues of $193,781,900, down 5 percent from the same point of the previous year’s auction when 1,695 horses brought $204,011,000. The average sale price was down 7 percent to $111,754 from $120,360, the median was unchanged at $52,000, and the buyback rate sat at 23 percent compared with 28 percent the previous year.

Book 5 of the Keeneland November sale kicks off on Wednesday, and the auction continues daily through Sept. 18, beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

-- additional reporting by Nicole Russo