11/03/2015 6:42PM

Keeneland November posts double-digit gains for Book 1

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A perfect storm converged on the Keeneland November breeding stock sale on Tuesday, with a champion, a Broodmare of the Year, and a popular commercial sire all represented in less than 10 minutes before some of the industry’s leading buyers.

Champion Take Charge Brandi, a granddaughter of Grade 1 winner and blue hen Take Charge Lady, sold for $6 million to rank among Keeneland November’s highest prices ever. Immediately following her through the ring was Take Charge Lady’s weanling filly by popular commercial sire War Front – and lightning struck twice, as she fetched a North American-record $3.2 million.

When the smoke cleared, those two fillies had blown the Keeneland November sale’s premier Book 1 portion, which opened in solid fashion on Monday, to double-digit gains across the board. A total of 279 horses sold in those two days for total gross receipts of $108,878,000, led by 21 seven-figure tickets. The gross amount is up 14 percent from this point last year, when 273 horses sold for $95,852,000.

The two-day cumulative average price of $390,244 and median of $230,000 were gains of 11 and 15 percent, respectively, from figures of $351,106 and $200,000 in 2014.

“We anticipated that we had crackerjack foals [in this catalog],” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We were very confident that at the end of the day, the market would react very favorably toward the foals, and then it beat our expectations. And then to have Take Charge Brandi – a beautiful mare, [owner Willis Horton] bought her from us [at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale], and to watch her race, and then to have him sit there and watch her sell, I’m sure was very tough on him. He recovered very well, because he bought the last horse in the ring, so I guess he’ll look forward to the next Take Charge Brandi.

“I think the upper end of the market was very, very strong today,” Russell continued. “Many different people buying at the top end, like yesterday. … They’re still very particular what they buy, but they’re willing to give top dollar for the good horses.”

The buyback rate was the one blight on the rose, rising from 24 percent to 28 percent for Book 1.

John G. Sikura signed the ticket on Take Charge Brandi, a 3-year-old daughter of perennial leading sire Giant's Causeway. Sikura’s Hill 'n' Dale Sales, as agent, had consigned the filly for owner Willis Horton. Her price tied her for the sixth most-expensive broodmare or broodmare prospect ever sold at Keeneland November, and she is the sale’s most expensive horse since 2007.

“I thought the horse was a $5 million or $6 million mare,” Sikura of Take Charge Brandi, who will now join the broodmare band at Hill ‘n’ Dale. “She’s a champion, unique pedigree, beautiful individual. It’s a highly coveted family in the marketplace. Very rare, and you have to have rare and unique stuff if you’re going to compete at the top of market.”

Sikura added that he has not yet selected a stallion for Take Charge Brandi’s 2016 cover.

“It will be an elite, top sire that suits her, physically and by nick, and by all the measurements that provide suitability,” he said.

Take Charge Brandi pulled the upset in the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, then captured the Grade 3 Delta Princess Stakes and the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes to secure her divisional Eclipse Award. She won the Martha Washington Stakes early this year before suffering a bone chip that derailed her campaign, and was retired in September after finishing unplaced in her two comeback starts.

Take Charge Brandi is out of the winning Seeking the Gold mare Charming, a daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner and Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady. The latter is also the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner and champion Will Take Charge, as well as Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy.

Youth was the story of Tuesday’s second session, as six weanlings fetched seven-figure price tags, led by Take Charge Lady’s $3.2 million War Front filly, who went to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm. The filly was consigned by Eaton Sales, as agent.

“She has a good amount of leg for a War Front, and nothing seems to bother her,” Pope said of the record weanling. “She is very well minded.”

Pope is familiar with Take Charge Lady’s family, having purchased a half-sister to this weanling two years ago at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $2.2 million. The filly, now named I’ll Take Charge, has won 1 of 3 starts.

“We paid a lot for her half-sister,” Pope said, “and she’s on vacation right now, getting a break. She’ll be back.”

The War Front filly’s price broke the North American weanling record set last year at Keeneland November, when a Tapit filly, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Honor Code, sold for $3 million to Bridlewood Farm. The latter filly’s half-brother, also by War Front, sold for $2.6 million to Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier on Tuesday.

“I think the weanling market, like the rest of the segments of the market, at the very top, if you fit all the criteria, got a great physical, et cetera, it's very good. And if not, there's a gap,” Sikura, who consigned Honor Code’s half-brother, said of the market. “We try to really hand-pick and bring only premier horses here that we believe are really bulletproof in the marketplace, not only because of the pedigree but with a great physical and the way they vet, et cetera.”

The day’s three top weanlings – Pope’s filly, Coolmore’s colt, and a $2 million filly out of Grade 1 winner Awesome Maria purchased by Horton – were all by War Front, who stands at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. They ranked as Keeneland November’s first, fourth (tie), and ninth most-expensive weanlings of all time.

Powered by those weanlings, War Front finished as Book 1’s leading sire by average among those with three or more sold, with four horses sold for an average of $2,081,250, while international leading sire Galileo was the leader by gross, with $8,965,000 for seven sold.

Hill ‘n’ Dale was the leading consignor by both gross ($23,875,000) and average ($1,085,227) for 22 sold after consigning eight of the seven-figure lots in the two days.

Tuesday's second session sold 143 horses for $63,784,000, up 17 percent from 2014’s corresponding session, when 138 sold for $54,454,000. The average was up 13 percent, from $394,594 to $446,042, while the median rose 6 percent from $235,000 to $250,000.

The Keeneland November sale continues with daily sessions, beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern, through Nov. 13.

For complete sale results, click here.

– Additional reporting by Matt Hegarty and Mark Simon