11/14/2016 9:20PM

Keeneland November: Uptown Twirl, Conquest dispersal propel market

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Interest in the dispersal of Conquest Stables brought faces into the pavilion not often seen in Book 4 of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, but it was a horse outside of the headlining draft who made history on Monday.

Uptown Twirl, a multiple stakes-winning half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire, became the first horse to ever change hands for seven figures during the second week of the Keeneland November sale when Three Chimneys Farm landed the filly for $1,075,000.

Those two driving forces propelled outlier-level gains during the auction’s seventh session.

A total of 254 horses sold on Monday for revenues of $13,221,100, up 79 percent from last year’s seventh day, when 256 horses brought $7,406,700.

Monday’s average sale price rose 80 percent to $52,052 from $28,932, while the median rose 29 percent to $27,000 from $21,000. The buyback rate was 26 percent versus 25 percent during last year’s comparable session, and it should be noted that the 37 horses who were part of the Conquest dispersal sold without reserve.

Led by Uptown Twirl, five horses sold for $300,000 or more during the session – compared to just two to meet or surpass that price point during Books 4, 5, and 6 combined last year.

 “It shows what we’ve always said – if you bring the product and bring the quality, it sells, be it the first week or the second week,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “I think this set the stage very well for the continuation of the Conquest dispersal tomorrow with the colts.”

Session-topper Uptown Twirl has won four of nine starts for earnings of $170,714, highlighted by wins in Surfside Stakes at Los Alamitos and the Pleasanton Oaks during the Oak Tree at Pleasanton meet. John Sadler trained the Twirling Candy filly for owner Hronis Racing. 

Bred in Kentucky by Steven and Brandi Nicholson, Uptown Twirl is out of the placed Cat Thief mare Sambuca Classica, whose four foals to race are all winners, led by probable champion juvenile Classic Empire and stakes winner Anytime Magic. This was the filly's third time through the auction ring, first going to pinhooker Hal Hatch's Halcyon Hammock Farm for $110,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. She then sold to Lane's End Bloodstock for $630,000 at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training. 

"Obviously, it's pretty simple why we made a big run at that mare, being a half to Classic Empire and everything, but she was a great physical herself,” said Jacob West of Three Chimneys. “She won two stakes this year, she showed she has ability, and the pedigree's only going to get better. She's going to be a half to a champion 2-year-old, so we're pretty excited to own her.”

West said a decision whether to put Uptown Twirl back into training for the remainder of the year or retire her immediately to Three Chimneys would be made after the sale.

Lane's End consigned Uptown Twirl, as agent. The Versailles, Ky., operation also stands Twirling Candy at stud.

While Uptown Twirl’s price is historic for the racing-age portion of the sale, Russell said the filly was not entered to spike that portion of the market. In fact, when the Keeneland November catalog was printed, Classic Empire was only a Grade 3 winner, and had not yet boosted his half-sister’s page with wins in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity or Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“When she was entered, at the time the most important aspect was probably her racing ability,” he said. “Things have changed. She was a very expensive 2-year-old, so she has great quality and has blacktype herself, but she has a lot of race left in her. The idea was to put her in the horses of racing age aspect because they felt she would have the most opportunity. Now, thanks to Classic Empire winning two Grade 1 races, it changed the ballpark a little bit.

“It just proves the money was still here for her,” Russell continued. “Nobody missed her because she was in the racehorse section instead of the broodmare section.”

The dispersal of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables, announced in August, added intrigue with its young stock. Because of Conquest Stables’ relatively new status in the racing business and tendency to sell retiring broodmare prospects at auction, the dispersal consists mostly of racing-age horses. The offerings were divided by gender, with females selling on Monday, and males to be offered Tuesday, all handled by Lane’s End, as agent.

Monday’s portion of the dispersal saw 35 fillies and mares sold for a combined $4,321,500 and an average price of $123,471. Conquest Serenade led the dispersal horses, selling to Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables for $800,000. It was the second-highest overall price of the day behind Uptown Twirl.

The 3-year-old Unbridled's Song filly will be kept in training with Mark Casse, who conditioned the Conquest Stable runners.

Conquest Serenade has won two of four starts for earnings of $74,800, breaking her maiden at Keeneland, then winning a Churchill Downs allowance. Her most recent start came on June 4 in the Penn Oaks at Penn National, where she clipped heels and fell in the stretch. She had been working toward the sale at Ashwood Training Center, most recently breezing three furlongs in 37 seconds flat on Oct. 29.

"She's pretty, she's by Unbridled's Song who's a great broodmare sire,” said Stonestreet Farm bloodstock adviser John Moynihan. “We're praying that she's going to win a stakes for us.

"I looked at them all, all the ones that were good on paper,” Moynihan said about the dispersal offerings. “She was a real pretty Unbridled's Song, half to a champion, she could run some. We just thought we'd take a shot, but it was a lot."

Bred in Florida by David Lavoie and the Unbridled's Song Syndicate, Conquest Serenade is out of multiple stakes-placed Regal Classic mare Sararegal, whose six runners from eight runners include 2008 Canadian Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet and stakes winner Millennia.

The session’s top weanling was a colt from the first crop of WinStar Farm stallion Fed Biz who sold to Machmer Hall for $170,000.

Bred in Kentucky by T. F. VanMeter, the dark bay or brown colt is the first foal out of the unplaced Purge mare Ascot Momma. He is from the family of Grade 2-placed stakes winner Five Star Momma, who was the most expensive horse of this year’s Book 3, selling to Star Guitar Inc. for $550,000.

Verrazano, a resident of Ashford Stud, was the leading covering sire on Monday, with three in-foal mares bringing $279,000. He was also the top covering sire by average sale price among those with three or more mares sold at $93,000.

To little surprise, Lane’s End was Monday’s leading consignor, with 47 horses sold for $5,903,700. The lone purchase of the session-topper propelled Three Chimneys Farm to the top of the buyer list.

At the end of seven sessions, a total of 1,408 horses traded for $193,177,300, down 2 percent from the same point of last year’s edition when 1,462 horses brought $197,177,300.

The cumulative average sale price was up 1 percent to $137,200 from $135,386, while the median went unchanged at $65,000. The buyback rate closed at 30 percent, up from 27 percent in 2015.

The Keeneland November sale continues daily through Nov. 20, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For complete sale results, click here.