09/13/2012 6:51PM

Keeneland sale: $1.1 million Empire Maker colt tops Day 4 session

An Empire Maker colt out of Lu Ravi sold to Japan’s Big Red Farm for $1.1 million on Thursday at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Japanese-based breeder Nagako Fujita gave the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale its seventh millionaire – and consignor Peter O’Callaghan his first –Thursday when her Empire Maker colt out of Lu Ravi sold to Japan’s Big Red Farm, home of I’ll Have Another, for $1.1 million.

The colt was the only million-dollar horse at Thursday’s session, the final session in the auction’s three-day Book 2 portion, but his price pushed the sale’s number of millionaires past last year’s total of six for the entire auction. The $1.1 million colt also contributed to a fourth consecutive day of increases in the sale’s average and median.

Keeneland reformatted the smaller September sale this year, shortening the select sessions from two days to one. That made year-to-year comparisons inexact. But comparing the Thursday session of Book 2 with the equivalent session last year – Thursday, the final Book 2 day of 2011 – showed a financial uptick. Thursday’s session ended with 198 yearlings sold for $35,750,000, up from last year’s $34,040,500 gross for 209 horses. Average rose 11 percent, from $162,873 to $180,556, and median advanced 8 percent, from $130,000 to $140,000. Buybacks were similar to last season, dropping from 26 percent to 25 percent. There were 41 yearlings scratched from Thursday’s session.

Through Thursday, the 2012 auction’s Book 1 and Book 2 sessions grossed $132,853,000 for 655 yearlings, down 9 percent on an overall smaller catalog versus last year’s Book 1 and Book 2, including the additional select session that was dropped this season. But average gained 5 percent, from $192,851 last year to $202,829, and median reached parity with last year’s cumulative Book 1 and Book 2 median at $150,000. Cumulative buybacks increased slightly, from 27 percent to 29 percent. There were 129 yearlings scratched during Book 1 and Book 2.

Shigeyuki Okada signed the ticket for the session-topping Empire Maker colt. Okada owns Big Red Farm, which most recently hit the headlines by purchasing 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another. The Empire Maker colt now will join his sire in Japan.

Juddmonte sold the 2003 Belmont winner to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association in 2010. He had been North America’s leading third-crop sire the year before.

(For Keeneland September sales results, click here)

Asked whether she thought her Empire Maker colt would break the $1 million mark, Fujita said through translator and bloodstock adviser Toriumi Takashi that she “had no idea, but it’s all her dream.”

Fujita, who lives in Tokyo, has reduced her bloodstock holdings since the death of her husband, Yoshio, several years ago; it was he who raced Lu Ravi, winner of seven graded stakes and more than $1.8 million in 26 starts. But Nagako Fujita still keeps a handful of mares at O’Callaghan’s Woods Edge Farm in Lexington. Lu Ravi, a daughter of now-pensioned A.P. Indy, has a Candy Ride colt this year and was not bred back, according to Woods Edge’s Lisa Reynolds.

O’Callaghan was delighted with his farm’s first million-dollar sale, but also cautioned that the market was not an easy one for many other horses.

“If you can really have the real article, the outstanding individual from very strong families by those top sires like that colt, that look like those big route dirt colts, horses like them are in huge demand,” he said. “There’s no question. It’s just hard to have those.”

O’Callaghan said that “the veterinary situation,” as he called it, had “gone beyond a joke, how tough it is,” as buyers turned down horses for what O’Callaghan considered trivial faults.

“There’s too many nice horses there with minor stuff that will never amount to anything, that the last time it will ever be talked about is here at the sale, that are not making the cut or are not making what they should be making on account of this stuff,” he said. “It’s something we have to factor in, but it’s still very frustrating, especially when you see all those horses go on to the races and do so well.”

Empire Maker had another notable score Thursday when his son out of another A.P. Indy mare, Inda, fetched a $625,000 bid from Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes. The Gainesway agency sold that colt, whose dam is a daughter of champion Queena and a half-sister to Brahms.

The session’s second-highest price was the $900,000 that Stonestreet Stables paid for an April 22 Smart Strike-Mon Belle colt from Gerry Dilger’s Dromoland Farm agency. The chestnut colt’s dam is a full sister to 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and is a half-brother to stakes winner and graded-placed Supreme.

Other high-priced yearlings Thursday were an $800,000 Unbridled’s Song colt out of Grade 3 winner Miss Macy Sue that St. Elias Stables (J.J. Crupi, agent) bought from the Taylor Made agency; a $750,000 Giant’s Causeway-Good Vibes colt that Todd Pletcher, as agent for a partnership, bought from Four Star Sales, agent; a $650,000 Indian Charlie-Macoumba filly that the Solis Bloodstock agency purchased from Malibu Farm (Mark Toothaker, agent); and a $650,000 Dynaformer-My Chickadee filly, a half-sister to 2012 Travers third Fast Falcon, that Live Oak Plantation bought from Pauls Mill and Hugh G. King III.