09/19/2017 8:47PM

Keeneland sale continues rise

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Keeneland Photo
A Cairo Prince colt out of Precious Princess led Monday's Book 4 opener selling for $350,000.

The bellwether Keeneland September yearling sale got off to a hot start last week with the much-discussed revamping of the auction’s elite books. The momentum has carried deep into the second week of the auction as this year’s yearling crop tests the middle and lower markets. Keeneland concluded its Book 4 portion on Tuesday with its average sale price trending well up and a fairly steady buyback rate, among the indicators of health across a good swath of the North American market.

Through the close of Book 4, Keeneland has sold 1,740 yearlings for total gross revenues of $288,869,000, an 11 percent gain over the 1,916 horses who had grossed $259,841,400 through the first four books of the 2016 renewal. The sale, which continues through Saturday, had already yesterday surpassed the final 2016 gross of $272,890,500 from 2,792 horses.

The cumulative average price through four books sits at $166,017 and the median is $100,000. Those figures represent gains of 22 and 25 percent, respectively, from $135,617 and $80,000 at the same point of the 2016 renewal. The buyback rate is currently 29 percent, compared to 28 percent last year.

Tuesday's session, the Book 4 finale, finished with 285 horses sold for $15,571,000, a gain of 40 percent from the 2016 Book 4 finale, when 274 fetched $11,120,000. The session average price, $54,635, was up 35 percent from $40,584; overall, the two-day Book 4 average finished at $60,528, a gain of 27 percent from $47,645 in the two 2016 sessions. The Tuesday median finished at $40,000, a gain of 33 percent from the similar session's $30,000. The buyback rate was 20 percent compared to 25 percent.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales operations, noted that a wide variety of buyers were active at the session.

“European pinhookers in particular were very active today,” Russell said. “It was a good mix of domestic and foreign participation.”

Six horses sold for a quarter million or more in Book 4, just edging the five to do so in this portion of the sale last year. However, the market level just below that top crust expanded considerably, helping to fuel the strong final figures. A total of 103 horses garnered six-figure price tags over the last two days, eclipsing the 68 to do so in 2016.

After a colt from the first crop of Cairo Prince sold for $350,000 to bloodstock agent Mike Ryan to lead Monday’s Book 4 opener, a pair of yearlings sold for $325,000 on Tuesday to join the leaderboard.

The first of those was a Warrior's Reward filly, with trainer Mark Casse signing the ticket for Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation. The filly is out of the winning Unbridled mare Unbridled Appeal, dam of six winners from as many starters, including stakes-placed Southern Parkway, Belleofthebridle, and Unbridled Reward. The last, a full sister to this filly, was trained by Casse for another prominent client, John Oxley. Giving the filly residual value for Weber's breeding operation, this is the extended family of several prominent producers, including Canadian champion Silken Cat, dam of champion sprinter Speightstown and multiple graded stakes winner Irap. Other broodmares in the family include stakes winner and multiple stakes producer Turkappeal and multiple graded stakes producer Rehear, whose foals are led by Grade 1 winner Mani Bhavan.

The Warrior's Reward filly was consigned by Warrendale Sales, as agent for Hargus and Sandra Sexton and Steven and Brandi Nicholson's Silver Fern Farm. Hargus Sexton, who died in June at age 96, and wife Sandra have been partners with the Nicholsons on breeding stock for several years. Bouyed by the partnership, Warrendale finished as Tuesday's leading consignor by gross sales, with 17 horses totaling $1,568,000.

Late in the session, a Stay Thirsty colt sold to trainer Robert B. Hess Jr., acting as agent, to join the Warrior's Reward filly atop the leaderboard.

Consigned by Betz Thoroughbreds, as agent, the colt is the second foal out of the winning Candy Ride mare Candy Trophy, who is bred on a similar cross as Grade 1 winner Twirling Candy and graded stakes winners Chocolate Candy and Dubai Sky. It is the extended family of Triple Crown winner Affirmed.

A pair of first-crop yearling sires played a major role in Tuesday’s market, with Strong Mandate finishing as the session’s leading sire by gross receipts, with seven sold totaling $533,000, and Goldencents finishing as the leading sire by average price, among those with three or more sold, at $160,000.

Bloodstock agent Hal Hatch II, whose purchases included a $100,000 Strong Mandate colt, was the day's most active buyer with seven purchases, also leading by gross receipts at $525,000.

The Keeneland September sale continues into the homestretch with two Book 5 sessions, then concludes with two Book 6 sessions on Friday and Saturday. All sessions begin at 10 a.m., Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.