09/19/2011 8:29PM

Keeneland sale: 'Standout' $230K Sky Mesa filly the Monday session-topper

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A filly by Sky Mesa out of the Forest Wildcat mare Floral Park brought a price of $230,000 to top the Monday session of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

Trainer Mark Casse purchased the filly as agent, but he declined to name his client. He rapidly bid the horse up to the purchase price against several bidders scattered around the sales pavilion on the eighth day of selling at the auction, the largest of its kind.

“She was a standout,” Casse said shortly after signing the ticket. “I loved her. She was standout not just for the session, she was a standout for the whole week.”

The $230,000 final price beat out two colts that each sold for $220,000 during the session, along with a colt and a filly that each sold for $210,000. In total, 22 horses sold for $100,000 or more in the session.

In total, Keeneland sold 306 horses during the session for gross proceeds of $12,233,200, with many of the horses going to the workaday trainers and pinhooking outfits that tend to dominate during the later sessions of the marathon sale, which runs through Saturday.

The average was $39,978, and the median was $25,000. The buyback rate – which was running at historic lows up until mid-afternoon – eventually settled at 17.3 percent, a figure that was still better than the buyback rate at any session this year or last year by 2.2 percentage points.

A comparison of this year’s eighth session to last year’s comparable session is complicated by a change in format for this year’s session. This year, as part of a strategy to pare the number of horses on offer to compensate for declines in the foal crop and three years of falling or stagnant demand, Keeneland sold the horses in its Book Two catalog over three days, whereas last year the Book Two horses were sold over four days.

As a result, the horses offered later in the sale this year are one day behind the horses that were offered last year, in terms of qualifying for the catalog standards applied to the books. During the eighth session last year, the horses on offer were horses from Keeneland’s third book, while this year’s eighth-session horses were from the sale’s fourth book. The yearlings in book four have lower standards for pedigree and conformation than the horses in Book Three.

Because of the format change, Keeneland officials said during the sale that they preferred to compare the eighth session this year to last year’s ninth session, which would have offered a comparable group of horse, by the book’s qualifying standards. Under that comparison, the average this year for the eighth session was 48.5 percent higher than that average of $26,921 for the ninth session last year. Median was 66 percent higher than the median of $18,000 for last year’s ninth session.

When compared to the eighth session, however, the numbers on Monday were lower. Last year during the eighth session, average was $51,117, with the figure dropping by nearly half the next day. The median during last year’s eighth session was $39,500. Again, that figure also dropped by half the next day.

The first $220,000 yearling to sell on Monday was a colt by Lion Heart out of the Royal Academy mare Silent Academy. He was purchased by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which administers all racing and breeding in the Chinese province. A half sister to the multiple graded stakes winner Sweet August Moon, the colt was the seventh yearling purchased by the Jockey Club at the sale, running its total to $967,000.

The second $220,000 sale was also a colt, by Tale of the Cat out of the Point Given mare Darling Temper. The colt was bought by Sagamore Farm, through Bob Feld, acting as agent.

The sale, which has produced strong gains in average and median since the auction’s two select sessions ended last Monday, continues on Tuesday for five more consecutive days of selling.