Updated on 09/12/2011 4:51PM

Keeneland September: A.P. Indy pensioned but still in demand

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Trainer Neil Dysdale put together a partnership to buy this son of A.P. Indy for $1.4 million on Sunday night.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Five months after his pensioning due to age-related infertility, 1992 Horse of the Year A. P. Indy lit up the auction ring Sunday night at Keeneland’s September yearling sale when one of his last sons brought a session-topping $1.4 million.

A partnership including John Amerman and Robert “Shel” Evans bought the Hill ’n’ Dale agency’s A. P. Indy colt, one of two yearlings to bring more than $1 million at the two-week sale’s first select session. The other was a $1.2 million colt by Zenyatta’s sire, Street Cry, that George Bolton purchased from Stonestreet Stables (Gainesway, agent). The two big prices, combined with enthusiastic bidding by a variety of domestic and international buyers, propelled the opening session to strong gains, with median rocketing up 40 percent and average advancing by 9 percent.

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Sunday’s session, the first of two select nights, sold 67 yearlings, two fewer than last year, for a combined $25,260,000. That was up 5 percent from last year’s equivalent sessions. Average climbed from $347,319 last year to $377,015, and the median shot up from $250,000 to $350,000.

As at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga select yearling sale last month in New York, upper-market buyers seemed largely unconcerned with recent volatility on Wall Street. On Friday, as Keeneland consignors were showing yearlings at the busy Lexington sale grounds, the Dow tumbled 304 points. Still, domestic buyers were highly active. Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stables, buyer of last season’s sale-topping $4.2 million A. P. Indy colt Mr. Besilu, led all purchasers by gross with four yearlings totaling $3 million.

Among international bidders, Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum’s Darley Stud and his brother Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate bought six each for a grand total of $4,910,000, and at least six Japanese interests made significant purchases.

But buyers continued to be, as Keeneland vice president for sales Walt Robertson delicately put it, “discerning.” The buyback rate climbed from last season’s 26 percent to 32 percent when 32 yearlings failed to reach their sellers’ reserve prices. There were only seven scratches from a session whose catalog originally numbered 106.

A. P. Indy was the night’s leading sire by average with two yearlings – the session-topper and a $775,000 filly out of Private Gift – selling for a combined $2,175,000 and a $1,087,500 average.

A. P. Indy’s former trainer, Neil Drysdale, brought together a three-man partnership to buy the champion’s session-topping son, and their goal is the same as Drysdale’s was 19 years ago: to win the Kentucky Derby. Back then, A. P. Indy was the Derby favorite when he developed a hoof bruise the day before the race. Drysdale and veterinarian Alex Harthill stayed up most of that night soaking the hoof, but on the morning of the race Drysdale and owner Tomonori Tsurumaki made the agonizing decision to scratch. A. P. Indy went on to win the Belmont and Breeders' Cup Classic, collect Horse of the Year honors, and become one of the era’s most influential sires.

Drysdale declined to say much of anything about Sunday’s purchase, but Bob Feld, one of the agents who signed the ticket “Amerman, Evans, and Co.,” stepped into the breach. The partnership’s third player “is gonna remain anonymous for a little while,” according to Drysdale’s wife, Shawn Dugan.

“I was approached by Shawn and Neil this afternoon about putting a group together,” said Feld. “I thought it was a great idea. He’s a gorgeous colt, and there aren’t too many of those A. P. Indys left. Neil thought he looked more like A. P. Indy than any other colt he’s ever seen before. . . . The upside is phenomenal with this horse.”

Even with the stallion market in the doldrums, a son of A. P. Indy – especially if he becomes a classic winner or champion – could represent a huge payday as a stallion prospect. That wasn’t lost on Feld or his client, Amerman and his wife Jerry. “I told the Amermans I thought it was well worth the money to take a shot and invest with the other people and roll the dice a little bit,” Feld said.

Feld expressed surprise that the colt had gone for as little as $1.4 million.

“He’s priceless, as far as I’m concerned,” Feld said.

Bolton, on the other hand, faced stiffer competition than he expected for the $1.2 million Street Cry colt bred by his frequent racing partner, Stonestreet Stables. Watching the sale from San Francisco, Bolton figured the son of graded winner Forest Music, by Unbridled’s Song, would bring $700,000 to $900,000, based on the session’s soft opening. But when he phoned in to Keeneland’s Mark Maronde to bid for Hip No. 63, “the person I was bidding against countered me very quickly,” he said. “I was surprised I even got it. I got in at $850,000, and I went to $1.1 million, and they countered at $1.15 million so fast, I thought that was it.”

The colt had impressed Bolton as a foal on the farm, and agent John Moynihan, who represents both Bolton and Stonestreet owner Barbara Banke, told Bolton the colt was his pick of the sale. Bolton bid again.

“To have a family friend breed it, and see it grow up, plus have someone I trust recommend it, it definitely made up my mind,” Bolton said.

Hip No. 63 was the first yearling by Street Cry to bring seven figures and led a big night for the Darley stallion. Four of his yearlings sold for $2,775,000, including a $925,000 son of champion Hollywood Wildcat that Irving Cowan sold to Besilu Stables. Taylor Made’s agency consigned that colt, a half-brother to War Chant, Ivan Denisovich, and Ministers Wild Cat.

Besilu’s other purchases included a pair of $775,000 fillies: the A. P. Indy daughter of Private Gift from Mt. Brilliant Farm, agent, and an Indian Charlie daughter of Lu Ravi from breeder Nagako Fujita (Woods Edge Farm, agent).

The Indian Charlie filly’s sale price proved almost too much for Fujita, who burst into tears after shaking Leon’s hand.

“She lost her husband, who raced Lu Ravi,” Fujita’s advisor, Kay Shigeta, explained. “She just loves the family, but she has enough fillies.”

Those fillies, incidentally, include Ravi’s Song, an Unbridled’s Song mare that Fujita’s husband Yoshio bred. Ravi’s Song, now 5, is a stakes winner in 2010 and 2011. Fujita still owns Lu Ravi, and Shigeta said she has high hopes that Besilu’s new filly will add more black type to her millionaire dam’s produce record.

The second session, the last of the select sessions, begins 7 p.m. Monday in the Keeneland sale pavilion.