09/11/2014 7:58PM

Keeneland September: Book 1 closes with strong trade Thursday

Keeneland photo
Coolmore bought this War Front colt for $2.2 million Thursday at the Keeneland September sale, which tied for the highest price through four days of the sale.

Keeneland’s select Book 1 section of its September yearling auction ended Thursday after four days of high-end trade with a dip in gross receipts compared with the 2013 Book 1 section, reflecting the fact that fewer horses were cataloged and therefore sold in this year’s renewal. However, average and median figures improved appreciably, and the Book 1 buyback rate held steady.

After the four days of selling comprising Book 1, a total of 473 horses had changed hands for revenues of $142,153,000. That is a 7 percent decrease compared with the Book 1 section in 2013, when 546 horses brought $153,385,000.

The average sale price rose 7 percent during this year’s Book 1 sessions, from $280,925 to $300,535, while the median price increased 16 percent, from $207,500 to $240,000.

Buybacks during the Book 1 section held consistent with last year’s rate at 27 percent.

“Book 1 had less horses in it. That was our decision, and the results proved that was the right thing to do,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Less became more in some departments. The average and median were up, and with less horses the gross was obviously going to be down, but it was better percentages than we had hoped for.”

Russell said that Book 1 of this year’s September sale would be best remembered for its strength in the portion of the market between $500,000 and $1 million.

A total of 62 yearlings hammered for $500,000 or more during the first four sessions, two better than last year’s larger Book 1.

The 13 horses to sell for seven figures during this year’s first book at Keeneland did not surpass the 18 to do so last year. However, the six horses that sold for $1 million or more on Thursday nearly doubled the offerings to cross that threshold during the first three days combined.

A pair of colts topped the select portion of the auction, each selling on Thursday for $2.2 million.

For the second straight year, a War Front colt purchased by M.V. Magnier for the Coolmore partnership marked the upper limit of bidding during Book 1. This time, Magnier landed a colt out of the winning Arch mare Gold Vault, the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Contested.

The colt, bred in Kentucky by Seth Hancock’s Cherry Valley Farm, was consigned by Claiborne Farm, as agent.  Claiborne stands both War Front and this colt's broodmare sire, Arch.

"He's a great mover, a lot of quality, and you don't need to say how good Claiborne is," said M.V. Magnier, who signed the ticket for the Coolmore team. "He's obviously is coming from a good farm. As with the others, we'll bring him back to [Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.] and get him going. He'll most likely go to Europe."

This colt became the third horse out of Gold Vault to sell for $1 million or more. Contested sold for $2.3 million to Japanese interests when offered at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale at the close of her racing career. Mosler, a winning full brother to this colt, fetched $1.05 million at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Mosler earned his second win from four career starts when capturing an allowance race at Belmont Park on Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after his sibling took his star turn in the sale ring.

A Tapit half-brother to last year’s Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day also sold for $2.2 million to Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm as Thursday’s trade wound down, making him the sale’s co-leader.

The colt was bred and consigned by Clearsky Farm, as agent.  It was the second big-ticket purchase of the day for Shadwell, which earlier in the day went to $1.1 million to acquire another Tapit colt consigned by Clearsky.

"It was a little bit more than I thought we'd have to do," Shadwell vice president and general manager Rick Nichols said, referring to the final price. "There's a whole lot of potential. Sheikh Hamdan will come over soon and look through the yearlings and he'll decide then where he'll run, but I'd say more than likely he'll leave him [in the U.S.] to run. If he wins a Grade 1, he'd definitely be a stallion."

The colt's dam, Justwhistledixie, was a standout during her own racing career, winning the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes and Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes and finishing second in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes. The Dixie Union mare is now the dam of two winners from as many starters. Her first foal, New Year's Day, won two of his three starts in 2013, capped by a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. An injury forced his retirement prior to his 3-year-old season, and he now stands at Hill 'n' Dale Farm.

The select portion of the Keeneland September sale was dominated by Gainesway sire Tapit, whose 32 horses to sell brought a combined $20,890,000 – just under $12 million ahead of the next-closest sire by gross: Unbridled’s Song, whose 30 yearlings totaled $8,915,000.

Tapit, a 13-year-old son of Pulpit and the current leading North American sire by 2014 progeny earnings, was also the leading sire by average sale price in Book 1 with three or more yearlings sold. His foals’ average price of $652,813 led second-place War Front, whose 14 foals to sell averaged $545,000. Tapit’s four foals to sell for seven figures were also twice as many as the next-closest sires, War Front and Tiznow.

Lane’s End Farm finished as the leading consignor of Book 1 by gross, with 48 yearlings sold for a combined $17,380,000. The Farish family’s consignment was led by a $1.45 million Dubawi filly out of the English classic winner Casual Look, who sold Wednesday to the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables.

John Ferguson, bloodstock adviser for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Godolphin Stable, was the select portion’s leading buyer, with 20 purchases totaling $7,300,000. The group was topped by a $1.2 million Bernardini filly out of the Grade 1 winner Mushka, the highest-priced yearling sold at Monday’s opener.

Thursday’s session replicated the market’s pattern of reduced gross figures with increased averages.

Keeneland reported a total of 128 horses sold on Thursday for a combined $41,585,000, down 0.7 percent compared with last year’s closing session of Book 1, when 142 yearlings were moved for $41,874,000.

The average sale price spiked 10 percent, from $294,887 to $324,883, while the median rose 16 percent, from $210,000 to $225,000. The buyback rate improved, dropping from 26 percent in last year’s Book 1 finale to 23 percent Thursday.

After a dark day on Friday, the auction will continue daily until Sunday, Sept. 21, beginning each day at 10 a.m.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

- additional reporting by Nicole Russo and Matt Hegarty

Keeneland September yearling sale, Book 1 results:

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2014 473 (-13%) $142,153,000 (-7%) $300,535 (+7%) $240,000 (+16%) 27%
2013 546 $153,385,000 $280,925 $207,500 27%