09/16/2015 6:32PM

Keeneland September: Book 1 yields steady returns

Keeneland photo
A Tapit colt sold for $2.1 million to lead Wednesday's third session of the Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt ranked as the highest-priced offering of the sale's select Book 1 portion.

With a robust session on Wednesday, the shortened select format of the Keeneland September yearling sale ended with results similar to Book 1 of last year’s renewal.

This year’s auction featured a condensed Book 1 format, in which the select sessions were cut from four days to three, with more horses offered each day. Because of the changed setup, the figures for the select sessions are not directly comparable from year-to-year on a gross level, but the quality of horses on offer remains similar to last year’s first book.

Cumulative results will be compared on a book-to-book basis instead of day-to-day, with the three days of this year’s Book 1 being stacked against last year’s four-day Book 1 to provide the most accurate slice of the market possible.

:: KEENELAND SEPTEMBER: Complete coverage from DRF Breeding ::

A total of 443 yearlings changed hands over the three days of this year’s first book for revenues of $134,361,000, down 5 percent from last year’s Book 1 gross of $142,153,000 from 473 sold over four days.

The cumulative average sale price saw a 1 percent increase from $300,535 to $303,298, while the median rose 4 percent from $240,000 to $250,000. The overall buyback rate finished at 31 percent, up from last year’s Book 1 figure of 27 percent.

“It’s a selective market on both sides,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Those people who have invested good money to buy the good broodmares and breed them to the top stallions want to be rewarded for it, or else they’re willing to race them themselves.”

Russell said he was pleased with the returns from the sale’s condensed Book 1, and that the response from other industry participants was also positive.

“The comments we got back from both consignors and buyers was the flow was much better for them today,” he said. “They felt like they could handle the numbers better and get around much easier. It’s good to start off the sales like that.”

Eleven horses sold for seven figures, trailing the 13 to reach that level during Book 1 in 2014. Sixty-one yearlings sold for $500,000 in this year’s Book 1, finishing behind last year’s group by one.

The sale topper came during Wednesday’s session, as Mandy Pope, bidding as her Whisper Hill Farm, dug in to secure a Tapit colt for $2.1 million following a prolonged bidding war.

The colt was consigned by Gainesway, as agent, leading the operation's three seven-figure yearlings of the session, which comprised three of Book 1’s top four prices.

"He's got it all," Gainesway's Michael Hernon said of the sale topper. "He's got all the potential in the world. We've had a great day. I will tell you the reserve was below a million, and it just shows you in the right place at the right time with the right product, this is what we all are in this business for."

Pope came away with the colt following a long run of bidding that ended with her and the trio of Kaleem Shah, trainer Bob Baffert, and Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm’s John Sikura facing off. After a long pause in the action, Shah upped his bid to $2 million, making the colt the first of the week to reach that bar. Pope quickly counter-punched with a $2.1-million bid that closed the deal.

"I thought he was one of the nicest colts in the sale, and being by Tapit moved him up," said Pope, who last year bought this colt's full sister, Tapping Colors, for $700,000. "He has a gorgeous stride on him, lovely hip and shoulder, great attitude. I bought his full sister last year for $700,000. She hasn't made it to the races yet, but she's going to. I'm all-in on that family.”

The colt is out of the Mr. Greeley mare Silver Colors, whose only foal to race is a winner. The mare was produced by Winning Colors, one of only three fillies to ever win the Kentucky Derby. Winning Colors went on to a solid career as a broodmare, producing stakes-placed winners Golden Colors and Ocean Colors. Golden Colors and another daughter, Stormin Winnie, are both stakes producers in their own right.

Pope said she had no plans as to who will train the colt, who will head to Florida in the immediate future.

"That's a long way down the road," she said. "Anything can happen, but he'll have a good trainer, obviously. He'll go to Whisper Hill Farm and have some turnout for a few months and get broke, and then go to GoldMark Farm for his training, and we'll figure out when he's ready to go to the races and who to send him to. They're in charge. They tell us when they're ready to go to the track, so we leave it up to the horse."

Taylor Made Sales Agency finished as Book 1’s leading consignor by gross, with 61 horses sold for a combined $18,795,000. The Nicholasville, Ky., operation accounted for two of the top 10 prices of the first three days, led by the third-most expensive offering, a $1.525-million Distorted Humor colt who sold to Three Chimneys Farm on Tuesday.

John Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, was Book 1’s leading buyer, acquiring 22 yearlings for $7,965,000, led by a $900,000 War Front colt purchased Monday.

Gainesway resident Tapit, North America’s reigning leading sire, topped Book 1 sires by gross receipts, with 29 sold for a combined $15,665,000. He accounts for the sale’s top two prices, with the $2.1-million colt, as well as a $1.65-million colt sold to Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables, in conjunction with Three Chimneys Farm. Tapit also accounted for Book 1’s three most expensive buybacks, led by a colt who drew a high bid of $1.2 million.

Claiborne Farm sire War Front is the leading sire by average sale price among those with three or more sold, with 19 yearlings commanding an average price of $636,842. The son of Danzig had four horses sell for seven figures during the select sessions.

Wednesday’s session saw 151 yearlings bring $46,754,000, up 58 percent from last year’s third-session gross of $29,615,000 from 104 sold.

The average sale price during the third session finished at $309,629, up 9 percent from $284,760 in 2014, while the median rose 25 percent from $200,000 to $250,000. The buyback rate fell slightly on Wednesday, from 32 percent to 30 percent.

Gainesway finished Wednesday’s session as the leading consignor by gross, with 11 yearling sold for $8,615,000, including the sale-topper thus far. Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm was the session’s leading buyer, with two purchases totaling $3,150,000.

War Front swept the select sessions as leading sire by average price among those with three or more sold, with eight yearlings averaging $627,500 on Wednesday. Tapit led the session’s sires by gross, with 15 offerings bringing in $8,965,000.

The Keeneland September sale resumes Friday and continues daily through Sept. 26, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results from from Keeneland September, click here.

- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland September yearling sale, Book 1 results

Year Sessions Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2015 3 443 (-6%) $134,361,000 (-5%) $303,298 (+1%) $250,000 (+4%) 31%
2014 4 473 $142,153,000 $300,535 $240,000 27%