09/18/2015 8:13PM

Keeneland September: Book 2 gets off to fast start

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A colt from the second crop of champion Uncle Mo sold for $700,000 to lead Keeneland September's Book 2 opener.

Book 2 of the Keeneland September yearling sale opened with a flourish Friday, posting significant gains over the first session of last year’s second book.

A total of 258 yearlings changed hands during Friday’s fourth session for revenues of $38,462,000 up 8 percent from the start of last year’s Book 2, which occurred during that renewal’s fifth session. Receipts for that session last year totaled $35,634,500 from 294 horses sold.

The average sale price saw an increase of 23 percent from $121,206 to $149,078, while the median rose 20 percent from $100,000 to $120,000.

Five horses changed hands for $500,000 or more on Friday, improving from the two to meet or exceed that price point during last year’s first session of Book 2 – and, moreover, bettering on the four to meet that mark during Book 2’s entire run last year. Eleven horses sold for $400,000 or more on Friday, exceeding the nine in that price range for both sessions of Book 2 in 2014.

“Where we’re seeing the strength of the Thoroughbred industry is in the top end of the market, be it in Book 1 or Book 2,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We knew we had a lot of nice quality horses and these people are willing to stretch to get the good horses. We’ve seen it all year and it’s just a continuation of the market.”

The buyback rate finished at 28 percent on Friday, up from 23 percent during last year’s corresponding session.

Last year’s fourth session was the finale of that sale’s Book 1, which was trimmed to three days this year, resulting in an earlier start to Book 2. Despite fewer horses in the select sessions, Russell did not believe the improved start to Book 2 was due to an influx of yearlings that might otherwise have been cataloged in Book 1 trickling down to the next group of offerings.

“Last year, the topper in Book 2 was $700,000, and today the topper was $700,000,” he said. “I think this session is very comparable to last year. We look forward to tomorrow to see what that will bring.”

Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert signed the ticket as agent on Friday’s session-topper, securing a colt from the second crop of champion Uncle Mo for $700,000. Uncle Mo is North America’s current leading freshman sire, with runners such as Grade 1 winner Nyquist.

The bay colt sold Friday is the first foal out of the stakes-placed Quiet American mare Kiss the Lady, and comes from the family of Group 1 winner Minstrella, Grade 2 winners A Little Warm, Colonial Minstrel, Blofeld and Mini Sermon, and Grade 3 winner Minidar.

“He’s an Uncle Mo, and he’s hot,” Baffert said. “Everybody goes to the same horse. You probably have to overpay, but this is a horse you’re running against down the road.”

The colt was bred in Kentucky by A and M Racing, and was consigned as agent on Friday by Taylor Made Sales Agency.

Taylor Made finished the session as the leading consignor by gross, with 32 horses sold for $4,844,000. The consignment handled three of the 10 most expensive offerings of the day, including the session-topper.

Grupo 7C Racing Stables, a Florida-based operation led by Venezuelan-born Alejandro Ceballos, was the session’s leading buyer, with 12 purchases totaling $1,790,000.

Adena Springs sire Ghostzapper was Friday’s leading sire by gross, with 11 yearlings bringing a combined $1,730,000. Gainesway resident Tapit was the top sire by average, with three horses sold for an average price of $398,333.

The Keeneland September sale continues daily through Sept. 26, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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