09/21/2015 9:07PM

Keeneland September: Curlin filly tops Book 3


Buyer enthusiasm toward chosen lots helped produce gains in gross and average for Book 3 of the Keeneland September yearling sale, led by a Curlin filly who sold on Sunday for $975,000.

A total of 536 yearlings changed hands over the two sessions of Book 3, days six and seven, for revenues of $40,652,500. It was a 2 percent increase from last year’s third book, which spanned days seven and eight, when 571 horses brought $39,734,000.

The Book 3 average sale price rose 9 percent from $69,587 to $75,844, while the median fell 4 percent from $57,000 to $55,000. The buyback rate closed at 27 percent in Book 3, up significantly from 19 percent in last year’s comparable sessions.

“There’s plenty of money here for the right horse,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “It seemed today had a great vibe to it. If you bring up a nice horse, you were very well-rewarded. There seems to be a little bit of an influx of faces we haven’t seen, but there are still people around that have been here all week, so there’s a good mix at the moment.”

At the top of the market, nine horses sold for $300,000 or more in Book 3, easily surpassing the lone yearling to do so in last year’s third book. The 24 yearlings to bring $200,000 or more also bettered the 19 to meet or exceed that threshold in 2014.

Two horses in this year’s Book 3 surpassed the most expensive offering of the second book, a $700,000 Uncle Mo colt, with a $710,000 Quality Road colt selling to Walnut Green on Sunday, and the aforementioned Curlin filly selling Monday.

“Good horses, no matter where they’re placed, are bringing premium prices,” Russell said. “People are willing to give premium prices for what are perceived quality. It makes no difference the level of the market. I think they’re stretching on those ones, but when you get into the battle of buying a horse, you just keep on going.”

A fairly new player to the marketplace made a big splash on Monday, when Utah-based Vernon Dickman’s Dickman Legacy Ranch purchased a Curlin filly for $975,000 to top Book 3.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings and Nicholas Lotz, the filly is out of the stakes-winning Poteen mare Epitome of a Lady, whose first foal to race is a winner. The filly’s extended family includes Grade 1 winner Hot Dixie Chick and Grade 3 winner Above Perfection.

Lotz purchased the dam for $2,500 at the 2012 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, and has bred the ensuing foals by Big Brown and Curlin in partnership with the stallion owners. Lane’s End consigned the session-topper as agent for Stonestreet, et. al.

Dickman said the filly was purchased as a pinhook prospect, and would return to the St. George, Utah farm of trainer John Brocklebank for preparation.

Based in Herber City, Utah, Dickman is in the midst of his first year as a Thoroughbred owner, and has a stable of runners in Southern California including Sambamzajammin, runner-up in the Barretts Debutante Stakes on Saturday at Los Alamitos.

“We’ve been buying all year in California, Washington, three or four places, and we’re just going around trying to find the best horses,” he said. “This is the best one we’ve seen in the shows, so I wanted to have her.”

Brocklebank, who also trains Dickman’s runners, said the operation will have 30 or 40 horses to pinhook for 2016.

“She was just such an exceptional horse,” Brocklebank said about the session-topping filly. “We literally crossed out all the boxes and checked off everything. We even had her heart done and we never do that. Everything came back, from when you first see her and fall in love with her, and everything just kept falling in line.

“At that level of price, everybody just wants a really good horse, and she just happened to cost $975,000, but that’s what we’re trying to do, is re-offer those kind,” he continued. “I know it’s a bit of a way to get going before we get on someone else’s money, but it’s kind of fun to have those kind. People will want them anyway, so they’re going to try to find a way to get her, and at least she’ll be available.”

The filly was the most expensive offering sold in Book 3 of a Keeneland September sale since 2007, when J.J. Pletcher, as agent, went to $1 million for the Johannesburg colt Sawtooth Mountain, who went on to become an Irish stakes-placed winner.

Monday’s session closed with 270 horses sold for $21,034,500, topping last year’s eighth session, when 298 yearlings sold for $18,562,000, by 13 percent.

The average sale price rose 25 percent from last year’s comparable session, going from $62,289 to $77,906, while the median rose 10 percent from $50,000 to $55,000. The buyback rate

Lane’s End was the session’s leading consignor, with 30 horses sold for a combined $3,711,000. The Versailles, Ky. operation accounted for two of the top three prices of the day, including the session-topper.

Dickman’s Legacy Ranch was Monday’s leading buyer on the lone strength of the session-topping purchase.

Curlin, who moves to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms for the 2016 breeding season, led all stallions by gross and average on Monday, with five yearlings selling for $2,095,000 and an average price of $419,000. He was the only sire to gross seven figures during Monday’s session, and accounted for three of the top six prices.

At the close of Book 3, a total of 1,504 yearlings changed hands over seven sessions for revenues of $245,570,500, marking a 0.15 percent decrease from the same point of the 2014 sale, when 1,588 horses had sold after eight sessions for $245,951,500.

The cumulative average sale price tracked 5 percent ahead of last year, growing from $154,881 to $163,278, while the median was also ahead 5 percent, from $100,000 to $105,000. The buyback rate was 28 percent, trending slightly higher than the 25 percent figure posted last year at the end of Book 3.

The Keeneland September sale continues Tuesday with the beginning of Book 4, and continues daily through Sept. 26, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.