09/25/2016 2:56PM

Keeneland September: Divided marketplace yields respectable returns

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There were plenty of positives to be found at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, with the upper and middle markets performing better than expected and a $3-million Scat Daddy colt becoming the most expensive horse sold at the auction since 2010.

However, a lack of strength in the lower-market sessions, a trend seen in sales earlier this year, led to an overall steady renewal of the bellwether auction, with some slight declines.

The 13-session sale saw 2,792 yearlings sold for revenues of $272,890,500. The gross was a 3 percent decline from last year’s 12-session sale when 2,745 horses changed hands for $281,496,100.

The cumulative average sale price kept a small cushion ahead of the 2015 renewal through most of the sale, but began to lose traction in Books 5 and 6, finally settling at $97,740, a 5 percent decrease from $102,594 last year, but still the seventh-highest in Keeneland September history.

After achieving a record median of $50,000 during each of the past three renewals, this year’s median finished down 20 percent at $40,000, also making it the seventh-best performance in sale history.

With yearling sales leading up to Keeneland September producing mixed results, there was plenty of doubt over how the market would play after the high-end offerings in Books 1 and 2. Books 3 and 4 both posted increases in average and median compared with comparable sessions in 2015.

However, the sluggish returns in Books 5 and 6 led Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell to advise sellers to look at the results with a sense of moderation, particularly as the North American foal crop size affects supply and demand dynamics.

“I think a lot of people are going to go home very happy because the middle market was stronger than they had anticipated,” Russell said. “I hope they look at it, though, to realize that they don’t want to get too crazy in this market. It’s good, it’s very solid, people can make good money in it, but I wouldn’t want to see any expansion.”

One of the reasons noted by Keeneland sales staff for the improved middle-market sessions was an increased number of buyers who often occupy Book 1, including Lane’s End and Winchell Thoroughbreds, being more active in later books. This in turn pushed the usual buyers in that space deeper into the catalog, including the pinhooking contingent, to fill orders.

“Many told us about the difficulty in buying,” Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales, said. “Say, if they were targeting Book 2, I remember Aron Wellman [of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners] talking about it, along with a few others, saying, ‘I can’t get these orders filled, but fortunately there’s quality stock in the next opportunity.’

“They moved down to Book 3, and the Book 3s moved down to Book 4,” Elliston continued. “I think that explains why the average and median was basically up in every session through the first four books. I think you found there wasn’t just the cream at the top of the sale, it carried through to Books 2, 3, and 4, and folks found a spot where they still thought they were getting value for the money they were spending.”

At the top of the market, nine yearlings changed hands for seven figures, trailing the 11 to do so in 2015. However, the number of horses to sell for $500,000 or more rose to 93 from 69.

Horses to trade for $250,000 or more fell to 302 from 321, while the number of six-figure sales was down to 821 from 900.

The overall buyback rate closed at 26 percent, staying close to last year’s figure of 24 percent. The sale’s most expensive buyback was a $1.9-million War Front colt out of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, following an error inputting his reserve.

A colt by the late sire Scat Daddy topped the sale, going to the Coolmore partnership for $3 million during the auction’s third session. The colt is a half-brother to champion Beholder and to Grade 1 winner Into Mischief.

The colt, consigned by breeder Clarkland Farm, recorded the highest price at a Keeneland September sale since 2010, when Mr. Besilu topped the auction at $4.2 million.

"It's a lot of money, but he deserved to be," said M.V. Magnier, who signed the ticket for Coolmore.

Coolmore stood Scat Daddy from his retirement for the 2008 breeding season until his sudden death from a suspected cardiac event last December, as his star was still on the rise. Magnier cited familiarity with the stallion as one reason for the purchase.

"He's by Scat Daddy and a brother to an exceptional race filly," said Magnier, who added that the colt will head to Europe for his training. "You won't see much better than [Beholder]. He's also a brother to another very good colt. He's a very good mover, he's very good-looking, it's a very good family."

The colt is out of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady, who Clarkland purchased for $100,000 out of the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Since then, the mare's stock has soared with two Grade 1 winners in Beholder and Into Mischief. Beholder's nine Grade 1 triumphs are highlighted by a romp in the 2015 Pacific Classic over males, the 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff, and the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Into Mischief, who posted his Grade 1 victory in the CashCall Futurity as a juvenile the year after Clarkland purchased his dam, is now a successful young sire for Spendthrift. Two of Leslie's Lady's daughters are also stakes producers.

Commercial juggernaut Tapit finished as Keeneland September’s leading sire by gross for the fifth consecutive year, with 31 yearlings sold for $19,835,000. A distant second was the late Scat Daddy, with 54 sold for $13,379,000, led by the $3-million sale-topper. Tapit also led by average sale price among stallions with three or more offspring sold at $639,839, a position he also held in 2014. He narrowly edged out War Front, who finished at $633,947.

Tapit accounted for four of the auction’s seven most expensive offerings, including the second-highest price, a half-brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man who sold to the partnership of Bridlewood Farm and Coolmore for $2 million. He also had the sale’s most expensive filly, a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Gun Runner, who sold to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm for $1.4 million.

Tapit, who stands at Gainesway Farm, is North America’s two-time reigning leading sire, last year breaking his own single-season record for progeny earnings. He is atop the general sire list again through Sept. 25.

“Tapit, he’s the king, he’s unique,” Gainesway’s director of sales, Michael Hernon, said. “You breed to Tapit or you buy a Tapit yearling, you really have a great chance to [have] a graded stakes winner, if not a Grade 1 winner. They run on all surfaces, colts, fillies, they go short, they go long. He’s thoroughly proven, he’s in international demand, and he’s becoming a collector’s item. He filled [his book] this year at $300,000, he bred 125 mares. We look after the customer base with those kind of numbers, we look after the horse. And I think we’re going to see a whole lot more by Tapit.”

The top first-crop yearling sire by both gross and average was Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who finished with 43 sold for $6,092,500, an average of 141,686. Standing at his birthplace, Claiborne Farm, Orb was led by a $450,000 colt.

“I’m very impressed with the Orbs, and obviously the market has been too, because they’re selling very well,” said pinhooker and bloodstock agent Niall Brennan, who worked with Orb prior to his racing career. “There’s a great consistency to them. They’ve all got great movement, and there’s a lot of consistency to Orb.

“Some of them are a little plain through the head, but that’s the Malibu Moon, but they have a sleeker-type body. The good Malibu Moons are like that, and that’s the way Orb was,” Brennan continued. “He had that Unbridled influence. He wasn’t a heavy-bodied horse, and I think a lot of his stock look like that. He’s the most impressive freshman sire to me so far in consistency.”

Taylor Made Sales Agency led all consignors by gross for the 18th time since 1985 and the fourth time in the last five years. The Taylor family’s operation, which is active across all six books of the sale, finished with 282 yearlings sold for $32,899,300.

Clarkland Farm, fueled by its homebred sale-topper, finished as the leading consignor by average, at $374,778.

“We still have [broodmare Leslie’s Lady] and she’s in foal to Medaglia d‘Oro, and hopefully she has a filly so we can keep her and race her, because after this, I think we might be able to afford to keep her,” Fred Mitchell, who co-owns Clarkland, said.

“I was very surprised. I thought he might be the highest price of the sale, but I thought $2 million might fit him,” Mitchell said about the Scat Daddy colt. “We were hoping for a million and a half. Double that is unbelievable.”

Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm finished as the sale’s leading buyer by gross, with 15 purchases totaling $10,750,000.

Book 6 of the Keeneland September sale closed on Sunday with 315 horses sold for revenues of $2,526,900, down 44 percent from last year’s final book when 386 horses grossed $4,535,800. It is important to note this year’s Book 6 comprised sessions 12 and 13, while last year’s was held on days 11 and 12.

The average sale price declined 32 percent to $8,022 from $11,751, while the median fell 56 percent to $3,500 from $8,000. The buyback rate rose to 27 percent from 15 percent.

Book 6 failed to produce a six-figure horse, trailing the two to reach that mark in 2015. The number of horses to bring $50,000 or more fell from eight to four, while the number of horses sold for $25,000 or more fell from 40 to 23.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey bought the most expensive horse of Book 6, a $90,000 First Defence colt, on Saturday.

Sunday’s closing session finished with 147 horses sold for $1,036,600. The average sale price was $7,052, the median was $3,200, and the buyback rate finished at 24 percent.

Topping the session was a first-crop Morning Line colt who sold to Royal Flush Racing for $45,000.

The black colt is out of the Grade 2-placed stakes-winning Cape Canaveral mare Angel Trumpet, whose four winners from five foals to race include stakes-placed Black Bear. He is from the family of graded-placed runners Lakeside Cup, First Money, Pamela Kay, and Dreabons Legacy.

St. George Farm bred the colt in Kentucky, and purchased Angel Trumpet for $210,000 out of the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Lane’s End consigned the colt, as agent.

Morning Line, a resident of Lane’s End, was the session’s leading stallion by gross, with six horses sold for $121,500, including the session-topper

Temple City was the leading sire by average sale price with three or more sold, having three yearlings bring an average of $20,667. His most expensive offering was a $30,000 filly who sold to Marette Farrell, agent.

Lane’s End was the day’s leading consignor, with 18 yearlings sold for a combined 204,300, led by the session-topper.

Michael Puhich, as agent, was Sunday’s leading buyer, with six purchases totaling $51,500. His most expensive buy was a $22,000 Graydar colt.

For complete hip-by-hip results for Keeneland September, click here.

-- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland September yearling sale, final results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2016 2,792 (+2%) $272,890,500 (-3%) $97,740 (-5%) $40,000 (-20%) 26%
2015 2,745 $281,496,100 $102,549 $50,000 24%

Keeneland September yearling sale, top 10 purchases

Price Pedigree Buyer Consignor
$3,000,000 Colt by Scat Daddy - Leslie's Lady (Tricky Creek) M.V. Magnier Clarkland Farm
$2,000,000 Colt by Tapit - Ponche de Leona (Ponche) M.V. Magnier and Bridlewood Farm Eaton Sales, agent
$1,900,000 Colt by War Front - Prize Catch (A.P. Indy) Shadwell Estate Co. Lane's End, agent
$1,400,000 Filly by Tapit - Quiet Giant (Giant's Causeway) Whisper Hill Farm Taylor Made Sales, agent
$1,300,000 Colt by War Front - Love and Pride (A.P. Indy) Shadwell Estate Co. Four Star Sales, agent
$1,200,000 Colt by Tapit - Hooh Why (Cloud Hopping) Crupi's New Castle Farm, agent Baccari Bloodstock, agent
$1,100,000 Filly by Tapit - Quiet Temper (Quiet American) Whisper Hill Farm Taylor Made Sales, agent
$1,000,000 Colt by Medaglia d'Oro - Spring Party (Smart Strike) M.V. Magnier Taylor Made Sales, agent for Stonestreet
$1,000,000 Colt by Curlin - Glinda the Good (Hard Spun) E5 Racing, Mike Ryan, agent Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent for Stonestreet
$925,000 Colt by Pioneerof the Nile - My Tina (Bertrando) M.V. Magnier and Stonestreet Warrendale Sales, agent