09/10/2012 9:18PM

Keeneland September: Five million-dollar yearlings buoy select session

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Keeneland September yearling auction’s only select session delivered five million-dollar yearlings and launched the 11-day sale on an upward trend as average and median outpaced last year’s figures.

Keeneland reformatted the select session this year, trimming it from two nights to one evening session, making year-to-year-comparisons inexact. But the $403,867 average was well up from last season’s two-night Book 1 total of $353,488 and the 2011 first-night average of $377,015. And Monday’s $350,000 median easily outpaced last year’s two-night median of $300,000 and equaled last year’s opening night figure.

Monday’s one-day Book 1 session sold 75 yearlings for $30,290,000. Last year, the two-night Book 1 sold 129 yearlings for $45,600,000; last year’s opening night alone sold 67 horses for $25,260,000.

The decline in gross did not surprise, given the comparison of a single select day this year with a two-day select portion in 2011. Also contributing to the smaller select portion: a smaller supply of yearlings from 2011’s smaller registered foal crop, which brought the 11-day September sale’s overall catalog numbers down by 17 percent.

The buyback rate Monday was 34 percent, up slightly from last year’s Book 1 rate of 32 percent, but, in better news, the number of million-dollar horses--including the sale-topping $1.65 million Distorted Humor colt--went up from three in the 2011 Book 1 to five this year.

(For complete sales results, click here)

Bidding from the privacy of an office “on the hill,” as sales-goers refer to Keeneland’s offices Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Co. sprang for the sale-topper, a son of Grade 1 winner Mushka. Eaton Sales, agent, consigned the April 14 colt, a bay from the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Lakeway, among others. 

Cataloged as Hip No. 131, the Distorted Humor colt sold as the night’s next-to-last offering, and Sheikh Hamdan -- invisible to press and spectators from his private bidding place -- evidently didn’t mind staying late, because he also took home the night’s last yearling, another Distorted Humor colt. That one, a half-brother to reigning champion juvenile filly My Miss Aurelia, cost $850,000 and came to the auction from Stonestreet Thoroughbreds (Gainesway, agent).

Eventually, a single quote about the sale-topper, attributed to Shadwell’s general manager, Rick Nichols, trickled down the hill to the press box, via Keeneland’s Julie Balog.

“Good pedigree, nice conformation, and fit well into the program,” Nichols said, according to Balog.

In a more public transaction, Hill ’n’ Dale Farms chief John Sikura teamed up with breeder and owner Bruce Lunsford to snap up the night’s most expensive filly, and second-priciest yearling overall: a $1.3 million Smart Strike filly who is a half-sister to Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister. The bay filly, born Jan. 17, came to the sale from Audley Farm in Virginia, which also bred Bodemeister. 

The bay filly, born Jan. 17, came to the sale from Audley Farm in Virginia, where, Audley general manager Jens von Lepel said, she was a particular favorite.

“I’m more than thrilled,” said Von Lepel, who manages Audley for Eric von Baumbach and Christophe Boehringer. The historic farm in Berryville, Va., once was the residence of George Washington’s adopted daughter, Nellie Parke Custis, and later stood the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, at stud. “I think that was a very good price for her, and, I tell you what, in fairness, she was here for sale, but we loved her, and we put a reserve on her just to protect her a little bit. But this was over all expectations.”

Bodemeister’s trainer, Bob Baffert, who stood nearby as Hill ’n’ Dale agent Donato Lanni signed the ticket, is likely to train the filly.

Also cracking seven figures was a $1.05-million War Front colt who is a half-brother to recent Test and Acorn Stakes winner Contested. Jane B. Dunn, who has the Holly Hill Training Center in Holly Hill, S.C., signed the ticket for an American-based partnership that included Adele Dilschneider. Claiborne Farm, agent, consigned the bay colt.

“If you want a nice horse, it looks expensive tonight, I think,” Dunn said. “So if you want it, you’ve got to get a little brave.”

A filly from A. P. Indy’s final yearling crop also brought seven figures when knocked down for $1.1 million to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm. The Mill Ridge sales agency consigned the May 4 daughter of graded winner Moonlight Sonata. The bay filly is a three-quarters-sister to Wilburn and a half-sister to Beethoven, both Grade 2 winners.

A. P. Indy’s last Keeneland September select yearlings grossed $3.6 million for six sales, for a $600,000 average price and a median of $637,500. A. P. Indy also sired two of the night’s notable buybacks. His son of Lady Lochinvar, a full brother to graded-winning millionaire and current sire Master Command, returned to sellers Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams on a $975,000 final bid. And a daughter of the stakes-placed Fasliyev mare Lacadena was a $725,000 buyback from Denali Stud’s agency.

(At the other end of the spectrum, the first of three yearlings from Sea The Stars’s first crop -- and the only one on offer Monday -- brought $675,000 from the Osaka-based company K.K. Eishindo. The Jan. 30 colt is out of the Awesome Again mare Ice Mint and was part of Clearsky Farms’ consignment.)

The night’s other $1 million yearling, a Street Cry-Tizso colt who is Paynter’s half-brother, sold to Charles and Maribeth Sandford. The Taylor Made agency consigned the $1 million bay colt, whose second dam, Cee’s Song, produced the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and stallion Tiznow. The Sandfords also picked up a $600,000 A. P. Indy-Coral Sea colt, a three-quarters-brother to 2008 Fountain of Youth winner Cool Coal Man. Lane’s End, which stood A.P. Indy until his pensioning last year, was the consignor. They started the night by signing for a $130,000 Bernardini-Our Legacy colt consigned by Eaton Sales.

Other high-priced yearlings Monday night included a $725,000 A. P. Indy-Million Gift filly from Sky Beauty’s family that Charles Fipke bought from Taylor Made, agent; a $675,000 A. P. Indy filly out of millionaire Grade 1-placed Miraculous Miss that Coolmore’s Demi O’Byrne bought from Eaton Sales, agent; $650,000 Smart Strike colt out of Grade 1 winner Hollywood Story that Whisper Hill Farm bought from Hill ’n’ Dale, agent; a $625,000 Indian Charlie-Witness Post filly, a half-sister to Hello Liberty, that Shadwell Estate Co. bought from Brereton Jones Jr.’s Airdrie agency; a $600,000 Street Cry-Dark Sky colt from the family of Nebraska Tornado that Blandford Bloodstock purchased from Hunter Valley Farm, agent; and a $525,000 Elusive Quality colt out of former champion 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat that Juddmonte Farms bought from Woodford Thoroughbreds, agent.

There also was a spate of $500,000  yearlings. They were a Broken Vow-Playa Maya colt, a half-brother to 2011 champion juvenile Uncle Mo, that Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation bought from the Eaton Sales agency; a Smart Strike-Wile Cat colt, a half-brother to group winner Shumoos, that agent Richard O’Gorman acquired from Eaton Sales, agent; a Galileo-Egyptian Queen colt from A. P. Warrior’s family that Glen Hill Farm bought from Reiko and Michael Baum (Man o’ War Farm, agent); a Divine Park-Don’t Trick Her filly, a half-sister to Grade 1 winners to Check the Label and Include Me Out, that Whisper Hill Farm bought from Airdrie’s consignment; an Empire Maker-Lochinvar’s Gold filly, a member of her sire’s final U.S.-sired crop, that Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams (Elm Tree Farm, agent) sold to Barry Schwartz; and a Tiznow-Memories of Silver half-brother to Winter Memories that Darby Dan Farm, agent, sold to K.K. Eishindo.

The Keeneland September yearling sale was to continue with a three-day Book 2 session from Tuesday through Thursday. Book 2 sessions start at 11 a.m. There will be a dark day on Friday, and selling will resume Saturday through Sept. 21 with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.