09/26/2016 1:26PM

Keeneland September had global attraction

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Like a global Thoroughbred convention, international buyers descended upon the recently concluded Keeneland September yearling sale, with outfits from five continents showing that the American Thoroughbred is in demand the world over.

In addition to global entities Coolmore, Shadwell, and Godolphin, other international buyers making their annual trip to Keeneland and buying at a high level included multiple Japanese interests, such as Katsumi Yoshida, Shadai Farm, J.S. Co., trainer Hideyuki Mori, and Yoshizawa Stable.

Other international buyers active over the two weeks included Al Shahania Stud, which has bases in Qatar and France; European interests including BBA Ireland, several pinhookers, and Keeneland September newcomer David Marnane; Russian owner Vladimir Kazakov; and buyers from Australia, China, Guatemala, Korea, and Mexico, among other countries.

“The European pinhookers were very strong, and they should be,” Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell said. “The U.S.-bred has done very well in Europe this year. American-bred horses have always sold well in the breeze-ups.”

Aquis Farm of Australia made its first trip to the Keeneland September yearling sale a productive one, with six purchases totaling $2.09 million. Its highest-profile purchase was a $385,000 colt from the final crop of Street Cry who is a half-brother to this year’s Belmont Stakes winner, Creator.

“We want the best horses, and we’ll go around the world to get them,” said Aquis chief executive Justin Fung, who attended the sale with Australian bloodstock agent Julian Blaxland of Bluesky Bloodstock. “With Keeneland being the great sale that it is, this was one of our destinations. It is quite spectacular, not just in terms of numbers but quality. We were really excited to get here.”

Aquis and Bluesky’s two most expensive purchases were a $500,000 colt by international titan Galileo who is a half-brother to champion Halfbridled and a $450,000 Kitten’s Joy colt. The latter was landed in partnership with Stonestreet Farm, which has expanded its international participation in recent years.

Among the global interests playing at a higher level than usual were Korean owners, who have always placed a premium on American stock because racing in that country is conducted on dirt. For many years, their purchasing power was curtailed because the national government, which regulates Thoroughbred industry activities, imposed a price limit for imported horses.

With racing on the rise in the country, those restrictions are soon to be eliminated, and buyers were more active and at higher levels as a result, making their first purchases of the sale during Book 2 and continuing through the second week. In all, the K.O.I.D. moniker appeared on 33 tickets for a total of $1,005,700, led by an $80,000 Pioneerof the Nile colt and a pair of $60,000 colts by last year’s leading freshman sire, Uncle Mo, and this year’s current leader, Union Rags.

“The Koreans are something we’ve been working on for many years,” Russell said. “They came in first and bought quantity because they needed horses. Now, they have enough horses, and they have stallions. They’re moving up their program dramatically. They’re building a new racetrack there at the moment. They’ve just been elevated to [Part II of the International Cataloguing Standards Book]. They are trying to become a major player, and they need more quality horses. So, they’re going to be slowly moving up the food chain.”

Another emerging entity in recent years has been China. The China Horse Club, which has diverse international interests, has helped to grow the popularity of racing in that country. At this Keeneland September sale, the outfit partnered with WinStar Farm, working under the banner of Maverick Racing, to purchase 11 yearlings for a total of $4,170,000.

“We [also] had a first-time buyer from China,” Russell said. “The Chinese market is very exciting and very interesting. We’ve hired a Chinese representative to help us go through that and figure out what role we need to play and find out if China is going to be internal or external. Currently, they seem to be doing more outside of China than inside of China. Between the China Horse Club and [Ji Woong Song], China is a very interesting and exciting market that is very much in its infancy.”