09/01/2011 2:31PM

Keeneland September has especially selective catalog

Flashy Bull is among a group of leading freshman sires who are expected to stir interest at the sale.

Everyone is wondering if the bullish yearling markets at Fasig-Tipton July and Saratoga will continue at the Keeneland September yearling sale, which begins Sept. 11 with two evenings of select quality individuals.

Book 1 is dominated by elite proven sires such as A.P. Indy, Distorted Humor, Dynaformer, Giant’s Causeway, Indian Charlie, Medaglia d’Oro, Street Cry, Tiznow, and Unbridled’s Song as well as emerging major young stallions such as Bernardini and Tapit. A.P. Indy, now retired from stud duty, has only six yearlings in Book 1 and another six in Book 2, the result of his smaller foal crops in the last few years. Compare that with Unbridled’s Song, who has 30 yearlings in Book 1 and 84 in the sale overall. The leader by numbers, however, is Medaglia d’Oro, who has 18 in Book 1 and 95 hips through the end of the sale.

Among the elite, Smart Strike has 34 in the sale but only four in Book 1. Similarly, Malibu Moon has 52 hips in the sale but only five in Book 1; Pulpit has 29 in the sale but only three in Book 1; and Candy Ride has 59 in the sale but only two in Book 1. These smaller numbers by elite sires show just how picky the selection team really is.

It is notable that Street Cry has only 22 yearlings in the sale, all in the first two books. With only two yearlings selling over the summer, and the Jockey Club reporting 129 mares bred to him in 2009, we have to wonder where all his yearlings are. It is obvious, however, why there are only 23 Mineshaft yearlings in the sale (none in Book 1). The Jockey Club shows that in 2009 he bred just 64 mares, the low point of his popularity, before his runners resurrected his reputation. Depending on the quality of the mare, this could be a good year to buy Mineshafts before the price bounces back, too.

Last year’s leading freshman sire, Congrats, has only nine in the entire catalog and none in Book 1, even though he is one of the most desirable stallions in Kentucky. Since his first four crops were bred in Florida, it is possible the mares he got in 2009 weren’t strong enough to make a good commercial yearling crop in 2011. In fact, there are only five Congrats yearlings cataloged at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s August yearling sale, where they should be hot commodities. While his yearling averages may take some time to catch up, lack of availability will probably supercharge the market for his 2-year-olds in training.

By comparison, Congrats’s contemporary, Bernardini, has 53 in the sale, with eight in Book 1. The difference is that Bernardini started his career as an elite Kentucky sire, and that status has never dipped. He has been bred to high-class mares and, with the success of his first crops, will continue to be bred to the best.

War Front was also among the top freshman sires of 2010 and has 21 in the sale, with two in Book 1. War Front started his career in Kentucky and has had the advantage of a more commercially oriented broodmare population, even at a lower stud fee.

Bellamy Road is in the same sire class as Congrats, Bernardini, and War Front, with first foals now 3-year-olds. Bellamy Road is working his way up the ladder in the style of a Malibu Moon or Dynaformer. He has only seven yearlings in the sale, and buyers won’t have the chance to bid on any until Book 3. Breeders willing to send nice mares to a horse like this before his fee jumps have the chance of making a solid profit when his yearlings make the commercial grade.

All of 2011’s leading freshman sires of 2-year-olds are going to stir interest in their progeny at the sale. This year’s leaders are as surprising as last year’s. The earnings leader through Aug. 29 is Scat Daddy, who got his first stakes winner when Finale won the Continental Mile at Monmouth. Scat Daddy was one of the best juveniles of 2006, with wins in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and Grade 2 Sanford Stakes. He is also the leader among freshman sires by number of winners, with 11. Scat Daddy has no yearlings offered in Book 1 and only four in the three sessions that make up Book 2. He is, however, represented through the rest of the sale with 33 hips total.

The current second-place freshman sire is Hat Trick, a Japanese-bred son of Sunday Silence whose French-bred and French-raced colt Dabarsim won the recent Grade 1 Prix Morny, among Hat Trick’s four winners so far. Hat Trick has only six yearlings in the sale, and none until Book 3.

Hard Spun is another freshman sire rising to the top early. His son Red Duke is a Grade 2 winner in England and is the leading earner from 10 juvenile winners for his sire through Aug. 29. Early speed and precociousness were qualities Hard Spun displayed himself; he was undefeated in three starts at 2, including a pair of stakes in his native Pennsylvania, before graduating to national status at 3. He is well represented at the sale with 61 hips, although they don’t appear until Book 2.

Then there is Flashy Bull, who through Aug. 29 is the only freshman sire with more than one stakes winner to his credit. He has two black-type winners, Flashy Lassie and the multiple stakes winner Balooga Bull. Flashy Bull has nine juvenile winners. His career highlight was a win in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap as a 4-year-old, so it is easy to forget that he was second in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at 2. Flashy Bull has only 21 yearlings in the sale, and one made it into Book 1, a half-sister to the 2010 Canadian Horse of the Year, Biofuel.

Another among the freshman sire leaders, Latent Heat, was placed in one start at 2, so it is unusual to see him with success so early. He already has six juvenile winners, including the stakes winner Softly Lit. Latent Heat has impressed most who have seen him, and his yearlings have been well received. He has 22 in this sale, starting in Book 3.

Another noteworthy freshman, Half Ours, was one of the first juvenile stakes winners of his crop, with a win in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day in 2005. He has six 2-year-old winners, including the stakes winner Back Door Kenny. He is enjoying his success in Louisiana, where he moved after the 2009 season, and perhaps he will earn a trip back to Kentucky soon. Half Ours has 13 in the sale, starting in Book 3.

Keeneland seems to have selected against this group in Book 1, since the most yearlings any freshman has in the first two sessions are the four sired by Street Sense. The only other freshman sires represented in Book 1 are Flashy Bull and Invasor, with one each.

This crop of yearlings represents the last by Gone West, who has three in the sale, and El Prado, who has eight. Both stallions died after the 2009 breeding season, as did the promising freshman Lawyer Ron. There may also be a sense of urgency with the yearlings selling this year by proven sires Mr. Greeley and Dixie Union, who died in 2010, as did the freshman sire Master Command. They will have just one more crop following this at the sales, and likewise, there will be only one more foal crop by the retired A.P. Indy.

The final American crop sired by Johannesburg – now at stud in Japan – is being offered, with 33 in the sale. Empire Maker, who was exported to Japan for the 2011 season, has 27 hips in the sale. Sometimes the market can forget about a stallion once he has left the country, but both of these were sold as success stories rather than being exiled. Their progeny should still be in demand.

On a final note beyond stallions, here’s an observation about a breeder. In working up my list of top 50 hip numbers to watch, four were consigned by Brereton C. Jones/Airdrie Stud, agent, who has nine in his Book 1 consignment. The dams of these yearlings showcase Gov. Jones’s knack for making his own young stallions, having produced, among others, Cash Included (G1, by Include), Biofuel (Horse of the Year in Canada, by former Airdrie stallion Stormin Fever), Proud Spell (champion by Proud Citizen), and Request for Parole (G1, by former Airdrie stallion Judge T C).

The pedigrees of some of these mares are not the glittery stuff that tends to dominate a Lane’s End or Claiborne consignment, for instance, but this broodmare band has been one of the most productive in Kentucky for years. Anyone who has been to the farm to inspect the stallions can attest to the skilled eye that has gathered a group of stallions as grand looking as you will see anywhere. No matter how offbeat the pedigree may seem, the record at Airdrie now speaks for itself, and you better pay attention or miss out on breeding to the likes of Flashy Bull or Indian Charlie before the stud fee shoots out of reach.