09/21/2014 4:37PM

Keeneland September: Market closes with steady returns

Keeneland photo
A colt by War Front was the co-sale topper at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, which concluded a 13-session run on Sunday. The War Front colt and a colt by Tapit each fetched $2.2 million during the sale session on Sept. 11.

The 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale wrapped on Sunday with steady returns rivaling last year’s breakout renewal, including a record-tying median.

A total of 2,819 horses brought $279,960,500 over the 13 sessions of the industry’s bellwether yearling auction, finishing as the seventh-highest gross in the sale’s history. The total was a 0.19 percent decline from the previous year, when 2,744 horses brought $280,491,300.

The catalog was seven percent larger in 2014, prompting Keeneland to add an additional session from last year’s 12-day sale.

The cumulative average sale price finished at $99,312, the fifth-highest in sale history, but down three percent from $102,220 in 2013. The overall median price tied the Keeneland September record of $50,000 established last year. The buyback rate finished at 22 percent, up slightly from 20 percent last year.

“Last year, our goal was to have a fair and realistic market, which it was, and it has now continued on this year,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We’d had two years in a row of large gains, and if you keep on having too many large gains, you end up creating a false market. Now, having gotten those gains, we want consistency. I think it’s better for the market and better for our industry, so I’m very pleased.”

At the top of the market, a total of 13 yearlings sold for $1 million or more, finishing behind the 18 to do so last year. However, the 66 horses fetching $500,000 or more outfinished 2013, when 60 yearlings crossed that threshold. Four horses sold for a half-million or more in Book 2 of this year’s sale, while none hit that figure outside of Book 1 last year.

Trade was consistent throughout the auction, with at least one horse selling for six figures in every session for the first time since at least 1999, which is the earliest point in which Keeneland’s online records were available.

“The magic of September is the ability of the buyers being able to buy horses,” Russell said. “The most important thing for any sale is that buyers come to the market and come home with horses. When they go to a sale and can’t buy a horse, they get very frustrated.

“Now, the way the market is set up at the moment, and especially at September, people who may not have bought as many as they wanted in Book 1 can go to Book 2,” he continued. “We get new people to come in for Book 2 and that creates a better market, and that trickles all the way down.”

A pair of colts each sold for $2.2 million on Sept. 11, the final day of Book 1, were the sale’s co-toppers. For the second straight year, a War Front colt purchased by M.V. Magnier for the Coolmore partnership marked the upper limit of bidding. This time, Magnier landed a colt out of the winning Arch mare Gold Vault, the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Contested.

The colt, bred in Kentucky by Seth Hancock’s Cherry Valley Farm, was consigned by Claiborne Farm, as agent.  Claiborne stands both War Front and this colt's broodmare sire, Arch.

"He's a great mover, a lot of quality, and you don't need to say how good Claiborne is," said M.V. Magnier, who signed the ticket for the Coolmore team. "He's obviously is coming from a good farm. As with the others, we'll bring him back to [Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.] and get him going. He'll most likely go to Europe."

This colt became the third horse out of Gold Vault to sell for $1 million or more. Contested sold for $2.3 million to Japanese interests when offered at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale at the close of her racing career. Mosler, a winning full brother to this colt, fetched $1.05 million at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.

A Tapit half-brother to last year’s Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner New Year's Day also sold for $2.2 million to Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Farm. The colt was bred and consigned by Clearsky Farm, as agent.

"It was a little bit more than I thought we'd have to do," Shadwell vice president and general manager Rick Nichols said, referring to the final price. "There's a whole lot of potential. Sheikh Hamdan will come over soon and look through the yearlings and he'll decide then where he'll run, but I'd say more than likely he'll leave him [in the U.S.] to run. If he wins a Grade 1, he'd definitely be a stallion."

The colt's dam, Justwhistledixie, was a standout during her own racing career, winning the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes and Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes and finishing second in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes. The Dixie Union mare is now the dam of two winners from as many starters.

This year’s renewal of the Keeneland September sale was a resounding affirmation of Tapit’s status as North America’s leading commercial sire. The resident of Gainesway in Lexington, Ky., was the sale’s leading sire by gross for a third consecutive year, with 36 foals changing hands for a total of $21,725,000.

With nine fewer horses sold, Tapit’s gross sales more than doubled second-place Unbridled’s Song, whose 45 foals to sell brought $10,530,000.

Tapit was also the sale’s leading sire by average sale price among those with three or more yearlings sold, posting a figure of $603,472. He had four foals eclipse seven figures, matching his total from last year.

Ashford Stud’s Uncle Mo led all first-crop sires by gross, with 67 yearlings bringing $7,109,000. Trappe Shot, a son of Tapit, was the sale’s leading first-crop sire by average, as 38 of the Claiborne Farm resident’s foals sold for an average price of $127,132.

Lane’s End was the sale’s leading consignor by gross receipts, marking the sixth time that the Farish family’s operation has achieved that feat since 1985. The Versailles, Ky.-based consignment sold 211 horses for a total of $28,581,700.

Clearsky Farms was the auction’s leading consignor by average sale price, with 10 horses sold for an average price of $516,100.

John Ferguson, the bloodstock adviser for Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Godolphin operation, narrowly beat out Ben Glass, agent, for owners Gary and Mary West, as the sale’s leading buyer.

Ferguson signed the ticket on 22 horses for a total of $7,880,000, while Glass purchased 29 yearlings as agent for $7,805,000. It was 12th time that Ferguson topped Keeneland September buyers since 1985.

Keeneland’s closing session on Sunday moved 178 horses for revenues of $1,913,300. The average sale price was $10,749, while the median price was $6,000. The buyback rate finished at 16 percent.

Because last year’s sale featured only 12 sessions, there are no figures with which to compare Sunday’s 13th day of selling.

Topping the session was Fort Hope, a Fort Prado colt who sold to Lisa Orth for $120,000. Bred in Kentucky by Nossab LLC, the colt is out of the unraced Vindication mare Zindi, who is the dam of one winner from two foals to race. He is from the family of Grade 2 winners Reneesgotzip, Big Jag, and Glacial Stream, and Grade 3 winner Cascading Gold. Fort Hope consigned as agent by M J K Bloodstock, which purchased the colt as a weanling for $13,000 at last year’s Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Concord Point, another young stallion by Tapit, was the session’s leading sire by gross, with four horses bringing $137,200. The resident of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm was also the leading sire by average with three more sold, posting a figure of $34,300.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency was Sunday’s leading consignor, with 12 horses sold for revenues of $316,700. Lisa Orth was the day’s top buyer with her lone purchase of the session-topper.

For complete Keeneland September results, click here.

- Additional reporting by Nicole Russo and Matt Hegarty