09/12/2013 7:49PM

Keeneland September: Milestones fall as Book 1 closes

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Coolmore Stud purchased a War Front colt for a sale-topping $2.5 million during Thursday’s fourth session of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

During the first week of the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, consignors reaped the benefits of an enthusiastic and deep demand for their offerings, and three recent September sale milestones were met or passed in the process.

The 2013 sale’s first checkpoint: surpassing the seven horses that sold for $1-million or more last year. That figure was eclipsed by the end of Tuesday’s second session.

The next target: selling a horse for more than last year’s sale-topper. That was achieved during Thursday’s fourth session, when M.V. Magnier of Coolmore Stud secured a War Front colt for $2.5 million, an $850,000 improvement over the 2012 leader.

Nearing the end of the fourth session, another notable accomplishment was within reach. Eighteen seven-figure yearlings sold during the 2008 Keeneland September auction, which was underway when the Lehman Brothers/Wall Street crisis occurred. During the last handful of offerings on Thursday, a Tapit yearling sold for $1 million to put the 2013 sale on even terms with 2008 with regard to high-end purchases – and there’s still more than a week to go.

Perhaps most important of all, the stated goal among Keeneland executives was for the sale to post improved week one figures compared with last year. Again, mission accomplished.

During the first four days, comprising the Book 1 section, a total of 546 horses sold for revenues of $153,385,000. Gross revenues increased 15 percent compared with last year’s four-day total of $132,853,000 from 655 sold. The week one average of $280,925 jumped 39 percent from $202,829 in 2012, while the median rose 38 percent, from $150,000 to $207,500.

The buyback rate of 27 percent decreased slightly from last year’s figure of 29 percent.

“There was huge, diverse buying, both internationally, domestically, new people, old people, pinhookers, end users – you name the criteria of buyer, they were here,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Week one was a great success.”

The Coolmore partnership made its presence known at the top of the market throughout the first week, making four seven-figure purchases. The tickets were signed by M.V. Magnier, son of Coolmore’s John and Susan Magnier.

The group took its biggest swing on the previously mentioned $2.5 million War Front colt, making him the most expensive yearling purchased at a North American public auction since Mr. Besilu went for $4.2 million at the 2010 Keeneland September sale.

The dark bay or brown colt is the first foal out of the stakes-placed winning During mare Blading Gold Ring, who is a half-sister to Grade 1-placed winner Emerald Gold. Bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, the colt is from the family of Grade 1 winners Willa on the Move and Will’s Way, as well as Grade/Group 3 winners Undermine and Holberg.

Peter O’Callaghan’s Woods Edge Farm consigned the colt as agent. O’Callaghan said that his reserve was set at around $350,000, and that Coolmore’s team first visited his barn to inspect the horse several days ago, returning every day leading up to the sale.

The transaction marked the second seven-figure purchase by Magnier of a yearling consigned by O’Callaghan during this year’s sale, after he secured a $1.4 million Galileo colt on Wednesday.

“You're obviously surprised at that kind of level,” O’Callaghan said about the War Front colt. “I never imagined he'd make that kind of money, but he had enormous interest. When you have Coolmore and the Arab outfits – whether it is Sheikh Hamdan or Sheikh Mohammed or the Qatari outfits – really eager to buy your horse, anything is possible.”

The colt was a $150,000 purchase as a weanling by Brittlyn Stables at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, making for a wildly successful pinhook.

“He was just a really nice horse,” O’Callaghan said, giving his assessment of the colt as a weanling. “He was a very strong horse, very correct, and a great mover. We were War Front believers from the beginning, and at the time, it probably was plenty of money for [the colt]. A lot of people thought it was too much money, but we bought him, we took a chance, and got lucky.”

That purchase was the highlight of Thursday’s session, which featured 142 horses sold for $41,874,000. The average sale price during the fourth session was $294,887, while the median price was $210,000. The buyback rate held steady at 26 percent.

Through the first four days of selling, Taylor Made Sales Agency led all consignors with 68 horses sold for a combined $18,390,000. Their roster was led by a $1.75 million Tiznow filly sold during Wednesday’s third session, out of the Canadian champion Silken Cat, by Storm Cat. She is a half-sister to champion sprinter and leading sire Speightstown. Borges Torrealba Holdings bought the filly.

Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Company Ltd. was the leading bidder by gross during three of the four sessions, making him the week’s overall top buyer with 25 purchases totaling $11,300,000. His biggest purchase came near the end of Thursday’s session – giving the sale its 18th seven-figure yearling – when he went to $1 million to secure a Tapit filly out of the winning Tabasco Cat mare Evrobi, dam of Grade 1 winner Tell a Kelly.

Gainesway sire Tapit was the leading sire by gross sales during the first week of the Keeneland September sale, with 31 progeny sold for a total of $13,995,000. Galileo, who stands at Coolmore’s headquarters in Co. Kildare, Ireland, was the week’s leading sire by average, with five yearlings sold for an average price of $523,000.

Following a dark day on Friday, the Keeneland September sale will resume with Book 2 sessions Saturday and Sunday, beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

--additional reporting by Matt Hegarty and Nicole Russo