09/20/2017 6:17PM

Keeneland September moves into Book 5 with gains


Anyone expecting the brisk trade of this year’s Keeneland September yearling sale to fall off as the middle market faded into Book 5 did not cash that bet on Wednesday, with across-the-board gains continuing to show the market’s buoyancy, and a $175,000 Atreides filly carrying the day’s banner.

Wednesday’s session closed with 266 yearlings sold for revenues of $8,839,600, up 31 percent from the first session of last year’s Book 5, when 299 horses brought $6,772,700. The average sale price rose 47 percent to $33,232 from $22,651, the median grew 92 percent to $25,000 from $13,000, and the buyback rate finished at 23 percent against 18 percent with last year’s comparable session.

Thirteen yearlings changed hands for six figures, bettering the seven to do so during the opening session of last year’s Book 5. The number of horses sold for $75,000 rose to 29 from 16, while yearlings to pass the $50,000 threshold grew to 60 from 38.

Even into the later sessions of the marathon auction, buyers noted that competition to land a horse remains, as bloodstock agent Ben Glass put it, “tough as a nail.”

“This is a really tough sale,” he said. “Jody Huckabay [of consignor Elm Tree Farm] told me this morning, 'I can't believe it, you're still here?' He said tons of people who are never here are still here looking.

“We all got our brains beat out in Book 1 and 2, so everybody's still looking,” Glass continued. “There's still good horses left. Obviously, we can't find them all, but it seems like whenever I find a good one, everyone else did, too. It's tough, but that's the way auctions go."

Bloodstock agent David Ingordo signed the ticket on the session-topper, a first-crop filly by Atreides who commanded $175,000.

The gray or roan filly is out of the unraced Deputy Minister mare Spooky Minister, whose seven foals to race are all winners, including Grade 1-placed Moe Candy, Grade 3-placed Holy Candy, stakes-placed Silver Assault, and stakes producer Holloween Candy.

Her extended family includes Canadian champion Riker, Grade 1 winner Lunar Spook, and Grade 3 winner Cashel Castle.

"She’s got Moe Candy in the family, who was raised at Lane's End, so I'd seen a lot out of the mare,” Ingordo said. “This was a beautiful filly, the sire's got some upside, and [half-brother] Valiant Minister looks like he's coming back well. It's a first-season sire, but she's an A+ individual with a real pedigree."

The filly was bred in Kentucky by Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings. The operation of John G. Sikura also consigned the filly and stands Atreides at its Lexington, Ky. farm.

Hill ‘n’ Dale purchased Spooky Minister, in foal to Candy Ride, for $52,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The ensuing foal, the colt Valiant Minister, briefly held the record as the most expensive offering in the history of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. June 2-year-olds and horses of racing age sale, going to Charles Chu for $680,000. The record was eclipsed the following year.

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Atreides led all sires by gross on Wednesday, with four horses sold for $343,000, including the session-topper. He was also the top sire by average sale price, among those with three or more sold, at $85,750.

Lane’s End finished as the leading consignor by gross, with 34 horses sold for $1,171,200, making it the only operation to eclipse seven figures. The consignment accounted for the day’s third-highest price, a Mineshaft colt who sold to Glass, as agent for owners Gary and Mary West, for $165,000.

Michael Neatherlin was the day’s leading buyer, with three purchases totaling $285,000, led by a $170,000 colt from the first crop of Mucho Macho Man.

At the end of nine sessions, and the halfway point of Book 5, a total of 2,006 horses have sold for $297,708,600. That figure marks a 12 percent increase from halftime of Book 5 last year, the 10th session, when 2,215 yearlings brought $266,614,200. The cumulative gross has already surpassed last year’s final 13-day total of $272,890,500.

The average sale price was up 23 percent to $148,409 from $120,368, the median was ahead 31 percent to $85,000 from $65,000, and the buyback rate of 28 percent was slightly higher than the 27 percent figure last year.

Book 5 of the Keeneland September sale concludes Thursday, and the auction runs daily through Sept. 23, beginning each day at 10 a.m. Eastern.

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