09/11/2017 8:38PM

Keeneland September: New-look Book 1 yields soaring returns

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A full sister to Grade 1 winner Cupid sold to the Coolmore partnership for $2.7 million to lead the revamped Book 1 of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

A revamped, super-select first book of the Keeneland September yearling sale yielded the intended result on Monday, with average and median sale prices far exceeding last year’s Book 1, and a $2.7-million daughter of Tapit becoming the most expensive filly traded at the sale since 2008.

Keeneland condensed Book 1 of the 2017 auction to a single session with 167 elite yearlings cataloged before outs. Last year’s first book spanned three sessions with 607 entries.

Monday’s boutique session saw 95 horses change hands for revenues of $54,175,000.  The Book 1 average sale price finished at $570,263, rising 64 percent from last year’s final Book 1 average of $347,471. The Book 1 median price grew 67 percent to $500,000 from $300,000. The buyback rate finished at 34 percent, compared with last year’s cumulative Book 1 figure of 31 percent.

“It by far exceeded our expectations,” Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales, said. “We had a couple of goals in this new format. First and foremost was creating momentum right from the very beginning that we hope we can take right through the entire sale. The second one is have as many good horses as you can for this international buying group before the [sale’s dark day Friday].

“The fireworks are not over, I promise you that,” he continued. “It was hard getting a horse bought here tonight. There were a lot of folks that went home without orders filled, and these breeders are bringing incredible horses back for the next three days [of Book 2].”

At the top of the market, three horses sold for more than $2 million, leading eight horses who changed hands for seven figures. A total of 48 horses sold for $500,000 or more.

“It was mental,” bloodstock agent Kerri Radcliffe, who purchased a pair of horses, said of the session. “It’s very hard to buy, but Keeneland did a very good job getting nice horses here for Book 1. The market’s really strong.”

Coolmore, a regular heavy hitter at the Keeneland September sale, struck once again, with M.V. Magnier signing on a full sister to the partnership’s Grade 1 winner Cupid for $2.7 million. The hammer price tied her for the ninth-highest price commanded by a filly in Keeneland September history, and it made her the most expensive filly at the sale since Chimayo sold to Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings for $3.1 million in 2008.

The Tapit filly is out of the Grade 2-placed Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart, whose eight foals to race are all winners, led by Cupid, Grade 3 winners Heart Ashley and Ashley’s Kitty, and stakes winner Indianapolis.

Dream Team, a full brother to this sale topper, sold to Coolmore for $1 million at the 2013 Keeneland September sale, and the operation returned at the following year’s sale to buy Cupid for $900,000. The latter has gone on to win four graded stakes for trainer Bob Baffert, highlighted by the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita earlier this year.

"We talked to Bob Baffert over the last couple of weeks, and he says there's a lot to come for Cupid over the next couple months, and we could have a fun winter with him," Magnier said. "She's a very well-bred filly, she's very good-looking, and let's hope she's anything as good as he was."

:: KEENELAND SEPTEMBER: Real-time analysis and streaming video ::

The filly was bred in Kentucky by Turner Breeders, a partnership whose broodmares are managed by Olin Gentry. She was consigned by VanMeter-Gentry Sales, as agent.

"We knew she was very popular, sort of a collectors’ item,” Tom VanMeter said. “They were congregating on her all weekend, and we knew it was going to be good. We didn't know how good. It was awesome.

"Cupid was a really nice horse,” he continued. “This was a better physical than Cupid. Now we just need Cupid to win that one on Nov. 4 [the Breeders’ Cup Classic] and these guys will look even smarter than they already are."

The session topper was the high point of a banner day by powerhouse sire Tapit, who has led North America's general sire list for the past three years. The Gainesway resident led all Book 1 sires by gross and average, with 11 sold for $12,825,000 and an average of $1,165,909 for yearlings who were conceived on an advertised stud fee of $300,000. He was the day’s only sire to post a gross of more than $10 million or a seven-figure average.

Tapit was also represented by a $2.6-million colt from the immediate family of Horse of the Year Saint Liam and multiple Grade 1 winner Gun Runner, sold to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, and a $2.5-million colt out of Grade 1 winner Tiz Miz Sue who went to Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Company.

The buying public was clear in its endorsement of the North American breeding industry’s top commercial stallions, with Tapit and Claiborne Farm’s War Front accounting for seven of the eight yearlings to sell for $1 million or more. War Front had four, Tapit had three, and Darley’s Medaglia d’Oro had one. Those three stallions were the ones whose foals did the best job impressing Keeneland’s inspection team, making for the top three sires in Book 1 by number of yearlings cataloged before outs. War Front entered the sale with 25 cataloged in Book 1, Tapit had 23, and Medaglia d’Oro had 16.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the day’s leading consignor by gross, with 17 horses sold for $11,525,000. It was the only consignment with revenues greater than $5.5 million, led by the $2.6-million Tapit colt sold to Whisper Hill. VanMeter-Gentry led by average among consignors with three or more horses sold, with its trio of offerings averaging $1,416,667. In addition to the sale topper, the consignment included a $1.1-million War Front colt sold to Radcliffe.

Shadwell Estate Company was the day’s top buyer by both gross and number of purchases, with eight horses totaling $6,825,000.

The Keeneland September sale continues with Book 2, comprising three sessions, with those beginning each day at 11 a.m. Eastern. After the auction’s traditional dark day on Friday, the sale resumes daily through Sept. 23, with a 10 a.m. start time.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

-- additional reporting by Nicole Russo

Keeneland September Book 1, final results

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2017 95 $54,175,000 $570,263 (+64%) $500,000 (+67%) 34%
2016 comparison n/a comparison n/a $347,471 $300,000 31%

Keeneland September Book 1, top 10 purchases

Price Pedigree Buyer Consignor
$2,700,000 filly by Tapit - Pretty 'n Smart, by Beau Genius M.V. Magnier VanMeter-Gentry Sales, agent
$2,600,000 colt by Tapit - Miss Besilu, by Medaglia d'Oro Whisper Hill Farm Taylor Made Sales, agent
$2,500,000 colt by Tapit - Tiz Miz Sue, by Tiznow Shadwell Estate Co. Paramount Sales, agent
$1,900,000 colt by War Front - Iotapa, by Afleet Alex Donato Lanni, agent Taylor Made Sales, agent
$1,600,000 filly by War Front - Aloof, by Galileo OXO Equine Timber Town Stables, agent
$1,250,000 filly by Medaglia d'Oro - Sealy Hill, by Point Given OXO Equine Gainesway, agent
$1,200,000 colt by War Front - Theyskens' Theory, by Bernardini Shadwell Estate Co. Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services, agent
$1,100,000 colt by War Front - Dynamic Feature, by Rahy Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock VanMeter-Gentry Sales, agent
$900,000 colt by Hard Spun - Azorina, by Empire Maker Mayberry Farm Gainesway, agent
$900,000 colt by Medaglia d'Oro - D'cats Meow, by D'wildcat Breeze Easy LLC Eaton Sales, agent
$900,000 colt by Speightstown - Devil by Design, by Medaglia d'Oro Shadwell Estate Co. Glennwood Farm, agent