09/08/2014 6:42PM

Keeneland September: Opening session posts gains in average, median

Keeneland photo
A Bernardini filly out of Grade 1 winner Mushka sold for $1.2 million to lead Monday's opening session of the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Monday’s opening session of the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale established positive momentum for the 13-day auction, finishing with improved average and median sales figures compared with last year’s first session.

A total of 120 horses were sold on Monday for revenues of $33,165,000. That marked a 5 percent decrease compared with the opening session of 2013, when 130 yearlings brought a combined $34,735,000.

The average sale price on day one rose 3 percent compared with the 2013 opener, rising from $267,192 to $276,375, while the median price jumped from $200,000 to $245,000, a 23 percent gain.

The buyback rate also improved, dropping to 28 percent Monday after last year’s leadoff session closed at 30 percent.

“The last two years, the September sale has had large increases, so to be at a steady point now after two large increases, I think, is very healthy,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Overall, we described last year’s sale as a fair, realistic market, and if we continue that on into 2014, I think everybody would be very pleased. A long plateau would be good.”

A total of 12 horses sold for $500,000 or more on Monday, and two surpassed the $1 million mark – numbers that were down by one and two horses, respectively, compared with last year’s opening session. Last year’s opener marked the beginning of a revised Book 1 format at Keeneland, with the elite offerings spread out over four sessions. That format continues this year.

“I think the first day started very well,” Russell said. “There was some strong, competitive bidding. There was a good cross-section of buyers and a good cross-section of prices. The figures reflected that it was a very competitive day.”

John Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, signed the ticket for the session’s most expensive offering, a $1.2 million Bernardini filly out of the Grade 1 winner Mushka.

Mushka won the Grade 1 Spinster Stakes at Keeneland via disqualification, and also finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. The daughter of Empire Maker fetched $2.4 million from Brushwood Stable when she sold as a broodmare prospect at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

"It's one of the best pedigrees in the book," said Ferguson, who added the filly would remain in the U.S. for training. "Mushka was obviously a beautiful-looking yearling. She was sold at Saratoga and Ahmed Zayat bought her [for $1.6 million], and I think we were the underbidders on her. This filly looks very much like her, but not only that, she goes back to a lovely family."

Mushka is the dam of one runner, the winner Heyaarat. That Distorted Humor colt sold to Shadwell Stable for $1.65 million to top the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Brushwood Stable, Monday’s session-topping filly was consigned by Eaton Sales, agent.

“She has a great attitude and shows like a queen every time. To me, she’s got more substance to her,” Eaton’s Reiley McDonald said in comparing Monday’s session leader to Heyaarat. “ She’s a more solid horse. [Heyaarat]  had a great profile, but this filly just has more substance and has more of an Empire Maker look, which is what I like about her so much.”

Earlier in the day, a Curlin filly who is a half-sister to two-time champion Beholder and promising young sire Into Mischief was the first to crack the seven-figure mark, going for $1.1 million to Bridlewood Farm of Ocala, Fla.

The filly was consigned by owner Clarkland Farm, which bred Beholder and owns her dam, the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie’s Lady. The outfit purchased the mare for just $100,000 out of the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 2006. Leslie’s Lady, a finalist for Kentucky’s Broodmare of the Year award last year, is now the dam of five winners from six starters, highlighted by Beholder and Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, who stands at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

"She's got a huge pedigree and looks like she can run," Bridlewood general manager George Isaacs, who signed the ticket, said of the filly. "It's a foundation-type family for Bridlewood Farm."

“I knew I might have to [spend] a million, but obviously, I had to reach a little farther than I wanted to,” Isaacs continued. “She's just an alpha-type physical and she's got a big walk and looks like she can run. If she didn't look like she could run, I wouldn't have bought her. She looks like she'll go to the racetrack and do what she needs to do."

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the session’s leading consignor, with 19 horses sold for a combined $4,715,000. The group was led by a $600,000 Bernardini filly out of the Grade 2-winning Giant’s Causeway mare Oonagh Maccool, selling to Robert Krembil and Chiefswood Stables

Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed, was the session’s leading buyer, with six purchases on Monday totaling $2,610,000.

Gainesway’s Tapit, currently the leading North American general sire by progeny earnings, led all stallions in gross receipts on Monday at Keeneland as nine of his yearlings sold for a combined $4,805,000. That group was led by a $900,000 yearling, the most expensive colt of the session, purchased by Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier from the consignment of VanMeter Sales, agent. The colt is out of Grade 2-placed Pretty ‘n Smart, who is the dam of three stakes winners.

Tapit also had a $775,000 half-sister to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man sell to Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm as the fourth highest-priced yearling of the session. Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm consigned that filly out of the broodmare Ponche de Leona, as agent. 

Bernardini, who stands at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud, led all sires who had two or more yearlings sell in average price with $694,000 from five sold.

Book 1 of the Keeneland September sale continues through Thursday, Sept. 11, with sessions beginning each day at noon Eastern. After a dark day on Sept. 12, the auction will continue daily until Sunday, Sept. 21, beginning each day at 10 a.m.

- additional reporting by Nicole Russo

For hip-by-hip results, click here.

Keeneland September yearling sale, opening session:

Year Sold Gross Average Median Buyback
2014 120 (-8%) $33,165,000 (-5%) $276,375 (+3%) $245,000 (+23%) 28%
2013 130 $34,735,000 $267,192 $200,000 30%