09/20/2015 8:22PM

Keeneland September: Quality Road colt leads trade on Sunday


Hotly-contested bidding on a Quality Road colt led an active upper market on Sunday to kick off Book 3 of the Keeneland September yearling sale, but average and median sale prices saw moderate declines.

A total of 266 yearlings changed hands during the Book 3-opening sixth session for revenues of $19,618,000, down 7 percent from last year’s seventh session, also the first of Book 3, when 273 horses brought $21,712,000.

The average sale price fell 5 percent between comparable sessions, from $77,553 to $73,752, while the median dipped 21 percent, from $70,000 to $55,000.

“It was sticky today, it really was very tough,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “[The session] started off very slow, and it did gather momentum through the afternoon and finished up very well, but I think the slow start drug us down today. We hope to get out of the gates better tomorrow.”

That sluggish start included 24 of the first 50 horses offered hammering under their reserves. The session’s final buyback rate finished at 28 percent on Sunday, which was a consistent figure for the overall sale, but a significant increase from last year’s comparable-session rate of 21 percent.

Russell noted that last year’s buyback rate was unusually low compared with the sale’s prior sessions, but he expected Sunday’s returns to change some gameplans among sellers going forward.

“These guys are professionals,” he said. “They’re here to sell their horses, so I would hope we’d see an adjustment in the marketplace.”

While average figures were down, demand remained strong for the day’s most coveted offerings. Three horses sold for $300,000 or more on Sunday, surpassing the one horse to do so in the entirety of last year’s two-session Book 3.

Walnut Green was the winning bidder on the session-topping Quality Road colt, with managing partner Mark Reid outlasting bloodstock agent Donato Lanni to close a spirited round of bidding at $710,000.

Bred in Kentucky by Ann Marie Farm, the colt is out of the unraced Dehere mare Paris Notion, whose four winners from six runners include stakes-placed Pointsman. His prominent family members include Grade 1 winners Fabulous Notion, Cacoethes, and Fabulously Fast, Grade 2 winner Royal Lahaina, and Grade 3 winner Decelerator.

“He’s a nice colt,” Reid said. “I liked everything about him. Physically, he’s a young May 7 foal that had a perfect frame to fill in and be a pretty good horse. I think we’re going to like what we see at this time next year.”

The colt’s price on Sunday made him the most expensive foal out of Paris Notion to change hands at public auction, overtaking Won Kool Kid, by Lemon Drop Kid, who brought $150,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September sale.

“We’re just dumbfounded,” said Noreen O’Neill of Paris, Ky.-based Ann Marie Farm. “The horse was beautiful. We handled him right. He did everything right, never got excited. I’m glad he went to a good home. I really can’t believe it. I’m so happy.”

The colt was the most expensive offering sold in Book 3 of a Keeneland September sale since 2007, when J.J. Pletcher, as agent, went to $1 million for the Johannesburg colt Sawtooth Mountain, who went on to become an Irish stakes-placed winner.

The hammer price also surpassed the most expensive offering of this year’s Book 2, a $700,000 Uncle Mo colt secured by trainer Bob Baffert, as agent, on Friday. Reid said he was the underbidder on that colt, and his tenacity on the Quality Road colt was fueled by his difficulty landing desired offerings earlier in the sale.

“I did not expect anything remotely close to that,” Reid said about the Quality Road colt’s price. “We expected $400,000 because he’s an awfully nice physical, but that got a little intense. It’s getting late for us and we wanted to get one bought, and he fit the bill. He’s a beautifully-framed colt that we think will mature into an awesome horse.”

Reid said the colt would be sent to West Coast trainer Michael McCarthy to prepare for his on-track career.

Fueled by the session-topper, Lane’s End sire Quality Road was the session’s leading sire by both gross and average, with four yearlings selling for a combined $1,175,000 and an average price of $293,750. Lane’s End finished the session as the leading consignor by gross, with 29 horses sold for a combined $3,765,000, including the session-topper.

Mike Ryan, as agent, was Sunday’s top buyer, with four purchases totaling $790,000. Ryan secured the session’s second-most expensive offering, a Twirling Candy colt, for $320,000.

The Keeneland September sale continues Monday with the conclusion of Book 3, and goes on daily through Sept. 26, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results of the Keeneland September sale, click here.