09/17/2017 8:25PM

Keeneland September still tracking ahead at midway point

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The Keeneland September yearling sale hit its halfway point with the conclusion of Book 3 on Sunday, and returns continued to outpace last year’s auction, headed up by a $625,000 Verrazano colt.

Book 3 finished a two-day run with 498 horses sold for revenues of $58,268,000, up 32 percent from comparable sessions in 2016, when 555 yearlings sold for $44,178,500.

The average sale price for Book 3 rose 47 percent to $117,004 from $79,601, while the median showed a 38 percent growth to $90,000 from $65,000. The buyback rate for Book 3 closed at 31 percent, compared with 24 percent in 2016.

At the top of the market, three yearlings changed hands for $500,000 or more in Book 3, compared with two last year. Horses to cross the $250,000 threshold rose to 52 from 17, and overall six-figure sales rose to 245 from 155.

“I think Book 3 went very well,” Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales operations, said. “It’s nice to have a big-priced horse today. I think overall, the comments from both consignors and buyers was that the good horses sold very well and the buyers complained they were hard to buy, so that’s a positive note.”

The most expensive offering of Book 3 came on Sunday, when bloodstock agent Steven Young went to $625,000 for a colt from the first crop of Verrazano.

The dark bay or brown colt is out of the winning Unbridled’s Song mare Allegory, whose two foals to race are both winners, including this summer’s Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner Copper Bullet. The latter is by More Than Ready, the sire of Verrazano.

"He's a three-quarter to a Saratoga Grade 2 stakes winner, and the horse looks very quick to me,” Young said. “I think when you get a horse out of an Unbridled's Song mare that's this correct, those are the ones that hopefully stay sound. If he's got good action, he's going to [do well]."

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Bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm, the colt is from the family of French Group 1 winners Loup Sauvage and Loup Solitaire, Group 2 winner Loup Breton, and Group 3 winner Lil ‘Wing.

Sunday’s hammer price made the colt the most expensive foal out of Allegory to sell at public auction, surpassing $200,000 Copper Bullet. Dell Ridge bought Allegory in foal to Smart Strike for $200,000 at the 2013 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

James Herbener Jr., consigned the colt, as agent.

"He had a great walk about him,” Herbener said. “There wasn't anything not to like about him. The amazing thing is the number of times we showed him. He was about 87 times yesterday, and no telling how many times today, and he just still had a great walk about him."

At the end of Book 3, a total of 1,179 horses have fetched a cumulative gross of $254,913,000, tracking 9 percent ahead of the close of Book 3 last year, when 1,367 yearlings changed hands for $233,684,500.

The average sale price is up 26 percent to $216,211 from $170,947, the median is up 50 percent to $150,000 from $100,000, and the buyback rate sits at 32 percent compared with 29 percent.

Sunday’s session closed with 245 horses sold for $26,875,500, up 28 percent from last year’s closing session of Book 3, when 286 horses brought $20,935,500. The average sale price finished at $109,696, up 50 percent from $73,201, while the median rose 39 percent to $80,000 from $57,500.

With prices continuing to trend higher than last year into the middle market, Jared Shoemaker of Pocket Aces Racing said it remains extremely difficult to buy the horses on his radar at the budget he projected.

“It is very tough sledding out there for the smaller buyer, that’s for sure,” he said. “We have not changed what we’re going after, but we have definitely had to increase the budget. We’ve just reconciled that we’re going to have to spend more money than we were hoping to spend. We had more money to spend this year than ever, and we’re having to increase that even a little bit more.”

Cairo Prince, whose first foals are yearlings of 2017, led all sires by gross on Sunday, with 11 horses sold for $1,960,000. The resident of Airdrie Stud was led by a $400,000 filly who sold Cheyenne Stables.

The leading sire by average sale price among those with three or more sold was WinStar Farm’s More Than Ready, who had four yearlings bring an average of $207,500. At the top of the group was a $410,000 colt who sold to R. C. Thoroughbreds.

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the leading consignor by gross for the fifth time of the sale’s six sessions, with 27 horses sold for $2,520,000, led by a $275,000 Tiznow who sold to bloodstock agent Mike Ryan.

Ryan was the session’s top buyer for a second straight day, with seven purchases on Sunday totaling $1,990,000. His biggest buy was a $450,000 Curlin colt.

The Keeneland September sale picks back up with Book 4 on Monday, and continues daily through Sept. 23, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.