09/09/2013 8:11PM

Keeneland September yearling sale: Brisk trade drives opening session

Keeneland photo
A filly by Medaglia d'Oro sold for $1.5 million to lead the first session of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

The new catalog format of the Keeneland September yearling sale, which expanded the selected portion from one boutique day to four sessions, did not diminish bidders’ fervor toward buying quality horses, as four seven-figure yearlings went through the ring during Monday’s opening session.

The sale’s kickoff session also bolstered an already historic year for stallion Malibu Moon, who was represented by his first seven-figure yearling.

A total of 130 yearlings sold during Monday’s session for total revenues of $34,735,000. The average sale price was $267,192, while the median price was $200,000. The buyback rate was 30 percent.

While the new catalog format makes it impractical to compare numbers from 2012 on a session-by-session basis, it is worth noting that the four horses to bring $1 million or more on Monday nearly matched the five sold during last year’s condensed single-day select session. With solid offerings expected throughout the rest of the week, surpassing last year’s total of seven $1-million plus yearlings sold for the entire sale appears to be an attainable goal.

“The market was very good,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “I thought it was very strong with competitive, spirited bidding, and a wide range of buyers, which was one of our goals: to get more buyers on the grounds to buy horses. We successfully did that.”

With one day in the books, Russell said that the new format might have removed some doubt from buyers who found the old select model intimidating.

“There was a hesitation from some people saying they didn’t want to buy in Book 1 because they didn’t think they could afford to buy a horse in Book 1, [and] then they go to Book 2 and spend more money than they would have in Book 1,” he said. “Now, we’ve got everyone on the grounds, working out which ones they can afford and which ones they can’t.”

Leading the charge was a Medaglia d’Oro filly, who sold to the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables Ireland, Limited for $1.5 million.

The bay filly is out of the winning A.P. Indy mare Flying Passage, whose five winners from as many foals to race include Grade 2 winner Hungry Island and Grade 3 winner Soaring Empire. She is a half-sister to that pair and a full sister to Grade 3-placed winner Tokyo Time. This year’s Haskell winner, Verrazano, is a notable relative.

“She’s a lovely filly from a superb family,” said Alan Cooper, who signed the ticket for the Niarchos family. “She’ll be a good addition to the broodmare band in due course, hopefully. She’s just beautiful, the way she showed herself, just a lovely filly.”

Cooper said that the filly would be sent to Europe to begin her training.

Bred in Kentucky by Emory Hamilton, the filly was consigned by Gainesway, agent.

“She's a very good prospect coming out of that deep family,” said Michael Hernon, Gainesway’s director of sales. “It was very good trade for her. We anticipated a good number and we're delighted that Maria Niarchos stepped in and bought her. We're very pleased, as is the breeder.”

Malibu Moon’s breakthrough seven-figure yearling, a filly, went to Florida-based Northwest Stud for $1.35 million, the second-highest price of the first session.

It has been a year of firsts for the 16-year-old son of A.P. Indy, who stands at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, Ky. Earlier this year, he sired his first classic winner when Orb won the Kentucky Derby.

His yearling filly, named Miss Hollywood, was bred in Kentucky by George Krikorian and is out of the multiple Grade 1-winning Wild Rush mare Hollywood Story. The dam has one winner from two foals to race: stakes-placed winner Hoorayforhollywood. Miss Hollywood will be sent to Nelson Jones Training Center in Ocala, Fla., to be broken.

“She’s out of a very good racemare, by a really popular and hot horse this year in Malibu Moon, with the Kentucky Derby winner,” said John G. Sikura of consignor Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent. “She’s great-moving, deep, smooth, good filly. In every respect, she’s very nice.”

Two others reached seven figures on Monday: a son of the late Unbridled’s Song out of Grade 1 winner Irish Smoke, bought by Nat Rea’s Regis Farm for $1.1 million; and a $1 million War Front colt out of the Pulpit mare Guide. The latter yearling, from the family of recent Super Derby winner Departing, was purchased by Coolmore-afflilated M.V. Magnier.

Gainesway led all consignors by gross revenues, with nine horses sold for a total of $4,515,000, led by the session-topper.

“It's a very strong start for us,” Hernon said. “We've got a lot of good horses coming up, too, and we anticipate a strong sale. It's a great start for the farm and we're very gratified.”

Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum’s Shadwell Estate Company, Ltd. was the opening session’s leading buyer, with seven horses purchased for a combined $3,085,000. Shadwell’s purchases were led by an $875,000 War Front colt out of the unraced El Prado mare La Laja.

Malibu Moon led all sires by gross sales for the first session, as nine of his yearlings brought $3,550,000. War Front led by average price, with a mean of $550,833 from six sold.

Book 1 of the Keeneland September sale continues through Thursday, with sessions beginning each day at noon Eastern.

For hip-by-hip results, click here.