09/17/2010 7:18PM

Keeneland September's first week ends as Unbridled's Song colt tops session


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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bonnie and Tommy Hamilton of Silverton Hill have been active throughout the Keeneland September yearling sale so far, and they brought home the $560,000 session topper at Friday's sixth session to close out week one of the 14-day auction.

Seated inside the pavilion with advisor Ben McElroy, Tommy Hamilton outbid Fox Hill Farm. The session-topping Unbridled's Song colt is out of the Grade 3-placed stakes winner Sweet Nanette. The gray or roan colt hails from Eldon Farm's breeding program and sold as part of the Gainesway agency's consignment.

Friday's session closed out a week that Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell called "heartening."

The sixth session - the last session of reformatted week one - sold 217 yearlings for $23,297,500, for a $107,362 average and a $85,000 median. The buy-back rate was 27 percent. Cumulatively, the first six sessions sold 941 horses for $141,987,500, resulting in an average price of $150,890 and a $100,000 median. The six-day buy-back rate was 31 percent.

Except for gross, which was affected by a smaller catalog under the reformatting, the sale's crucial figures of average and median compared well to the 2009 sale's performance, although exact comparisons were difficult due to the differences in the auction's revamped structure. Last year's sixth session sold 255 horses for $14,843,000, and an average price of $58,208 and median of $45,000, with 30 percent buy-backs. After the same number of sessions last year, the sale had sold 1,196 yearlings for $150,942,000, resulting in an average price of $126,206 and an $80,000 median. Cumulative buy-backs for the first six sessions were 33 percent.

The Hamiltons campaign current Irish star Pathfork, a recent Group 1 winner in Ireland who is undefeated in three starts there and won the National Stakes on Sept. 11 at the Curragh. The Hamiltons hit the Curragh winner's circle earlier that day with Longhunter, too, a British-bred son of Halling. In the U.S., they are best known as the owners of 2007 Blue Grass Stakes winner Dominican and of graded performer Sedgefield. Both ran for Silverton Hill in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, with Dominican finishing 11th in 2007 and Sedgefield running fifth.

The Hamiltons are eager to get those roses.

"Hopefully, he'll be a two-turn horse for the first Saturday in May," McElroy said after signing his receipt for the Unbridled's Song colt. "He's a very athletic horse by a top sire, and his half-brother Sherriff Cogburn looks like a very promising 2-year-old by Vindication."

"I know the family," Hamilton said. "I just saw the 2-year-old run, and he's got talent, and I know they think a lot of that horse."

Silverton Hill has bought at yearling and juvenile auctions in recent years, but Hamilton said he and his wife "probably favor the yearling sales in September, so we kind of wait for that."

But Hamilton wasn't a big fan of the reformatting the September auction underwent this season, including moving the auction's first two select days to night sessions.

"The market is up from last year, definitely," said Hamilton, who resides in Springfield, Ky. "I hope they go back to the regular session and not night sessions, but I know they had a lot of enthusiasm, so I expect they'll continue. I'm afraid they will. But it interferes with going out to eat at night."

Bob Baffert went on a tear Friday at Keeneland's September yearling sale, buying three yearlings for prices above $400,000.
Baffert's most expensive purchase was a Ghostzapper three-quarter brother to Grade 1 winner Sugar Shake. The Taylor Made agency consigned the colt, who is out of the Grade 2-winning Skip Trial mare Skipping Around. Baffert purchased the horse for Lookin At Lucky's owners, Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman, and Karl Watson.

Earlier in the session, Baffert also paid $470,000 for the Paramount Sales agency's Malibu Moon colt on behalf of former MGM Mirage chairman Terrence Lanni's Lanni Family Trust. That colt was out of an unraced Tactical Cat mare, Robbery Suspect. The colt's "cousin," as Bafftert put it, was the Grade 1-winning colt Pohave, a son of Holy Bull and half-brother to Robbery Suspect that Baffert remembered well. Also in the family is Breeders' Cup Classic winner, now sire, Cat Thief.

Baffert bid for both colts from behind the auctioneer's stand, near the walking ring.

Late in the afternoon, inside the pavilion, Baffert struck again, going to $420,000 for the Woods Edge agency's Lemon Drop Kid-Summer Delight colt for Robert LaPenta's Whitehorse Stable.

Baffert wasn't the only Hall of Fame trainer to open his wallet. D. Wayne Lukas spent $350,000 for a colt by first-crop sire Corinthian for himself and a big fish of a client: retired NFL football coach and two-time Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells, now a team consultant for the Miami Dolphins. The chestnut colt's dam is a half-sister to champion Stevie Wonderboy.

Mill Ridge Sales, which consigned the likely sale-topping A.P. Indy-Balance colt for $4.2 million on Sunday night, was prominent again on the results sheet Friday with a $350,000 sale. That was what Repole Stables (Crupi's New Castle Farm, agent) paid for a Street Cry colt out of Grade 1 winner and millionaire Sand Springs. The Dynaformer mare is already a stakes producer as the dam of Group 3-placed Mellon Martini, by Sadler's Wells, a French stakes winner this year.

Greg Goodman's Mt. Brilliant Farm also had a banner day. Its highlights were a $300,000 Awesome Again-Shades of Grace colt that Ben Glass, agent, bought for Mary and Gary West, and a $270,000 Bernardini-Rahy Rose filly that John Ferguson bought for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's account.

Other high-priced yearlings Friday included a $310,000 Empire Maker-Stunning Image colt that Maverick Racing purchased from Glennwood Farm's agency; a $290,000 Pulpit-Stirring colt that Ann and Jerry Moss bought from Claiborne Farm, agent; a $290,000 Cozzene-Takemeforawhirl colt that Pelican LLC bought from Select Sales, agent; a $290,000 Tiznow-Storm Front colt that All the Rage Partners got from Taylor Made, agent; a $285,000 Mr. Greeley-Queenie Cat filly that EQB (Patrice Miller, agent) bought from the Hill 'n' Dale agency; and a $270,000 Invasor-Third Street colt that LaPenta, this time with trainer Nick Zito as agent, bought from Select Sales, agent.

There also was a trio of $250,000 yearlings. They were a Ghostzapper-Rutledge Ballado colt that F. Thomas Conway purchased from Gainesway, which represented the Estate of Hermen Greenberg; an Unbridled's Song colt out of Grade 3-placed stakes winner Somethinaboutbetty that Stonestreet Stables bought from Siena Farm (Taylor Made, agent); and a Tiznow-Sue's Good News filly, a full sister to Grade 3-placed Tiz Miz Sue, that Dennis Yokum bought from Paramount Sales on behalf of Mercedes Stable.

One big price that wasn't enough to make a sale was the $425,000 last bid for Hip 1444. The Hard Spun half-brother to Blue Grass Stakes winner Sinister Minister returned to his seller, the Dromoland agency, as a buy-back.

Selling was to resume Sunday at 10 a.m. after a dark day on Saturday and continue daily through Sept. 26.