09/14/2010 7:45PM

Son of Smart Strike brings $1 million at Keeneland

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
George Bolton paid $1 million for Hip No. 351, a ridgling by Smart Strike out of Seattle Slew’s Grade 3-winning daughter Ask Me No Secrets.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland September yearling sale got another seven-figure horse Tuesday when George Bolton jetted in from San Francisco and bid $1 million for a son of Smart Strike at the auction's first open session.

Bolton was one of the partners who raced another son of Smart Strike, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, and his bloodstock advisor in the purchase, John Moynihan, also represents another of those Curlin partners, Jess Jackson.

Greenfield Farm, agent, sold the bay colt. Consigned as Hip No. 351, the ridgling is a son of the Seattle Slew Grade 3 winner Ask Me No Secrets.

After signing the ticket, Bolton said he has a partner in the purchase who will own a 50-percent stake in the ridgling. But he declined to identify that person. Bolton also purchased a $320,000 Malibu Moon filly out of the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Career Oriented and a $160,000 Tiznow-Chaste filly from the Lane's End agency. The Taylor Made agency sold the bay filly.

Tuesday's session sold 204 horses for $27,292,000. The average price was $133,784 and the median was $97,500. The buyback rate was 32 percent. Cumulatively, the first three sessions have grossed $71,597,000 for 331 for a $216,305 average and a $150,000 median.

Overall, buybacks were running at 32 percent.

Last year's third session, which had cataloged 397 horses as opposed to 325 on this year's equivalent day, sold 229 yearlings for $32,718,000 for an average price of $142,873 and a $100,000 median. Buybacks were 35 percent.

Last year at the same point but under a different format, the first three days had sold 451 yearlings for $91,474,000, resulting in an average of $202,825 and a $150,000 median. Cumulative buybacks then stood at 37 percent.

"There was a more businesslike tone, which is exactly what we expected," Keeneland's sale director, Geoffrey Russell, said after Tuesday's session. "The key is to remember that book two spans four days, and the quality on Friday will be comparable to the quality found on Tuesday. With this new format, it also means that within the day we see a wide range of prices as well. The key continues to be that the clearance rate is very manageable and consignors are trading horses."

Referring to the $1 million session-topper, Russell added: "Overall, the market remains very selective, but when buyers see a horse they really want, it becomes very competitive."

Others buyers spending $500,000 or more Tuesday on single yearlings were Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Estate Co., which bought a $550,000 Bernardini-Capote's Crown colt from Whisper Hill Farm (Sweezey and Partners, agent); Eugene Melnyk, who paid $500,000 for a Malibu Moon-Be My Prospect colt that Taylor Made's agency sold; and Bob Baffert, who paid the same amount for the Dromoland farm agency's Stormy Atlantic-Vassar colt on behalf of an anonymous client.

Late in the session, Keeneland's next-door neighbor also bought a yearling. That was Arianne de Kwiatkowski, a fashion designer and daughter of the late Calumet Farm owner Henryk de Kwiatkowski. De Kwiatkowski, who lives at the Calumet property bordering Keeneland, purchased a $75,000 Badge of Silver Captivating filly from Four Star Sales, agent.

Her stable already includes the Eoin Harty-trained Indian Charlie juvenile Anthony's Cross. That $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale graduate has made two starts so far this year; his best finish to date was a third in a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga.
Tuesday's session followed two select sessions that took place on Sunday and Monday nights under a new format. In previous years, the auction had started with daylong select sessions on Monday and Tuesday, and the catalog for the 2010 edition also was cut almost in half, with only 211 horses on offer for the two evenings this year.

Tuesday's session, the first open session at the auction, also had a new format. Horses selling Tuesday through Friday were in a single large catalog, instead of the usual two, and presented in alphabetical order by their dams' names, with the aim of spreading quality randomly throughout the week.

The September auction will continue through Sept. 26 with continuous sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m. in Keeneland's sale pavilion.