09/26/2016 11:28AM

Sparkman: Tapit and War Front rule Keeneland

Keeneland Photo
A War Front colt out of Gold Vault colt sells for $2.2 million at the Keeneland September yearling sale.

The natural order of the Thoroughbred marketplace dictates that leading sires become leading commercial sires. Buyers at yearling sales, first and foremost, are looking for top racehorses, and sires at or near the top of the General Sire List have proven their ability to produce those horses. The biggest buyers, however, also are looking for top racehorses with what are loosely deemed “stallion pedigrees,” and current fashion can influence those purchases almost as much as pure racetrack results.

Those two dominant dynamics played out in predictable fashion at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, which concluded Sunday after a 13-day run. Tapit, who holds a $5 million lead on the 2016 General Sire List after topping that list each of the last two years, led all Keeneland sires by average, as shown in the accompanying box.

Leading Sires by Average
Sire no. offered no. sold average high
Tapit 39 31 $639,839 $2,000,000
War Front 27 19 $633,947 $1,900,000
Galileo 7 4 $393,750 $500,000
Speightstown 40 26 $329,115 $800,000
Medaglia d'Oro 45 34 $297,324 $1,000,000
Pioneerof the Nile 50 35 $265,200 $925,000
Scat Daddy 74 54 $247,759 $3,000,000
Curlin 40 34 $241,912 $1,000,000
Malibu Moon 45 33 $241,545 $675,000
Uncle Mo 48 40 $219,875 $750,000

Tapit’s $639,869 average for 31 yearlings sold, however, is only about $6,000 higher than that of War Front, who currently languishes in 23rd place on the sire list, about $10 million behind Tapit in worldwide earnings. Most of War Front’s best offspring of recent vintage, however, have raced in Europe where purses are generally lower, and, since he covers smaller books of mares than most of his contemporaries, he has about 100 fewer runners this year than most of the stallions ranked above him.

War Front also benefits more than most leading stallions from the widespread perception that he possesses high potential as a sire of sires. That stems largely from the pursuit of his progeny, both publicly and privately, by Coolmore, the world’s No. 1 owner of stallions. That dynamic also is apparent on the accompanying list of leading first-year sires of yearlings at Keeneland September, which is headed by War Front’s first champion son, Declaration of War, who stands at Coolmore’s Kentucky outpost at Ashford Stud.

Leading first year sires
Sire no. offered no. sold average high
Declaration of War 18 11 $147,727 $400,000
Orb 56 43 $141,686 $450,000
Shanghai Bobby 41 38 $113,105 $575,000
Animal Kingdon 58 39 $101,731 $400,000
Oxbow 16 13 $92,692 $280,000
Violence 58 46 $83,870 $410,000
Paynter 39 24 $72,521 $230,000
Point of Entry 33 32 $71,841 $275,000
Graydar 38 25 $53,660 $210,000
Take Charge Indy 46 32 $43,844 $180,000

Tapit naturally dominated the list of highest-priced yearlings, siring four of the nine that sold for $1 million or more, but he was not the sire of the highest-priced horse. That honor went to Scat Daddy, and perceived sire potential played a huge role in the $3 million bid his handsome son out of Lesley’s Lady, by Mt. Livermore, enticed from Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier. Lesley’s Lady is the dam of three-time champion racemare Beholder, by Henny Hughes, but she also is the dam of the successful young stallion Into Mischief, by Harlan’s Holiday, a Grade 1 winner who has made his own way as a sire from limited early opportunity.

Scat Daddy, himself, carved a similar career and, as so often happens, his luster has brightened even more after his untimely death last December. Scat Daddy has been the leading sire in Chile the last three years, and his Northern Hemisphere profile has been greatly enhanced by the high-profile victories of his current 2-year-olds Carravaggio and Lady Aurelia in Europe this year.

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That combination of stallion potential, racing potential, and conformation is rarely found at auction these days, and breeders are rewarded accordingly when they are lucky enough to have a colt that meets that description. The Scat Daddy colt was the highest-priced yearling sold at Keeneland since the $4.2 million Mr. Besilu, by A.P. Indy in 2010.

The list of horses retired to stud in 2014 whose first foals are therefore yearlings of 2016 did not include any perceived superstar prospects, and that perception is reflected in the fact that none of them managed to crack the top 10 of all sires by average price. The top five – Declaration of War, Orb, Shanghai Bobby, Animal Kingdom, and Oxbow – were all champions and/or classic winners and each of them possess some but not all of the credentials normally required for sire success.

The highest-priced yearling by a first-year horse, a spectacular-looking son of 2012 champion-2-year-old male Shanghai Bobby purchased for $575,000 by Mayberry Farm, was one of the few by a first-year sire with the black-type heavy pedigree page good enough to entice that kind of bid from buyers.