Fast start for September Yearling Sale as Tapit filly fetches $2.7m
MV Magnier secures sister to Grade 1 heroine Cupid
Fueled by unfettered demand for offspring of leading sires Tapit and War Front and a competitive international buying base, the Keeneland September Yearling Sale got a fast start out of the gate during Monday's session that surpassed all expectations.
With an electrically charged atmosphere in the crowded pavilion, the session lived up to the expectations of Keeneland officials when they made the strategic decision this spring to launch the marathon sale with a Book 1 session of some of the best-bred and -conformed foals of 2016 that they could muster.
Keeneland reported 95 horses sold for gross receipts of $54,175,000, an increase of 57 per cent over the first-day figure of $34,531,000 paid for 108 head a year ago. The average price of $570,263 represented a gain of 78 per cent over the $319,731 for the comparable 2016 session and the median rose 87 per cent to $500,000 from $267,500.
Strict year-on-year comparisons cannot be made, however, owing to the change in the sale's format: last year's Book 1 was spread over three sessions, whereas this time la creme de la creme was compressed into a single evening on the opening day.
From 167 horses cataloged, 145 went through the ring, with the 50 bought back representing an RNA rate of 35 per cent, compared with 36 per cent during last year's first day.
There were eight yearlings that brought prices in excess of seven figures on Monday, compared with nine during the entirety of the three-day Book 1 of 2016.
By segmenting the yearlings perceived to be the best in one session, Keeneland wanted to generate momentum that would set the stage for the rest of the sale, which continues through until September 23, with the exception of a dark day on Saturday.
"By far it exceeded our expectations," said Bob Elliston, Keeneland's vice president of racing and sales. "We had a couple of goals for this new format. First and foremost was to create momentum from the beginning we hoped to take through the entire sale.
"Second was to have as many good horses as you can before this international buying group before the break. Mission accomplished on number one. The average tonight was $570,263. The average for the entire first book last year was $349,000; we're talking about a 63 per cent gain on the average and a 66 per cent gain on the median over last year's Book 1."
Elliston said the knockout Book 1 was only the beginning of a week in which buyers will be presented with plenty of good yearlings from which to choose.
"The fireworks are not over," he said. "It was hard getting a horse bought here tonight and there were people who went home without getting orders filled."
Book 1 format hailed a success
Keeneland's decision to launch the sale with the one-day Book 1 and follow with a three-day Book 2 resonated with buyers and sellers involved in Monday's action.
"This has been a big success," said Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency. "They were able to get the right physicals into this component of the sale and it paid off. It's been just what they were trying to accomplish. Tomorrow's a new day but starting it off like this was a good move."
"I think it is a good way to get the sale started and get buyers engaged in bidding before Book 2 starts with a lot of numbers," said Brian Graves of consignor Gainesway. "It might have people really ready to bid."
Michael Wallace, of China Horse Club International, agreed that the powerful opening session should set a positive mood for market going forward.
"If buzz is what they're after, I think they got it," Wallace said of Keeneland. "The market is really strong. There are plenty of horses that lit up the board."
Tapit filly steals the show
The $2.7 million session-topper was a Tapit filly who is a sister to Grade 1 winner Cupid bought by MV Magnier of Coolmore. Consigned as Hip 69 by VanMeter-Gentry Sales, the filly is out of the Grade 2-placed Beau Genius mare Pretty 'n Smart, who also produced Graded stakes winners Heart Ashley and Ashley's Kitty.
Magnier purchased Cupid for $900,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Trained by Bob Baffert for Coolmore partners Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, and Derrick Smith, Cupid captured the Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes in May.
"We talked to (trainer) Bob Baffert over the last couple of weeks, and he says there's a lot to come for Cupid over the next couple months, and we could have a fun winter with him," Magnier said. "(The Tapit filly) is a very well-bred filly, she's very good-looking, and let's hope she's anything as good as he was."
The filly was bred by Turner Breeders, which is managed by Olin Gentry, who partners with Tom VanMeter in the agency that sold the session-topper.
Gentry said the yearling filly is "more attractive and a little more forward than Cupid was at the same time."
He added: "This was an awesome price, we're excited. This mare has been really good to us. I think we've sold close to $7 million total out of that mare so we're all really excited about that."
VanMeter Sales also sold Dream Team, a Tapit colt out of the mare, to Magnier for $1 million at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Pope makes her play
The day's second-highest price of $2.6 million was paid by Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm for a Tapit colt out of the Medaglia d'Oro mare Miss Besilu.
The colt consigned as Hip 49 by Taylor Made Sales Agency was bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stables, which bought Miss Besilu for $2.6 million at the 2011 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. A daughter of the stakes-winning mare Quiet Dance, Miss Besilu is a half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam and to three additional stakes winners, including Quiet Giant - a Grade 2 winner who is achieving fame as the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Gun Runner.
"Obviously I love Tapits and I buy them, breed them, and sell them," Pope said. "This colt is a very strong horse, there is a little bit more to him than some of the Tapits. He's got good bone and a little bit more substance than some of them. Tapits can be a little fragile in the brain sometimes but he's very good-minded.
"We're hoping he'll be another Gun Runner. I just really believe in this family. And this is the most I've spent on a colt so... he's got to run!"
Pope was not alone in her love affair with Tapit. While there was broad-based strength to the market, it was obvious that the Tapit and War Front yearlings were most coveted.
Gainesway's Tapit saw 11 of his 19 offered sold for a total $12,825,000, an average price of $1,165,909. War Front, who stands at Claiborne Farm, had 12 of 22 sell for a total $9,550,000, an average of $795,833.
"It was like the battle of the heavyweights on the stallion side," Elliston said. "That was extraordinary."
Shadwell go home with their own Tapit
A Tapit colt out of Grade 1 winner Tiz Miz Sue continued to bring the fireworks inside the Keeneland sales pavilion when he sold to Shadwell Stud for $2.5 million during the select Book 1 on Monday.
Consigned by Paramount Sales as Hip 105, the colt counts Graded winner Sue's Good News as his second dam.
"He ticked all the boxes all week, he's an absolutely outstanding, balanced colt," said Pat Costello of Paramount Sales. "We were getting feedback from buyers on how good a colt he was. Did we think he'd bring $2.5 million? I'm not sure. But we knew he was very, very popular."
One hip before the Tapit colt sold, Shadwell landed another seven-figure purchase went it went to $1.2 million for a War Front colt out of Group 3 winner Theyskens' Theory, who is a half-sister to champion Stevie Wonderboy. The colt was consigned as Hip 104 for Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services.
Iotapa's War Front colt makes $1.9 million
War Front colt out of multiple Grade 1 winner Iotapa brought the fireworks early during the select Book 1 session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale when he sold to Donato Lanni as agent for $1.9 million on Monday.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency as Hip 27, the colt was purchased by Lanni on behalf of an undisclosed client. The dark bay youngster is the first foal out of Iotapa, who won the Vanity Stakes and Clement L. Hirsch Stakes in 2014 and was purchased by China Horse Club for $2.8 million at the 2014 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
"He's a lovely colt, I can't say who I bought him for," Lanni said. "All year, that's what (those kind) cost. He just looked like a good horse. He looks like a really athletic horse, a strong horse. We wanted him and we got him."
Trainer Bob Baffert was standing with Lanni as he signed the ticket but the latter said he "didn't know" if the Hall of Fame conditioner would train the new purchase.
Iotapa is by Afleet Alex and is a half-sister to stakes winner Saintly Joan.
"We thought (the colt) would bring in that range. We thought he was a million-plus colt," said Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Sales. "He's just a gorgeous horse. He reminds me a lot of Dayjur. He really resembled that horse a lot. He has a great walk, vetted well, and everyone just loved him."
The Keeneland sale continues with the start of Book 2 on Tuesday.
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