Lexington abuzz as big players roll into town for Book 1
Michele MacDonald sets the scene for the world's biggest yearling sale
With American stock markets soaring to historic highs and talk abounding that Sheikh Mohammed may return to the scene, expectations for the 12-session Keeneland September yearling sale are nothing short of explosive.
"I feel the next two weeks will be dynamite," declared Keeneland Vice-President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston prior to the single-session Book 1 on Monday evening. He noted that a number of buyers, including some from Britain who had not attended this sale in more than dozen years, have established credit in the past few days or, in some cases, greatly increased past credit limits.
"My original optimism is even more buoyant. I see a great group of horses on the grounds and I can feel the enthusiasm," Elliston said.
Showcase sale, staged across town overnight, said they had been told arrangements were being made to facilitate Sheikh Mohammed and his team. While it has been years since Dubai's ruler has attended the Keeneland sale, he has frequently bid in person in
times past, often dictating the auction's overall fortunes.
"He personally has been such a part of the fabric of this sale," Elliston said. "We are honoured when he and Sheikh Hamdan [the Shadwell boss was last year's leading buyer] can come to this sale. It just gives you goosebumps."
In 2006, Sheikh Mohammed secured the all-time highest-priced Keeneland September sale graduate, paying $11.7 million for the Kingmambo colt Meydan City after outbidding John Magnier. Overall, Sheikh Mohammed bought 34 yearlings at Keeneland that year, to lead all buyers in spending with a total of just under $60 million.
As the world's largest yearling marketplace, Keeneland September regularly draws buyers from around the globe. This year's catalogue features 4,139 lots, with the new incentive of bonus schemes projected to be worth nearly $3 million to owners over the next two years. "We're interested in rewarding excellence," Elliston attested.
Under the Book 1 scheme, both owners at the time of sale and
subsequent owners are eligible for annual rewards up to $500,000 per horse if the individual wins Grade or Group 1 races as a
juvenile or a three-year- old.
Book 1 contains 167 yearlings this year, extending through Hip 166A, whereas Book 2 will extend over three sessions and encompass Hips 167 through 1202.
With a new seller bonus scheme covering the entire sale, Keeneland will provide cash rewards to yearling owners at the time of sale for Grade/Group 1, 2 or 3 stakes winners as a two- or three-year-olds in the United States or many other racing jurisdictions.
American-bred horses such Tepin, Caravaggio, Lady Aurelia and Undrafted have performed brilliantly in Europe over the past several years, defying the notion that American-breds must be dirt specialists.
"European buyers should be interested in American horses since a lot of them have gone over there and won big races," observed Romain
Malhouitre, the French-born general manager of Runnymede Farm in Paris, Kentucky. "The bloodstock market has been strong all year in Europe and America, and we are looking forward to seeing this trend continue at this sale."
half-sister Bizzy Caroline in Book 1.
"The economy is strong, and over the last 30 years there has been a direct relationship between the economy and the horse sales," said Case Clay of Three Chimneys Farm. "So we're feeling hopeful this sale will continue that trend. You see all the right folks here, and there are a number of nice horses on the grounds."
Three Chimneys has been a buyer and seller at the September venue. As co-breeder with Besilu Stables, Three Chimneys has consigned a colt by leading American sire Tapit out of Grade 1-placed Miss Besilu, a half-sister to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, as Hip 49 with Taylor Made Sales Agency.
Tapit ranks as second leading sire by number of Book 1 yearlings with 23, behind War Front on 25. Several War Front yearlings were bred by Coolmore entities, including Hip 73, a colt out of Moyglare Stud Stakes winner Quarter Moon, a sister to Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Yesterday and dam of Group 1 winner Diamondsandrubies.
The catalogue also features 11 yearlings from the final crop of Scat
Daddy, topped by Hip 48, a full sister to Coolmore's Caravaggio - who gave her a timely update when returning to winning form at the Curragh on Sunday.