Sheikh Mohammed spree and American Pharoah mania fuel trade
Average price of $352,319 in the opening session of the mammoth auction
Fuelled by strong demand for yearlings from the first crop of American Pharoah and aggressive buying by Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation, the reformatted Keeneland September Yearling Sale got off to a strong start on Monday.
Keeneland reported 138 horses sold for $48,620,000, for an average of $352,319 and a $260,000 median, with a 35 per cent buy-back rate.
In 2017, Keeneland launched the sale with a single day Book 1 in which 95 selected yearlings grossed $54,175,000 for an average price of $570,263 and a $500,000 median.
Under the new format for 2018, Book 1 consists of four sessions from Monday until Thursday, with 989 yearlings catalogued before the traditional one-day break on Friday.
"It was a strong session with competitive bidding at the top," Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said.
"It's hard to do comparisons with last year because of the format change this year. Last year on the first day we had 167 horses [catalogued] in Book 1 and then three days of Book 2.
"This year, we have four days of blended Books 1 and 2. If you try to do some comparisons, look at the numbers after four days. Every one of those indicators was dynamite. We are very encouraged that the sale started off like we wanted it to."
With Sheikh Mohammed present at the sale for the first time in about ten years, Godolphin topped the buyers' list with nine yearlings purchased for $6.92 million. Included in Godolphin's acquisitions was the session-topping, $2.2m American Pharoah colt, one of 12 yearlings sold Monday for a total $6.335m from the first crop of the Triple Crown winner.
"It is an honour for us when Sheikh Mohammed is able to clear his schedule and come here," Elliston said. "He has been such a huge supporter of Keeneland and the September sale. To see him on the grounds and participate the way he did today is very rewarding for all of us here at Keeneland.
"As you know he's a very busy man, and everybody, obviously the staff of the farm, is so excited for him to come over here and have the opportunity to go through the farm and see the yearlings," Darley America president and racing manager Jimmy Bell said. "He just enjoys the horses so much, and he loves the sales. It makes it exciting for everybody."
The session-topper, produced from the stakes-winning Indian Charlie mare Kindle, was consigned as hip 91 by Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm, agent.
"He was a really special horse," O'Callaghan said. "He's probably the best yearling we've ever had, so I hope [his success] proves to be the case on the race track. I'm just very grateful for Sheikh Mohammed to come here and buy him. When he saw [the colt] today, his eyes lit up. I just had a feeling he was going to try hard to buy him."
The colt represented a major pinhooking score for O'Callaghan, who purchased the colt as a weanling for $400,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in the name of Cavalier Bloodstock.
"It was the most I'd ever paid for a foal," O'Callaghan said. "He was exceptional the day we bought him, and he just continued to get better and better. He was a tenacious physical specimen, but his temperament and his demeanour [were] almost as big."
In addition to the sale-topping American Pharoah colt, Godolphin's purchases included a $1.3m Medaglia D'Oro colt who is the first foal out of Grade 2 winner Moulin De Mougin consigned by Lane's End, agent; an $875,000 Into Mischief colt from the family of Triple Crown winner Affirmed consigned by St George Sales, agent; and an $800,000 Medaglia D'Oro colt out of multiple Grade 2 winner Hungry Island consigned by Gainesway, agent.
The day's second-highest price of $1.8m was paid by Larry Best's Oxo Equine for a son of Curlin who is the first foal out of Grade 1 winner Molly Morgan, by Ghostzapper. The colt was consigned by Summerfield, agent for Stonestreet Bred and Raised.
"It's a good pedigree; I think it's flawless," Best said. "Now the big question is can he run? I don't have a Curlin. I've always wanted to find a quality Curlin, and now I've found one."
The session's top-priced filly was a daughter of Tapit purchased by Don Alberto Corporation for $1.4m. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the filly is a half-sister to Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner and sire Liam's Map and Grade 3 winner Not This Time . Produced from the Grade 3-winning Trippi mare Miss Macy Sue, the filly was bred by Albaugh Family Stables, which sold Liam's Map at the 2012 September sale for $800,000 and campaigned Not This Time.
Taylor Made Sales Agency was Monday's leading consignor with 25 horses sold for $9.55m.
The sale continues on Tuesday, with a session that begins at a revised time of 1pm local time. The Book 1 sessions that were initially scheduled to begin at 11am were revised to permit buyers more time to inspect the offerings after the Sunday inspections were negatively impacted by rainfall throughout the day.
"Yesterday was just a deluge, and folks just couldn't see the horses," Elliston said of the rescheduling. "The format has caused us to spread this four-day grouping of horses over the whole barn area, so they're not right together.
"You have to travel some distance over the 49 barns that we have, so that coupled with the rain, I think the buyers were particularly appreciative of us giving them more time to get at it."
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