'We're happy to keep him' - Justify half-brother fails to reach reserve
Tanya Gunther is open to racing the son of Will Take Charge with partners
No one would have ever guessed that Glennwood Farm had not been able to sell its flashy half-brother to undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify after trotting him through the Keeneland auction ring on Tuesday.
Rather than a sombre, downcast mood enveloping the farm’s base in Barn 47 after the son of Will Take Charge was listed as a $1.75 million RNA (reserve not attained) during the second session of the September yearling sale, there was almost a giddy sense of relief.
“We’re excited about him. Normally you wouldn’t be smiling after a high-priced RNA but we’re okay with it. We're happy to keep him,” said Tanya Gunther, daughter of Glennwood owner John Gunther, while revealing that their reserve price had been $1.799 million.
“We’ve had a lot of good luck with our RNAs in the past,” she noted, with the likes of this year’s St James’s Palace Stakes winner Without Parole, a son of Frankel listed as not sold for 650,000gns at the Tattersalls October yearling sale, among those. “So, let’s cross our fingers for this guy.”
Offered as hip 443, the Will Take Charge colt out of Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper, was the first sibling to a Triple Crown winner to come to auction as a yearling since Seattle Dancer, a half brother to Seattle Slew, drew a world record bid of $13.1m from Robert Sangster, Coolmore and partners in 1985.
But the Gunthers knew the colt might be a puzzle to buyers since his freshman sire is something of an unknown quantity. The big son of Unbridled’s Song was a champion on the track but has only had three winners from 15 starters to date, even though he was not generally expected to be a sire of precocious juveniles.
Thus, the Glennwood team came to the September sale with the colt hoping just as much to gain a value guideline on him, or perhaps a partner for racing, as to sell him.
“If somebody wanted to come in as a partner, that’s something we kind of wanted to do all along anyway. Actually, that was our preferred route,” Tanya Gunther said. “We thought we would come here for a public valuation and see if that was possible to do. If somebody wanted to come in for half, we would be happy to entertain that. But we’re happy to go solo as well.”
The colt, who weighs more than the physically imposing Justify did at the same stage of development and is more vividly splashed with white markings, was a magnet for curious Keeneland shoppers.
“Everybody saw him; there was a lot of activity,” Gunther said, with some prospective buyers looking more than once.
Among those keeping tabs on the colt was Justify’s trainer Bob Baffert, who was watching intently when the colt was in the ring and asked media members if they knew who had bought him when it was not yet clear that he was an RNA.
Gunther said the colt will be broken at Glennwood and that she and her father will decide who will train him. The sale venue experience proved the colt can handle crowds and unusual situations, much like Justify did during his Triple Crown campaign, and Gunther said that kind of attitude is an asset.
“He went up [to the sale ring] like a champion; he handled it all very well and I think that’s a very good sign. I think he was a very good-looking horse back there. I think everyone saw that,” she said, adding that she did not know the amount of the last “live” bid for the colt.
Gunther revealed only one major regret in regards to the colt is that she will not be able to help break him to saddle herself as she will be attending the Tattersalls October yearling sale at the time when he is expected to be getting his first lessons with a rider.
“I know our team is quite happy to be breaking him on the farm, and the guy that normally rides for us on the farm will probably be excited to get on his back for the first time. I would like to be here to do it myself but I have to go to Tattersalls,” she said.
“It’s a really fun thing to get on the first time to see how they’re going to react and how they move, and I miss doing that. But the guys who are going to do it are going to find that pretty exciting, I would say.
“He’s a really nice colt,” she added. “Being by Will Take Charge, he’s difficult [for the market] to value. But we value him highly.”
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