Good start to Keeneland September Sale

Tapit colt that sold for US$2.5 million.
Tapit colt that sold for US$2.5 million.

The Keeneland September Yearling Sale got off to a rousing start September 9, with two yearlings bringing prices in excess of $2 million and five others reaching the seven-figure level.

Keeneland reported that from 190 catalogued, 107 head sold for $46,231,000, an average price of $432,065 and a $325,000 median price. While direct year-to-year comparisons are difficult because this year's Book 1 format consists of fewer horses, by any measure the session was a major success.

During Day 1 a year ago, 138 horses averaged US$352,319 on total receipts of US$48,620,000, with a US$260,000 median. The buy-back rate also improved this year, with the 44 horses that went unsold representing a 29.1% RNA rate, compared with 34.9% in 2018.

There were 18 horses sold in the price range of $700,000 and above, compared with 15 such individuals a year ago.

"The session was incredible," Keeneland vice president of racing and sales Bob Elliston said. "The results represent incredible trade and a deep buying bench that was active. The number I am most proud of today is the RNA rate, which was down almost six points to 29%."

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who attended the sale last year in person after an absence of nearly a decade, showed up again Monday and made his presence felt, with his Godolphin entity taking home the session topper—a Tapit  colt bought for US$2.5 million—and a Medaglia d'Oro  colt acquired for US$2.15 million.

The Tapit colt, consigned and bred by Hinkle Farms, is a half-brother to champion and 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Nyquist . The Medaglia d'Oro colt is the first foal out of grade 1 winner Tara's Tango and was consigned by Denali Stud, agent for Stonestreet Bred & Raised.

Nyquist and Medaglia d'Oro both stand at Darley's Jonabell division, located near Keeneland.

The price paid for the US$2.5 million colt exceeds last year's US$2.4 million September sale topper. Last year, there were five seven-figure transactions during the sale opener.

"A lot of folks were in here trying to get these horses bought, and you had multiple bidders on particular top ones," Elliston said. "Obviously, Sheikh Mohammed carried a bunch of the water today. What a tremendous supporter he is of Keeneland. We couldn't be more proud of that."

"Sheikh Mohammed is delighted to be here," said bloodstock agent Anthony Stroud, who signed the ticket for Monday's two high-selling colts. "It is great for him to be back at Keeneland. (The market) looks pretty solid. I think to buy a nice horse is always going to (be expensive), especially with possible stallions. It represents what the market dictates, which is what happens here."

Also active Monday was Irish-based Coolmore Stud, which partnered with other entities to purchase two of the seven-figure yearlings.

"A lot of domestic bidders were in there punching late in the extended routes but didn't get it done," Elliston said. "That gives me enthusiasm because we have two more days of Book 1. We're set for some pretty solid returns, I think."

While there were some top lots that changed hands during the session, one high-profile yearling went unsold on a final bid of US$950,000 when Glennwood Farm bought back a half-brother to Triple Crown winner Justify .

The buyback of the Pioneerof the Nile  colt marked the second year breeder Glennwood has bought back a half-brother to Justify, having taken home a son of Will Take Charge  on a $1.75 million final bid at the 2018 sale.

"I just felt that, if he's going to sell around that price, I'd be just as happy to race him," Glennwood's John Gunther said. "I think a lot of people compare this colt to Justify, Justify being a much larger individual as a yearling. (Pioneer of the Nile) throws a fairly big horse as well. This horse is very athletic. He's got a great mind and a lot of class about him. But he's a little bit on the smaller side, and I think that turned a lot of the big buyers away."


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