The Keeneland September sale's second Book One session Sept. 10 proved as bullish as the previous day's opener as far as $1 million horses were concerned, with four seven-figure horses exiting the ring again, led by a $1.3 million Bernardini filly.
A day after four yearlings sold for a million or more at the opening session, Tuesday's auction also produced strong average and median figures. The buyback rate also improved from the Sept. 9 opening figure of 30.4%.
Tuesday's session sold 139 yearlings for $34,886,000, yielding an average price of $250,978 and a $200,000 median. Buy-backs were 25.7% for the session.
Cumulatively, the first two days of Book One's four-day run have sold 269 yearlings for $69,621,000, for a $258,814 average and a $200,000 median. The two-day buy-back rate was 28%.
Keeneland changed the sale's format dramatically this year, extending the select portion and Book One from a single session to four. The change has made session-to-session comparative figures essentially meaningless.
In 2012 the second session grossed $32,240,000 for 186 yearlings, for a $173,333 average and a $150,000 median; the buyback rate was 31.9%. After the first week last year—a better comparison—average and median stood at $202,829 and $150,000, respectively, and buybacks were 28.7%.
Lane Seliger, the principal of Baumann Stables, announced his arrival in the high-end Thoroughbred market at the beginning of the year when he bought the 2013 Keeneland January sale's first million-dollar mare, Nereid, for $1.3 million. On Tuesday, he woke up the pavilion again with another session-topping $1.3 million bid, this time at Keeneland September for a Bernardini half sister to 2008 champion 3-year-old filly Proud Spell, who won that year's Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
The March 25 filly was cataloged as Hip 291 and hailed from former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones's Airdrie Stud, which also bred and raced Proud Spell.
Seliger, who resides in Amarillo, Texas, got into Thoroughbred racing after his 2012 retirement. Before that, he was president of the steel distributor and warehouse company Lake Steel Ltd., which he sold in 2010.
Since jumping into the Thoroughbred industry, he has built up a broodmare band that he boards at Dr. and Mrs. Naoya Yoshida's Winchester Farm near Lexington. His racing manager is Eric Crawford, and he has horses in training with Ron Ellis, Graham Motion, Kellyn Gorder, and Michael Matz.
"The bloodline was very, very attractive, very deep, and I think it will be well-supported in the future," Seliger said after signing the ticket for the $1.3 million Bernardini—Pacific Spell filly. I think the price was a little higher than we wanted to spend, but we're not disappointed."
Seliger acknowledged the filly might be what one reporter called "a budget-buster," but he clearly hadn't decided definitely to retire his pen from signing receipts just yet.
"We'll see what comes up in books over the next couple of days," he said.
Another seven-figure horse was Hip 325, a $1 million Tapit half brother to grade III winners Heart Ashley and Ashley's Kitty. Coolmore Stud's M.V. Magnier bought the chestnut April 28 foal from the VanMeter Sales agency. The colt's breeder was JKG Thoroughbreds.
"This was a pretty special horse," consignor Tom VanMeter said. "We showed him about 200 times, he got scoped 15 times, and (got) 26 looks in the repository. He kept showing himself. We appraised him for $500,000 coming in, so he sold very well.
"He never wore down, was always ready to go, and just walked himself into all these people's hearts, I think."
Greenwood Lodge manager David Shone, who oversaw the colt's sale preparations since January, also credited the colt, and Greenwood Lodge's staff, for the big sale.
"He was a straightforward horse and did exactly what we asked him," Shone said. "He's one we just had to feed him and exercise. We've got a really good team on the farm, a bunch of guys who have worked there as long as I've been there. They know what they're doing, they work hard, and I can't say enough about them."
Mike Puhich, the trainer and director of horse operations at Pegasus Training Center in Washington State, found the market plenty good but still prevailed in the bidding for Hip 426, the Hill 'n' Dale agency's Smart Strike colt out of Canadian champion Serenading. Puhich got his horse at $1 million, and the March 9 colt will now head for breaking at Pegasus as the property of a partnership.
"We bought Blind Luck for a little bit more than this," said Puhich, referring to Blind Luck's $2.5 million purchase at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. "We just have group of people that we purchased the horse with. He came highly recommended by (Hill 'n' Dale owner) John Sikura. We trust his opinion immensely; he looks after Blind Luck for us.
"We sat down with our trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, and he liked the horse very well, and he's actually going to stay in as part of the partnership. We're going to have some fun with him, and if he doesn't run a jump, it's not going to change the way anybody eats."
The session's final seven-figure yearling, Hip 438—a three-quarter sister to grade I winner Power Broker —was the last horse to sell Tuesday afternoon. She also brought $1 million, this time from Andrew Rosen's agent, Hugo Merry.
The April 11 filly is by Malibu Moon out of stakes winner Shop Again, by Wild Again. Mill Ridge Sales was the consigning agent.
"We bought Icon Project here, First Passage—a lot of nice fillies we've bought here over the years," Merry said. "So we're just hoping this one's half as good. To be honest, we heard that people were on this filly; nearly everyone was on her. We thought we might have to give a bit more, so we were happy.
"It's a huge market, but there's a shortage of these sort of fillies this week. We're struggling to find really well-bred fillies that jump through all the hoops with the vetting, the conformation, and the walk and the pedigree. This one fit for us."
Gainesway sire Tapit ended the day as the second session's leading sire by gross, with eight yearlings totaling $3,135,000. And Claiborne's War Front also had a good day, finishing second by gross with $3,025,000 for nine yearlings. Bernardini, sire of the session-topper, led by average price (three or more sold with a $525,000 average after the sale of four yearlings).
Hip 304 was one of the day's more interesting lots. The Distorted Humor colt was the first foal to sell out of the popular race mare Peppers Pride, who was unbeaten in 19 lifetime starts. Her first foal, also by Distorted Humor, is a 2011 filly named Funny Pepper who has yet to race.
When her second foal entered the auction ring Tuesday, Arnold Zetcher struck, buying him for $300,000. The Taylor Made Sales agency was the consignor.
Taylor Made, one of the auction's largest consignors by numbered offered, sent 20 yearlings through Keeneland's auction ring the second day with generally good results, according to Mark Taylor, Taylor Made's vice president of public sales. The consignment grossed $3,775,000 for 18 yearlings.
"Yesterday, I think people were a little bit on the fence about how to interpret some of the horses that were going through," Taylor said. "You'd see a horse go through at $60,000, and your initial reaction is, 'That's a $60,000 horse in Book One.' But you have to remind yourself that this is no longer the old Book One. This is Books One and Two merged together. But I think it has been very good.
"Under this format, it lets the buyers figure out which are the best horses. They've put the thousand up that they think need to be up front, and the buyers can figure out which ones they want to pay $1 million for and which ones they want to pay $100,000 for."
Lane's End led all sellers Sept. 10 with 18 yearlings bringing a combined $5,730,000, and Jones' Airdrie consignment led by average (three or more sold) at $423,000 after selling five horses. Among buyers, Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Estate Co. was lengths ahead of others, picking up eight yearlings for a total of $3,010,000, more than $1.5 million ahead of the next most active buyer, Northwest Stud.
The Keeneland September sale will continue through Sept. 21. Book One sessions will run through Sept. 12 with sessions starting each day at noon. Friday, Sept. 13, is a dark day, and the remainder of the sale sessions will begin at 10 a.m. EDT.