The trend of Japanese buyers being active at this year's Keeneland September yearling sale continued Sept. 13 when Shigeyuki Okada's Big Red Farm went to $1.1 million for a son of Empire Maker during the fourth session of the auction.
Out of the A.P. Indy mare Lu Ravi, the colt, Hip 956, was consigned by Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm.
"He has very good muscle, good conformation, and he's very smart," said Shigeyuki, who indicated he had received a great value for a colt that probably would have cost significantly more at an auction in Australia or Japan.
Okada made headlines in June when it was announced that Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner I'll Have Another would be sent to Japan to enter stud at his Big Red Farm.
"I have confidence he will be a good stallion," said Okada of I'll Have Another.
The $1.1 million Empire Maker colt is a half brother to three-time stakes winner Ravi's Song (by Unbridled's Song), who has also placed in multiple graded stakes. Another half sibling, the Indian Charlie filly Natural Rush, fetched $775,000 from Ben Leon's Besilu Stables at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Woods Edge, agent.
Their dam, Lu Ravi, won eight stakes during her race career, including the grade II Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap and Cotillion; and the grade III Delaware Handicap, Fair Grounds Oaks, and Sixty Sails Handicap. The mare, who retired from racing with earnings of more than $1.8 million, is a half sister to Half Queen (by Deputy Minister), the dam of champion 2-year-old filly Halfbridled (by Unbridled).
The Empire Maker colt was bred in Kentucky by Nagako Fujita, who is based in Japan. He was foaled and raised at Woods Edge near Lexington. Lu Ravi, who is also kept at Woods Edge, produced a Candy Ride colt April 29.
"We thought (the Empire Maker colt) was an outstanding horse...(Lu Ravi) is a lovely mare and we've had a great run with her the last couple of years with some lovely foals out of her, but (the Empire Maker colt) is the best she's ever had," said O'Callaghan. "He's exceptional in everyone's eyes; every breeder strives to produce a horse like him.
"Good luck to the people who bought him...it looks like he'll go to Japan. It's been a light at the end of the tunnel (for our consignment)...it's been a tough couple of days, but it's great to have a horse like him. Horses like him make it look easy."