There won't be a bell signifying the opening round in the battle to acquire one of Mr. Prospector's last yearlings, but that doesn't mean buyers won't be ready to rumble when it comes time to bid on them.
Mr. Prospector's last yearlings will be among the prime attractions at Keeneland July 16 and 17, and the anticipation is expected to be similar to that which prevailed when the last yearlings by Bold Ruler, Northern Dancer, and Secretariat went through the ring. Just 25 hips into the Keeneland sale, the second foal from the stakes-winning Trempolino mare Sunlit Silence starts it off.
Mr. Prospector, himself a Keeneland summer sale topper in 1971, will be going for his sixth Keeneland July title. The son of Raise a Native first topped the list by average (with three of more sold) in 1992. He added titles in 1993-95, and in 1998 and 2000. His 1998 average, $1.6 million, was the highest since Nijinsky II averaged $2,969,444 with his 1985 yearlings. Mr. Prospector's yearlings averaged $1,477,143 last July and included the second-highest-priced yearling filly of all-time. She went for $3.6 million. (That runner-up spot lasted only two months, when two fillies sold for more at the Keeneland September sale.)
Northern Dancer's final crop of yearlings numbered only two and both sold at the 1989 Keeneland July sale. The colt out of English champion Mrs. Penny topped the sale at $2.8 million, which also was the top price for any yearling that year. Bought by Zenya Yoshida of Japan and named Northern Park, he was a stakes winner in France before heading off to stud, where he has achieved modest success.
This was the same Zenya Yoshida who was a member of the partnership that paid a world-record price of $600,000 for a colt from Bold Ruler's last crop of foals at the 1973 Keeneland July sale. Named Wajima, the colt beat reigning Horse of the Year Forego in both the Governor Stakes (gr. I) and Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and took the Travers Stakes (gr. I) by 10 lengths. Wajima was named champion 3-year-old male over Foolish Pleasure and syndicated for a record $200,000 per share, $10,000 more than Secretariat's record syndication price in 1973.
Getting back to Bold Ruler, he topped the 1973 Keeneland July sale with a $296,250 average, which was twice the average for runner-up Forli. It was the only time he ever topped the sale (with three or more sold), largely because breeders kept most of his offspring to race.
The fascination with Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler's last yearlings was based on the gigantic potential for success on the racetrack and at stud. That wasn't the case with Secretariat's last yearlings. Though a successful sire by just about any measure, Secretariat didn't stack up in stallion greatness to his sire, Bold Ruler, nor to Northern Dancer. The excitement over Secretariat's last Keeneland July yearlings lay in the fact of who he was rather than what his yearlings could become.
Fifteen years before his last yearlings were sold, Secretariat had stunned the racing world when a member of his first crop became racing's first millionaire auction yearling. The well-bred colt commanded $1.5 million at the 1976 Keeneland July sale.
Secretariat's last Keeneland July yearlings were auctioned at the 1991 sale. Respect for Secretariat's overall greatness was present in a big way, but the pocketbooks didn't exactly swing wide open for any of his yearlings. The five that sold averaged $191,000, well below the leader's average of $664,545.
The anticipation surrounding the sale of Mr. Prospector's last yearlings will be more like that surrounding the sale of Bold Ruler and Northern Dancer's last yearlings rather than Secretariat's. Buyers will be looking for giant killers who can carry the Mr. Prospector name another generation.
Mr. Prospector's Keeneland July yearlings include a filly out of grade I winner Classy Mirage; a half-brother to grade I winner Tap to Music and grade II winner Northern Afleet; a half-brother to grade II winner Rob 'n Gin; and a half-sister to grade II winner Sahara Gold out of grade I winner Desert Stormer.
Buyers will have other opportunities to purchase yearlings from the last crop by Mr. Prospector. There is one Mr. Prospector colt consigned to the final session of the Saratoga yearling sale (Aug. 9), and approximately 20 Mr. Prospector offspring slated to sell at the Keeneland September auction.See table of Mr. Prospector's Sale Yearlings