After breaking from the gate a bit slowly, the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale quickly picked up speed, led by the purchasing power of Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, to post increases in average and median price despite the gross and number of horses selling showing a slight decline.
Day one of the 14-day sale saw 163 horses--down from 188 in 2005--sell for $87,900,000, a decline of 0.9% from last year's gross of $88,712,000. The average increased 14.3% to $539,264 from 2005's figure of $471,872. The median was $310,000, up 3.3% over last year's $300,000 with 63 horses (27.9%) failing to find new homes. Last year 61 horses (24.5%) failed to meet their reserves.
Sixteen horses sold for seven figures compared to 21 during the opening session of 2005.
"I felt it was a very successful first day," said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell. "To offer less horses and be just slightly off last year's gross and have the median up is a very good day. I thought the sale was very solid from start to finish with a good cross-section of buyers."
The powerful purchasing team of Sheikh Mohammed and his agent, John Ferguson, bought seven of the 16 seven-figure yearlings, including the session-topping $8.2 million son of Overbrook Farm stallion Storm Cat
The $8.2 million colt became the second-highest priced yearling ever sold during the September auction and the fourth highest-priced yearling ever sold at Keeneland.
The strapping dark bay or brown colt is the first foal out of grade I winner Awesome Humor (by Distorted Humor
) and was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm bred the colt in Kentucky.
"We have seen this colt throughout the year, and he's been an exceptional individual," said Ferguson who outlasted the powerful Coolmore team to secure the session-topping colt. "When he came here, it became apparent he is the one of the best Storm Cat's Sheikh Mohammed has ever seen and you add that to the fact he is out of a young group I winning mare and that becomes a very exciting prospect."
Ferguson continued, "From the first time we saw him, he has been an absolute 'A' grade. He is physically very strong, plus he has the bone and conformation to go with that. This horse just had everything."
WinStar Farm privately purchased Awesome Humor from Tom Durant -- who bought the graded stakes winner for $45,000 at the 2001 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale -- after she won the Debutante (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. She went on to complete an unbeaten four-race juvenile campaign that included wins in Saratoga's Spinaway (gr.I) and Adirondack (gr. II) for trainer Elliott Walden.
Awesome Humor underwent surgery to remove bone chips from both front ankles at the end of her juvenile season. She returned for a 3-year-old campaign in which she won the Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. III). She finished second in the Alabama (gr. I), Delaware Oaks (gr. III) and Turfway Breeders' Cup (gr. III). She was runner-up to Lead Story in the Churchill Downs Distaff (gr. II) in what turned out to be the final race of her career. She ended her career with a record of 6-4-0 in 11 races and earnings of $848,950.
"I think this is the best Storm Cat colt I have ever seen," said Casner after the hammer dropped. "He tracks perfect, he has correct knees, and is extremely classy. Class is what you saw when he went through the ring. He just has a lot of presence and is an outstanding individual."
The $8.2 million colt joins a stable of high-class yearlings purchased during the day by Ferguson for Sheikh Mohammed.
The powerful Dubai connections went to $5.7 million, again outlasting their Irish rivals, for a son of Mr. Greeley
consigned by Dr. Tom Simon's Vinery, agent. The chestnut colt was bred in Kentucky by Grapestock and was produced from German group I winner Silvester Lady (by Pivotal). The colt is from the family of group winners Queen Conquer, Quebrada, and Quilanga.
"This colt has been A-one since the day he was born," said Ben McElroy, general manager of Vinery. "He has never had any problems, and this is just a great result for everyone."
The year the colt was conceived Mr. Greeley stood for $50,000 at Spendthrift Farm. His 2006 fee was $35,000 while standing at Gainesway Farm.
The colt is the fourth offspring by Mr. Greeley to top the seven-figure mark at public auction as a yearling. Last year, a daughter of the stallion out of Silvery Swan was purchased by Bob and Beverly Lewis for $2.7 million from the consignment of Liberation Farm, Needham-Betz, agent. Also last year, O'Byrne went to $1 million for a colt out of Dreams of Success from the consignment of Denali Stud, agent.
Silvester Lady, bred in England by Raffin Stud, was acquired by Vinery after she won the German Oaks (Ger-I). She made two starts for Vinery and her last start under the name of Bates Newton, former general manager at Vinery.
Ferguson said the colt was a star. "We thought this colt was exceptional," the English bloodstock agent said. "I've used this phrase before, but I felt he just ticked every box. Good conformation and a beautiful way of going."
Another notable purchases by Sheikh Mohammed and Ferguson was a $3 million son of Storm Cat out of grade I winner and stakes producer Preach from the consignment of his breeder, the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm.
"He had a great body and he comes from a farm that raised top horses over the years," Ferguson said. "We saw him in the spring and really liked him and when we saw him again we liked that he had done well physically."
Ferguson described the colt as athletic, with a good movement in his walk and a nice shape to his shoulder.
"He is a good-looking horse who possesses a wonderful mind," said Dell Hancock of the half-brother to Pulpit
. "He is a half-brother to a successful stallion and was just bred the right way."
Ferguson and Sheikh Mohammed might have outlasted the powerful Coolmore team on the session's top-two offerings, but the Irish-based operation did not go home empty handed.
Acting on behalf of Coolmore, Demi O'Byrne purchased four yearlings, including a $1 million son of Ashford Farm stallion Fusaichi Pegasus
out of the Mountain Cat mare Squawk.
The bay colt, consigned by Gainesway, agent, was bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and was originally purchased as a weanling for $460,000 by B.G.H. Ranch at the 2005 Keeneland November mixed sale. The colt is from the family of champion and grade I winner Banshee Breeze (by Unbridled).
The top-priced filly in the opening session was a $3.2 million daughter of Claiborne Farm stallion Seeking the Gold
out of millionaire and grade I winner Take Charge Lady. Trainer Todd Pletcher purchased the filly on behalf of James Scatuorchio. The chestnut Kentucky-bred filly was consigned by her breeder, Reiley McDonald and Tom VanMeter's Eaton Sales.
As agent, Eaton Sales purchased Take Charge Lady, carrying her first foal by Seeking the Gold, for $4.2 million at the 2004 Keeneland November mixed sale from the consignment of Three Chimneys Sales, agent. Take Charge Lady won 11 of 22 starts and earned $2,480,377.
"She had a tremendous pedigree, and I honestly believed she was the best individual I've seen since we have been here," said Pletcher, who said he had never signed a ticket for that much money. "We were stretching our budget a little, but Jim's had a good year with English Channel and Scat Daddy. This filly just looked the part. She was all class and had a tremendous walk."Leading Sires
: Session One