Following a weekend of grade I races for 3-year-olds in New York and California fueling anticipation for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I), the juvenile set takes center stage April 7 for the Keeneland April select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Keeneland's April sale is the final select offering of the juvenile sale season, following the Barretts March sale, Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s select sale of 2-year-olds in training, and Fasig-Tipton's Florida sale.
The season started strongly with both the Barretts and OBS sales experiencing across-the-board gains. Fasig-Tipton's Florida sale, relocated from Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., to Adena Springs South near Williston, was unable to replicate the success of the season's first two select auctions and concluded with declines in gross sales, average, and median price.
Keeneland sale officials and consignors are cautiously optimistic that the 2-year-olds in training market remains healthy following the recent setback at the Florida sale.
"I think the market is still strong," said Tom Thornbury, Keeneland's assistant director of sales. "There will be a lot of money to go around. The prices should be good."
Added consignor Nick de Meric, "We have a different set of circumstances here and a different set of buyers outside of the usual faces we see everywhere. I think the combination will make for a more buoyant sale than we saw in Florida.
"More activity in the middle is what we hope for," de Meric continued. "The only caveat to that would be is it's not a big pool of horses, and it makes it harder for an agent to make a case for traveling a great distance to be here. Having said that, there is plenty of quality on the grounds, and the horses should be well received."
The April catalog featured 125 horses, but with 62 outs as of press time, 63 horses are slated to go through the ring. The sale is set to begin at 4 p.m. EDT.
"The horses performed exceedingly well at the under-tack show," Thornbury said. "We had exceptional conditions for the breeze show. We had cool weather, rain and a tailwind. The horses had the best of everything. It was ideal.
"What draws people to this sale is that it's held in conjunction with a live race meet, and this sale is known for producing graded stakes winners and classic winners," Thornbury added. "We have another strong catalog with a lot of pedigree power."
Judging by the depth of sought-after pedigrees on offer and the precocious talent flashed at the under tack preview, this year's catalog is befitting of Keeneland's reputation for selling 2-year-olds ready to make an immediate impact on the stakes ranks.
Notable pedigrees in the catalog include Hip No. 55, a colt by Malibu Moon out of the stakes-winning and stakes-producing Unbridled mare Tap Your Heels. Consigned by Niall Brennan Stables, the colt is a half brother to Wood Memorial winner (gr. I) and leading sire Tapit .
"He's a superstar in the making," Brennan said of the colt who worked an eighth of a mile in :09 4/5 at the under tack preview.
Brennan also consigns Hip No. 11, a full sister to 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. I) winner More Than Real by More Than Ready —Miss Seffens, by Dehere. The filly breezed an eighth in :09 3/5 at the preview.
Hip No. 61 is a Medaglia d'Oro colt produced from grade I-winning mare Victory Ride, by Seeking the Gold. Consigned by Eddie Woods, agent, the colt is a half brother to stakes winner Magical Ride, the dam of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) hopeful Ride on Curlin.
The handsome bay colt with a stallion's pedigree turned in a bullet quarter-mile breeze in :20 at the under tack preview.
Many of the juveniles in the sale recorded lightning-fast breeze times at the under tack preview April 3.
Aided by a tailwind over a Polytrack surface tightened by rain, a dozen runners worked in :09 4/5 or faster, including Hip No. 69, a Sky Mesa colt who scorched an eighth of a mile in a bullet :09 2/5 for consignor Becky Thomas' Sequel Bloodstock.
Among recent April sale graduates generating headlines is Vinceremos, one of this season's leading 3-year-olds. Winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs and most recently second in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) for Twin Creeks Racing and WinStar Farm, the son of Pioneerof the Nile sold to Twin Creeks Racing for $340,000 out of Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables consignment at last year's sale.
Featured on the catalog cover is millionaire and Belmont Stakes (gr.I) winner Palace Malice, a leading 3-year-old of 2013. The son of Curlin —Palace Rumor, by Royal Anthem, was purchased by Dogwood Stable for $200,000 at the 2012 April sale from Niall Brennan Stables.
Palace Malice continues to roll on this season. He has annexed the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park and the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in his only two starts of the year. All told, he has won five of 14 and bankrolled $1,871,135 for Dogwood Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher.
Paced by a strong middle market last year, the 2013 April sale enjoyed across-the-board gains. Gross receipts totaled $11.64 million, up from $9.75 million in 2012. Average jumped 19.34% to $197,288, and median price surged 25% to $150,000. A total of 59 head sold from 80 offered.
Topping last year's sale was a $700,000 daughter of Unbridled's Song out of the winning Giant's Causeway mare Eden's Causeway, a half sister to champion grass horse Paradise Creek and millionaire Forbidden Apple, consigned by Wavertree Stables and bought by Irish bloodstock agent John McCormack.
Wavertree Stables topped all other consignors at last year's sale, selling 19 horses for $4,445,000. Eddie Woods followed, selling nine of 12 offered for $1,850,000.
John McCormack led all buyers, spending $880,000 on two head. Reddam Racing was the second-leading buyer, also signing for two juveniles to the tune of $690,000.