On a crisp morning, while many in Lexington savored the University of Kentucky men's basketball team's wild advance to the national championship game of the NCAA tournament, prospective buyers on the hunt for can't-miss talent of their own were busy inspecting blue chip equine prospects on the eve of the Keeneland April select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Sales barns on Keeneland's backstretch featured steady activity under sunny skies April 6 as consignors showcased their latest class of select juveniles.
"It's not like we've needed stop lights or traffic cops out here, but we have been getting our fair share of traffic," said consignor Nick de Meric. "There is a lot of quality on the grounds."
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.
"I don't know for a fact if that time is a record, but it certainly made my eyes wide," said Tom Thornbury, Keeneland's associate director of sales, of the bullet work. "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."
Following are some of the 2-year-olds that consignors view as standouts and have high hopes for in the auction ring.
Hip No. 5, a colt by Elusive Quality —Michele Royale, by Groovy. Consigned by Secure Investments.
"He's a really good horse," said Secure Investments' Tami Bobo of the $130,000 Keeneland September sale graduate who worked an eighth in :10 1/5 at the preview. "He's a full brother to a graded stakes winner (Royale Michele)."
Hip No. 10, a filly by Discreet Cat—Miss Ocean City, by Mineshaft . Consigned by Kirkwood Stables, agent.
"She's a very nice filly," Kip Elser said of the youngster who breezed a quarter in :20 1/5 at the under-tack preview. "She went fast at the breeze show and came back sound. She's bright and cheerful, and she's from the family of a very underrated horse in Admiral Alex."
Hip No. 11, a filly by More Than Ready —Miss Seffens, by Dehere. Consigned by Niall Brennan Stables, agent.
"She's a lovely filly," said Brennan of the full sister to 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT) winner More Than Real. "Her sister was a top filly. This filly is a lot like her sister, but she is bigger and stronger at this stage. She's naturally very fast. She gets over the ground very quickly. Her page speaks for itself and her work shows she has raw ability. She's obviously a collector's item."
Hip No. 20, a colt by Speightstown —Northern Station, by Street Cry. Consigned by Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne), agent.
A $160,000 acquisition at the Keeneland September sale, the colt breezed an eighth of a mile :10 flat at the under-tack preview. "We have a few colts that should sell very well," said Dunne. "It's funny, every time this Speightstown walks out of the barn I ask, 'Who is that?' "
Hip No. 23, a colt by Warrior's Reward —Past Twilight, by Pulpit. Consigned by Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne), agent.
"Physically, he's an outstanding specimen," said Dunne of the $130,000 Keeneland September sale pinhook who went an eighth in :09 4/5 at the preview. "He looks like a 3-year-old already."
Hip No. 43, a colt by Broken Vow —Spelling, by Alphabet Soup. Consigned by de Meric Sales, agent.
"He's beautifully balanced, smooth and athletic," said Nick de Meric of the colt he acquired for $85,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale. "He has shined in his preparation for this sale. He's as beautiful a mover as you will see, and he will act over any surface you put him on. He's been maintenance free all winter."
Hip No. 54, a colt by Kitten's Joy —Talking Treasure, by Catienus. Consigned by Niall Brennan, agent.
"Kitten's Joy speaks for himself," said Brennan. "He's a popular sire and his best offspring come in all shapes and sizes. The one thing all of his runners have in common is that they beat you up at the quarter-pole."
Hip No. 55, a colt by Malibu Moon —Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled. Consigned by Niall Brennan Stables, agent.
"He's a superstar in the making," Brennan said of the half brother to 2004 Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner and leading sire Tapit who worked an eighth of a mile in :09 4/5 at the breeze show. "There are only a certain number of horses presented at the 2-year-old sales each year with a pedigree like this horse. His work was just as spectacular as he is. He's a picture of balance and agility on the racetrack. He does things so easily just like the really good horses do, and he presents himself well on the end of the shank."
Hip No. 61, a colt by Medaglia d'Oro —Victory Ride, by Seeking the Gold. Consigned by Eddie Woods, agent.
"He has a stallion's pedigree," said Eddie Woods of the colt who breezed a bullet quarter-mile in :20 flat at the under-tack preview and cost $140,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale. "He's been very popular at the barn."
Hip No. 69, a colt by Sky Mesa —Alfonsina, by Grand Slam. Consigned by Sequel Bloodstock (Becky Thomas), agent.
"I had his mother, and she was one of the fastest horses I'd ever had," said Thomas. "I loved this colt the first time I saw him. He went through a thick phase, but he has thinned himself out. Having had his mother I kind of knew what he was going to look like when he got everything together. I knew he would be fast."
Hip No. 90, a colt by Tapit —Cloudburst, by Storm Cat. Consigned by Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne), agent.
"He's special," said Dunne of the colt who worked a furlong in :10 1/5 at the under-tack preview. "He's a big, beautiful horse."
Hip No. 104, a colt by Congrats —Fun Project, by Housebuster. Consigned by Secure Investments.
"He's a strong colt," said Tami Bobo of the half brother to the good stakes winners Fun Logic and Freesgood who breezed an eighth in :10 2/5 at the preview. "He broke off the pole a little late, so he wasn't able to show his great turn of foot in breeze show."
Hip No. 105, a filly by Indian Charlie—Gingham and Lace, by Kris S. Consigned by de Meric Sales, agent.
"She's a big, strapping filly," said de Meric of the $195,000 Keeneland September sale graduate who worked an eighth in :10 flat at the preview. "She's rugged. There's very little that's cute about her, but everything about her says she's an athlete."
Hip No. 106, a colt by Discreetly Mine—Goforitmrsmiller, by Speightstown . Consigned by Kirkwood Stables, agent.
"He's a good-looking horse," said Kip Elser of the $70,000 Keeneland September graduate. "He worked well and came back well. I know the track was fast, but he came out of his work really well, and that's the important thing."
Hip No. 108, a filly by Galileo—Heart Shaped, by Storm Cat. Consigned by Sequel Bloodstock (Becky Thomas), agent.
"She's a beautiful mover," said Thomas of the Irish-bred filly who worked a furlong in :10 2/5 at the under-tack show. "She's impeccably bred, and she's been on everyone's list."
Hip No. 114, a filly by Blame —Hot Attraction, by Pulpit. Consigned by Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne), agent.
"She worked sensationally," said Dunne of the $120,000 Keeneland September sale graduate who traveled an eighth in :09 3/5 at the preview and is from her sire's first crop.
Hip No. 121, a filly by Elusive Quality —Katori, by Dixie Union. Consigned by Wavertree Stables (Ciaran Dunne), agent.
"She's a big, rangy, two-turn type," said Dunne of the filly who worked a quarter in :20 1/5. "She had an outstanding work and she is going over very well."
"She's elegant," said Woods of the filly who breezed a quarter in :20 4/5 at the under-tack preview. "She's a big, two-turn filly with all kinds of class."
Keeneland's select sale of 2-year-olds in training is slated for Monday, April 7, starting at 4 p.m. EDT.