While shopping for horses on the second day of the Keeneland September yearling sale, Florida pinhooker Lynne Boutte was having trouble finding bargains as well as what she thought were reasonably-priced attractive prospects.
"Today has been tough; a nicer horse is very hard to buy," she said Sept. 11 in Lexington. "You find one that's clean (without any veterinary problems) and even one that's got a little issue, and they sell very well. It's a very solid market."
The session marked the beginning of book two of the auction's catalog and followed an opening select session Sept. 10. When the results were compared to the same book two session in 2011, the average price increased 5.8% and the median price rose 17.6%. The gross was down only 1.6% even though the number of horses that were sold declined 7%.
"It's been good; it's been strong," said John Moynihan, who is an adviser to Barbara Banke's Stonestreet Stables. "The good horses are certainly bringing it. We probably should have bought a few more yesterday because it looks like the prices were a little lighter for the good ones then than they were today."
The session's final figures included a gross of $33,240,000 for the 186 yearlings that were sold. The average was $173,333 and the median was $150,000.
The buy-back rate advanced to 31.9% from 28.1% in 2011, when 200 yearlings were sold.
"It was pretty solid throughout," said Walt Robertson, Keeneland's vice president of sales.
Benjamin Leon Jr. of Besilu Stables, a big spender in the recent past hasn't been seen so far at the September auction and the name of John Ferguson, who is the bloodstock manager for Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, hasn't appeared on a sale ticket yet.
"You would love to have their participation, yes, but the sale is performing very well without their participation," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "We hope that the latter part of this week they might participate. Based on sales earlier, we didn't feel like there would be a strong representation from Darley (Sheikh Mohammed's operation)."
Four horses commanded prices of $500,000 or more on the September auction's second day. The most expensive was a robust Tapit colt that brought $700,000. Stonestreet Stables bought the gray or roan yearling. Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm pursued the colt and so did David Ingordo of Lane's End Bloodstock and trainer John Sadler, according to sources who followed the bidding closely.
"He is a great Tapit," Moynihan said. "He is just a pretty horse, and he moved great, and he showed himself great."
The Kentucky-bred colt is a full brother to the winner Tempted to Tapit, who finished second in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and third in the Sunland Derby (gr. III) in 2010. The yearling also is a full brother to the winner Dance Card, who is a $750,000 graduate of the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training. Their winning dam, Tempting Note (by Editor's Note), was second in the Busanda and Nijana Stakes at Aqueduct in 2004.
"She (the yearling's dam) has had two good horses by Tapit, so we'll take our shot," Moynihan said. "It was a lot of money; we'll keep our fingers crossed."
Bruce McMillin who operates a farm near Georgetown, Ky., and the Tapit Syndicate bred the $700,000 yearling. Tapit stands at Gainesway Farm near Lexington. Gainesway consigned the colt to the September sale.
"This colt came up here (to the sale pavilion) and there was no reserve," said Gainesway's Michael Hernon. "He is a beautiful horse, and everyone was on him. He looks like he could be any kind. We're delighted."
McMillin also was pleased.
"I think the colt sold well and I'm tickled to death," he said. "My son, Luke, and I, we raised him and worked with him and he came along good. We knew all along he was a good horse, and he just progressed and got better. Everything worked out for us."
A Giant's Causeway colt was the day's second-highest-priced yearling at $550,000. Elliott Walden, the president/CEO and racing manager of Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm purchased the bay yearling in the name of Maverick Racing.
"He's well-balanced and athletic; we'll see what happens," Walden said.
Produced from the winning Seeking the Gold mare Questress, the colt is a half brother to Pomeroy (by Boundary), who won the 2006 Forego Stakes (gr. I), 2004 King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I), and two other graded events. The yearling also is a half brother to the winner Gold Vault (by Arch ), who is the dam of Contested. A daughter of Ghostzapper , Contested has triumphed in the TVG Acorn (gr. I), Test (gr. I), and Eight Belles Stakes (gr. III) this year.
A War Front colt out of Gold Vault brought $1,050,000 during the September auction's select session.
"He is very nice Giant's Causeway and he looks like he has a stallion's pedigree, said Walden of the Giant's Causeway yearling. "He's a half brother to a stallion already in Pomeroy, who's doing a nice job in Florida, so we thought he was worth taking a shot on.
"The market is strong," Walden continued. "We're just trying to pick up a few colts to have a chance to complement our stallion operation (at WinStar). Giant's Causeway is certainly a very nice stallion, so we're thinking about the future."
Gainesway, agent, consigned the colt, which was bred in Kentucky by Shell Bloodstock.
Demi O'Byrne of the Coolmore Stud buying team purchased the Tapit colt.
"He is a nice horse, a very good mover," O'Byrne said. He added that the gray or roan yearling eventually would be sent to multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Kentucky-bred colt is out of the German champion Que Belle (by Seattle Dancer), who scored in the 1999 Osunitas Handicap at Del Mar. He is a half brother to 2005 Will Rogers Stakes (gr. III) winner Osidy (by Storm Cat) and 2009 Prix de Royaumont (Fr-III) winner Quetsche (by Gone West).
Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned the yearling for his breeder, Malibu Farm.
Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai, in the name of his Shadwell Estate Co., bought the Tiznow filly. The Kentucky-bred bay yearling is out of the unraced Stormy Atlantic mare Storminthegarden, and is a half brother to the winner Yes It's the Boy (by Yes It's True).
Storminthegarden is a half sister to champion Paradise Creek and grade I winners Forbidden Apple and Wild Event. Storminthegarden also is a half sister to stakes winner I'm Very Irish and the dams of grade I winner Eden's Moon and English and United Arab Emirates champion David Junior.
Sweezey and Partners consigned the $500,000 filly for her breeder, Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm in Florida. Whisper Hill acquired an A.P. Indy—Moonlight Sonata filly named A. P. Sonata for $1.1 million during the September sale's select session.
"We knew we had a really good filly going in," said Sweezey and Partners' Wayne Sweezey. "There were lots of X-rays and lots of scoping. It was just a matter of how brave we were. Mandy Pope, who owned the filly, was very brave today and put a fair (as opposed to a minimal) reserve on her because she (Pope) would have raced her otherwise. She (Pope) was blown away. It was an excellent sale; we're delighted.
Sweezey also talked about his experiences as a consignor during the September sale's first two days.
"For us right now, the way this market has been going, the horses that are very good sell," he said. "But when you get in the middle of it (in terms of quality), it gets very dodgy. You have to get very conservative (with your reserves). Those horses at the top, I think you can push a little bit."
The results for the first two days combined of the September auction included a gross of $62,530,000 for the 261 yearlings that were sold. The average was $239,579 and the median was $180,000. Compared the statistics generated by the two select sessions and the first session of book two combined last year, the gross and median fell 20.2% and 10%, respectively. The average was up less than 1%.
The buy-back rate was 32.6%, up from 29.8% in 2011 when 329 horses were sold.
The sale runs through Sept. 21, with a break from selling Sept. 14.