Top seller on day 4 of the Keeneland September yearling sale, hip #730, colt; Tapit - Don'tellmichelle by Regal Classic, brought $650,000.

Top seller on day 4 of the Keeneland September yearling sale, hip #730, colt; Tapit - Don'tellmichelle by Regal Classic, brought $650,000.

Keeneland Photo

September Sale Surge Continues in 4th Session

Median soars 52.9% while average increases 25.4% from a year ago.

The Keeneland September yearling sale kept the momentum going during its fourth session, continuing to generate numbers that were encouraging to consignors and sale company officials. There were big increases compared to 2010 Sept. 14 in Lexington, with the gross revenue rising 37.6% and the average price increasing 25.4%. The median price enjoyed the biggest increase of all, 52.9%.

“We’re pleased at this point,” said Joe Seitz of Brookdale Sales. “Every horse we’ve put through (the auction ring) we’ve moved, a couple of them after the hammer, but everything has been sold. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by a handful that have gone way past their reserves, but a few of them were just over, and that’s OK. The activity at the barn showing has been nonstop.”

The results included a gross of $32,819,500 for the 215 horses that were sold (compared to 196 in 2010). The average was $152,649 and the median was $130,000.

The buy-back rate fell to 23.5% from 32.9% last year.

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According to Walt Robertson, Keeneland’s vice president of sales, and Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales, tweaking the format for Book Two (of the sale catalog) has helped boost business in that portion of the September auction. The racetrack and auction firm’s officials reduced the number of days from four to three and the number of horses offered. Consequently, “it tightened up our selection process,” said Robertson, increasing the quality of the offerings. It also put supply more in line with demand. 

“It’s been a very strong sale; you have to pay for the good ones,” said buyer Todd Quast of GoldMark Farm in Florida. “We spent $350,000 for an Awesome Again  that was a great individual. But we got a full brother to (stakes winner and grade I-placed) Value Plus for only $200,000. There’s still value there, but you’ve got to pick your spots.”

A flashy Tapit  colt was the session’s most expensive horse, bringing $650,000 from former television station executive Jon Kelly and his wife, Sarah, of California. The chestnut yearling, which has long white socks on his hind legs and a big white blaze on his face, is a full brother to Hightap, who captured the Iowa Oaks (gr. III) and Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) in 2009.

“He’s a Tapit, which is fine, and he’s got a sibling with the same breeding that is a (graded) stakes winner,” Jon Kelly said. “His conformation was excellent, his walk was great, he scoped perfectly, (he was) vet-approved. And my wife wanted him.”

The Kentucky-bred colt is out of the Regal Classic mare Don’tellmichelle, who failed to win in three career races, but is a half sister to Canadian added-money winner Lodge Hill (by Cozzene). Other family members include 1976 Canadian Horse of the Year Norcliffe and Argentine champion El Sultan.

“I was satisfied,” said Kelly of the amount he had to pay for the yearling. “I was willing to go, obviously, to that amount, and a little bit more if I had to.”

The colt will remain in Kentucky until the Kellys decide who will train him.

“We look at all of our buys and our yearlings (that we breed),” Kelly said. “Then some of the horses go West and some of them go to down to Florida, so (he’ll go to) either California to Florida to one of our trainers.”

The sales division of Kentucky-based Gainesway Farm (Antony Beck, president), where Tapit stands, consigned the colt to the September sale. Gainesway Thoroughbreds bred him.

“This colt had a great appeal,” said Michael Hernon, Gainesway’s director of sales. ”He had over a dozen vets (X-ray exams and endoscopic throat exams) at the barn; we knew he was very highly regarded and held in high esteem. The sale price was very gratifying; it was well over the reserve.”

According to Hernon, the colt resembles Trappe Shot , a grade II-winning son of Tapit who is a talented sprinter.

“They’re both chestnuts, very good-bodied colts, and muscular,” Hernon said. “He looks to me like he’ll be quick as lightning, and he’ll be early.”

A Bernardini  colt was the fourth session’s second-highest-priced yearling, selling for $625,000 to John Ferguson, who is the bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed. The Dubai ruler’s Darley operation bred and raced Bernardini and the champion son of A.P. Indy stands in Kentucky as a Darley stallion.

The dark bay or brown yearling is out of the Cryptoclearance mare Ava Knowsthecode. He is a half brother to Justin Phillip  (by First Samurai ), winner of the 2011 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II); Keyed Entry (by Honour and Glory), who captured the 2006 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) and 2007 Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III); Successful Mission (by Successful Appeal ), who scored in the 2011 Miami Mile Handicap (gr. IIIT), and added-money winner Alex's Allure (by Sky Classic).

“It’s as solid as a rock,” said Ferguson of the yearling’s pedigree. The mare has done it every time.”

The colt probably will remain in this country to race, but the final decision will be made later by Sheikh Mohammed, according to Ferguson.

Catherine Parke’s Valkyre Stud consigned the Kentucky-bred yearling for his breeder, Oakbrook Farm. During the September sale’s third session Sept. 13, Valkyre sold a Bernardini—Silk n'Sapphire filly bred by Parke and Darley for $1.2 million.

Parke “brought two lovely yearlings here and gets $1.2 million for one and $625,000 for the other,” Ferguson said. “She deserves it because they were two wonderfully presented yearlings, with great pedigrees. I am glad she is being rewarded. People outside the business don’t know how hard it is to produce horses like that.”

The results for the September sale’s first four sessions combined all finished ahead of last year’s figures. The number sold increased 3.2% to 544. The gross revenue advanced 16.5% to $111,176,000. The average rose 12.8% to $204,368. And the median increased 41.7%.

The buy-back rate of 27.5% was down from 32.3% in 2010.

The auction continues through Sept. 24, with a day off from selling Sept. 16.