The top seller of the third session of the Keeneland September sale was Hip #307, filly; Bernardini - Silk n' Sapphire by Smart Strike, who brought $1.2 million.

The top seller of the third session of the Keeneland September sale was Hip #307, filly; Bernardini - Silk n' Sapphire by Smart Strike, who brought $1.2 million.

Joseph DiOrio

Business Booms in September's Third Session

Gross, average, and median all rise on first day after auction's select portion.

Not everybody was shopping for items in the wildly popular new Missoni collection at Target stores Sept. 13. In Lexington, many people were busy buying horses at Keeneland and business boomed during the third session of the September yearling sale.

The gross revenue rose 20% from a year ago while the average price increased 22.4%. The median price, meanwhile, climbed 30.8%.

“There seem to be more buyers here than there were last year, and the people who are buying horses are a little bit looser with their wallets than they were last year,” said Case Clay of Three Chimneys Sales.

In the days immediately following the two-night select portion of the auction, the horses’ pedigrees aren’t as fancy, but the standards for conformation are still high. In general, the prices are more reasonable, which attracts a wide range of buyers, including a swarm of pinhookers looking for yearlings to resell, numerous horsemen seeking yearlings for racing partnerships, and even the auction’s wealthiest participants. Japanese buyers were active in the third session after spending millions of dollars during the sale’s first two evenings.

The results for the third session included a gross of $32,756,500 for the 200 horses that were sold. The average was $163,783 and the median was $127,500.

The buy-back rate was 28.1%, down from 32.2% in 2010, when 204 horses were sold.

Medical center magnate and Florida resident Benjamin Leon Jr., who was the biggest domestic spender during the select sessions, purchased the third session’s most expensive horse, a powerful-looking daughter of Bernardini  that brought $1.2 million.

“It was everything—the way she looks, the way she’s put together, the way she walks, her bone structure, the breeding,” Leon said. “She’s one of those fillies that has very good racing potential and is definitely a very good broodmare for the farm in the future. It (the price) was more than I expected, but then, again, to find good fillies that present the whole package, it’s not easy.”

Produced from the winning Smart Strike mare Silk 'n Sapphire, the Kentucky-bred filly is a half sister to 2010 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) winner Shared Account (by Pleasantly Perfect) and the winner Mark of Success (by Mt. Livermore), who finished second in the 2006 Risen Star Stakes (gr. III).

Catherine Parke and Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation, which stands Bernardini in Kentucky, bred the filly and Parke consigned her to the Keeneland sale in the name of her Valkyre Stud near Georgetown, Ky. Parke has only four mares of her own and boards other horses for clients at her nursery. She purchased Silk 'n Sapphire (in foal to Pleasant Tap) for $40,000 from Greenfield Farm, agent, at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

“The filly just had it all,” said Parke of the Bernardini yearling. “She was so big and beautiful, and she was so classy. She’s been good ever since she was born. She grew all in proportion and stayed lovely; she was just extra special.”

The Bernardini filly is the September auction’s most expensive filly so far and she is tied with a Street Cry—Forest Music colt for the second-highest-priced honor. The amount she brought exceeded the $1 million winning bid for an Unbridled's Song—Silvery Swan filly Sept. 12.

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A Medaglia d'Oro  colt commanded the third session’s second-highest price of $600,000. Hanzly Albina and Nick Sallusto bought the dark bay or brown yearling for Californian Steven Marshall’s Black Rock Stables. Marshall is the managing director of Western Energy Production, an oil and gas company. He acquired a majority interest in  2011 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner Silver Medallion earlier this year and races the runner in partnership with Mike Ryan.

The $600,000 yearling is the second foal out of the winning Gone West mare Violent Beauty. His third dam is champion Sky Beauty (by Blushing Groom). Bred by Frank Justice’s Dell Ridge Farm in Kentucky, the colt was consigned by John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent.

For the first three sessions of the Keeneland sale combined, the gross was $78,356,500 for the 329 horses that were sold. The average was $238,166 and the median was $200,000. Compared to 2010, the gross was up 9.4%. The average and median rose 10.1% and 33.3%, respectively.

The buy-back rate was 29.9%, down from 31.9% in 2010 when 331 yearlings were sold.

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