George Bolton, who once had an interest in two-time Horse of the Year Curlin , noted how “the good ones are not easy to buy” during the first of four book two sessions at the Keeneland September sale Sept. 14.
“The buyers are here and want the best horses, so it’s not easy to get them,” said the San Francisco-based Thoroughbred owner, who spent $1 million on the day's sale topper.
The 204 yearlings that sold during the first session of Book Two represent a 10.9% decline from a year ago when the total was 229. The gross of $27,292,000 fell from $32,718,000 in 2009, when the sale was conducted using a different format. The average was $133,784, down from $142,873 in 2009, and the median fell from $100,000 to $97,500. The buy-back rate was 32.23%, compared to 34.8% last year.
Cumulatively, through the first three days of the sale, 331 horses were sold for a total of $71,597,000, an average of $216,305, and a median of $150,000. Last year, the 451 horses that sold up until this point grossed $91,474,000, averaged $202,825, and had a median of $150,000.
“The top-priced yearling that sold for $1 million today was a perfect example of how the market is going,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “Overall, the market remains very selective, but when buyers see a horse they really want, it becomes very competitive.
“I’m happy with how selling went today," he continued. "There was a more business-like tone, which is exactly what we expected.”
A bay ridgling by Smart Strike was the sole seven-figure price during the Sept. 14 session of the Keeneland September yearling sale when he was bought for $1 million by Bolton. Out of the grade III-winning Seattle Slew mare Ask Me No Secrets, he was consigned by Greenfield Farm for B.D. Gibbs Farm, agent.
“(Bloodstock agent) John Moynihan is my agent and he picked him out for us,” said Bolton, who bought the ridgling in partnership with Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Stables. “We’ve had a lot of luck with Smart Strike because we had Curlin, so (Moynihan) told me to get off the plane and get over here and buy him. (Smart Strike) throws runners, and (this horse) is also a stallion prospect even though he’s a ridgling.”
Bolton owned two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in partnership with Stonestreet and Midnight Cry Stables during his 3-year-old championship campaign when the horse won or placed in all three Triple Crown races in addition to capturing the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge and Jockey Club Gold Cup (both gr. I).
“He’s nice, he looks like he could go far, and we’ve had a lot of luck with the sire,” added Bolton of the Smart Strike ridgling, who descends from the family of grade I winners Trumpet’s Blare and Albert the Great.
The Smart Strike ridgling is the fourth foal out of Ask Me No Secrets, who has produced one other winning foal, a Distorted Humor filly named Bashoosha. The sale topper was bred in Kentucky by Earl M. Shultz.
A few horses were in the $500,000 range during the first session of book two. A dark bay or brown colt by Bernardini fetched $550,000 toward the end of the day, while a Stormy Atlantic colt and a Malibu Moon colt were both acquired for $500,000.
The Bernardini colt, who is out of the stakes-winning Capote mare Capote’s Crown, was consigned by Sweezey and Partners, agent for Whisper Hill Farm. The colt hails from the family of graded stakes winners Smoke Glacken and Smokey Glacken, who are both half siblings to his dam.
Bred in Kentucky by Whisper Hill Farm, the Bernardini colt was bought by Shadwell Estate Company.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who was said to be the underbidder on the $1 million Smart Strike colt, bought the Stormy Atlantic colt on behalf of an undisclosed client. The colt, who was the first yearling to reach the half-million mark on the day, was consigned by Dromoland Farm, agent.
“He’s got a full brother that ran in California who is a really nice horse,” said Baffert of 5-year-old Coast Guard, who was a $300,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase and hit the board in both the 2008 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and Robert B. Lewis Stakes. “(The yearling Stormy Atlantic colt) had all the looks and very good balance. He’s a beautiful specimen of a horse.”
The Stormy Atlantic yearling, who is also a half brother to stakes-placed runner Garifine, is out of the Royal Academy mare Vassar. The colt hails from the family of European and German champion Phin Street; and Irish champions Saffron Walden, Listen, Sequoyah, and Henrythenavigator.
He was bred in Kentucky by Mike Akers’ Dapple Bloodstock and Gryphon Investments.
“There’s a lot of money here (in spite of the slower market),” said Baffert. “The outstanding-looking horses, you’ll have to pay $400,000 to $500,000 for. There’s no steals; believe me. Everybody wants the really, really good horses. We’re looking for the Real Quiets of the world (winner of the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, both gr. I, who Baffert trained).”
The $500,000 Malibu Moon colt, who is out of the Forest Wildcat mare Be My Prospect and is from the family of Eight Belles, was bought by Melnyk Racing Stable. He was bred in Kentucky by Jerry Bailey and Lance Robinson’s Gulf Coast Farms.
The highest-priced filly of the day was by Pleasant Tap—Silk n’ Sapphire, by Smart Strike. Consigned by Catherine Parke’s Valkyre Stud, agent, she was bought by Skara Glen Stables.
The September auction runs through Sept. 26, with a break from selling Sept. 18.