Keeneland September Sale

Keeneland September Sale

Joe DiOrio

Keeneland Select Sessions 'Surprisingly Good'

Average and median prices are ahead of last year's numbers.

Mt. Brilliant Farm’s Greg Goodman called the select portion of the Keeneland September sale
“surprisingly good,” and that seemed to be the general consensus among buyers and consignors, who said a new format injected some much needed excitement into the proceedings.

With the number of horses cataloged reduced significantly by Keeneland officials and the two select sessions Sept. 12-13 switched from daytime to nighttime, the average price and median price rose 31.8% and 32.6%, respectively, from a year ago. In addition, the buy-back rate fell to 31.4% from 38.2% in 2009 and on the opening night, an A.P. Indy – Balance colt brought $4.2 million, the highest price for the auction since Meydan City sold for $11.7 million in 2006.

“It may be the format, and it may be something else, but I think the market has been solid,” Goodman said Sept. 13. “It’s awesome.”

The 127 horses that were sold during the two select sessions represented a 45% decline from a year ago when the total was 222.  But their gross of $44,305,000 was down much less sharply, falling 24.6% from 2009’s comparable figure of $58,756,000. Two yearlings brought seven-figure prices, down from three last year.

Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, didn’t attend the select sessions, and his bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, purchased only two horses after buying 31 yearlings and spending $13,460,000 in 2009. But a host of foreign and domestic shoppers poured into the Keeneland sale pavilion and filled the void.

Another member of Dubai’s ruling family, Sheikh Hamdan, was at the September auction for the first time in several years, and he was the select sessions’ biggest spender, paying $5,110,000 for 12 yearlings. South Florida healthcare magnate Benjamin Leon Jr., attending his first Thoroughbred sale, ranked second, spending $5,060,000 for three head in the name of his Besilu Stables.

Also active were B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm, Elizabeth Moran’s Brushwood Stable, Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Barbaro fame, and Florida pinhookers along with shoppers from Japan, Europe, and Qatar.

“One of our goals all along was to broaden our buyer base and we saw a great balance of domestic and international buyers,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales.

A robust Distorted Humor  colt topped the second select session, bringing $2.05 million, which was the second-highest price for the select portion of the sale. Kentucky-based bloodstock agent Mike Ryan signed the sale ticket, identifying the buyer as Flag Lake #2, but he didn’t want to provide much other information to the media.

Ryan said his client was “from overseas,” was interested in acquiring “top quality stock and aiming for the big races,” and “was not on the (sale) grounds.” The bloodstock agent added: “I can’t say whether he is new to racing, but he is new to me."

Will Farish’s Lane’s End Farm also has ties to the client, and Farish’s son, Bill, had said earlier that Flag Lake #2 had been among the bidders on the $4.2 million A.P. Indy colt. The mysterious buyer ended up being the select sessions’ third-biggest spender, paying $2,735,000 for two yearlings.

Ryan described the $2.05 million Distorted Humor colt as “an exceptional colt.” The muscular chestnut with four white feet is the third live foal out of the 9-year-old unraced Storm Catmare Angel’s Nest, who is a half sister to European champion and French group III producer East of the Moon, Dubai Poule d’Essai des Poulins (French Two Thousand Guineas, Fr-I) winner and successful stallion Kingmambo, Irish group III winner Mingun, French group III winner Miesque's Son, and French stakes winner Moon is Up. Angel’s Nest also is a half sister to Monevassia, the dam of European champion Rumplestiltskin.

“If he’s as good on the racetrack as we think he could be, he’s got unbelievable stallion potential,” said Ryan of the Distorted Humor yearling. “The sky is the limit for the horse. He’s well-grown and outstanding physically, and the pedigree speaks for itself. He’s the complete package. There was no hole in him that I could see.”

Lane’s End consigned the colt for his breeder, Flaxman Holdings, which is operated by the family of the late Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.

“He has a phenomenal family, and this is the colt we have been waiting for out of that mare,” Bill Farish said. “He came into the sale beautifully and it all came together at the sale well. He’s still got a lot of maturing to do which is pretty exciting. I was encouraged he would sell well, but I did not know he would bring this kind of money. He is really a super individual that is very correct. He has some of the traits that Distorted Humors tend to have, but they run well with them so they aren’t faults.”

The final bid on an A.P. Indy filly out of stakes winner Private Gift (by Unbridled) was $1.25 million, but her consignor, Goodman’s Mt. Brilliant Farm, bought her back.

“I have a 30% partner in her, a friend named Orrin Ingram, and he wanted to keep her,” Goodman said. “We had a price that we would have sold her for, but that just wasn’t it. It was close. She has another A.P. Indy filly (that was born earlier this year) and she was bred back to A.P. Indy and is carrying a filly, so we have a lot of options. We can sell the other one (born in 2010) next year.”

The results for the second of the two select sessions included a gross of $20,340,000 for the 58 yearlings that sold. The average was $350,690 and the median was $312,500. The buy-back rate was 37%.

Last year, the 115 horses that sold grossed $33,807,000 and averaged $293,974. The median was $250,000 and the buy-back rate was 35%.

The September auction runs through Sept. 26, with a break from selling Sept. 18.