Half Ours, topped Monday session of Keeneland sale.

Half Ours, topped Monday session of Keeneland sale.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Racing or Stallion Prospect Half Ours Tops Opening Session of Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale

The 14-day Keeneland November breeding stock sale kicked off with a bang when Half Ours was purchased by Aaron U. Jones for $6.1 million, which is a record for a horse in training sold at Keeneland.

For the day, Keeneland reported 164 horses sold for $83,795,000, to average $510,945. The median was $297,500. The Central Kentucky auction house reported 69 horses (29.6%) failed to meet their reserves. A total of 17 horses sold for more than $1 million.

Last year, the opening session saw 180 horses gross $98,121,000, for an average of $545,117. The median was $315,000, with 66 horses (26.8%) failing to meet their reserves. In 2005, Keeneland saw 20 horses top the seven-figure mark.

The opening session also saw grade I winner Madcap Escapade sell for $6 million and her dam, Sassy Pants sell for $4.5 million.

"It was nice to have a different flavor at the end with a horse of racing age to top the sale," said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell of Half Ours. "Pre-sale handicap would have thought the mare would bring more than the stallion prospect but when two partners own a horse it is hard to work out how high they will go."

Jones, who owned and raced Half Ours, a son of Unbridled's Song in partnership with Barry Schwartz, bought out his partner to take total control of the gray or roan 3-year-old colt. Half Ours will remain in training with Todd Pletcher.

"The horse will go on like he has been," Jones said. "We hope to win a grade I with him and then stand him at stud."

Of the $6.1 million price tag, Jones and Taylor Made's Ben Taylor said, "With the success Unbridled's Song is having as a sire of sires, we hope this purchase looks like a steal."

Racing for Jones and Schwartz, Half Ours, who has two wins from two career starts, including a win in last year's Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes, suffered a fracture in his right hind ankle which required pins to be inserted. Jones said the colt has begun working again.

Bloodstock agent Buzz Chace originally purchased Half Ours for $625,000 at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent.

Brilliant Stables bred Half Ours in Kentucky from the winning Storm Cat mare Zing, who Jones purchased for $3.6 million at last year's Keeneland November auction. At the same sale, Jones purchased Zing's weanling colt by Unbridled's Song for $1.7 million. Zing produced an Unbridled's Song colt this year.

Signing the ticket in the name of Hill 'n' Dale Bloodstock, John Sikura purchased Madcap Escapade and Sassy Pants.

Madcap Escapade, a 5-year-old mare, was consigned by Claiborne Farm, who offered the mare for owner Bruce Lunsford. Madcap Escapade was sold carrying her first foal, sired by Pulpit, who stands at the Hancock family's nursery near Paris, Ky.

Sassy Pants, in foal to Storm Cat, was consigned by Dromoland Farm. In addition to Madcap Escapade, Sassy Pants is the dam of grade I winner Dubai Escapade.

Sikura said he had reached the end of his rope when bidding for Madcap Escapade reached the $6-million point, but was determined to purchase her as a long-term investment for his Hill 'n' Dale Farm.

"I thought she would make a unique broodmare," Sikura said moments after signing the sales receipt. "We will take her home and plan to breed her back to a major stallion. We just want to get her home safely and we will go from there."

About acquiring Sassy Pants, Sikura said, "She is already the dam of two grade I winners and she was in foal to Storm Cat. She was another unique offering in the sale.

"We had a very good yearling sale this year and we tragically lost our best mare (Serena's Tune) so we tried to be aggressive to try to replace any gaps we have in our program," he continued. "Business is a continuum and when you have the opportunity to ride your base and improve your quality, you have to try to keep moving forward and that was the objective. Between the two mares, maybe one will make the difference."

He estimated the difference in price between the family members was based on age. "The life expectancy between the two mares was probably the only difference between the price," he said.

Parting with Madcap Escapade was bittersweet for Lunsford, who purchased her through trainer Frank Brothers as a yearling for $160,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale from the consignment of Needham/Betz/Hanley, agent.

"She looked like she could go out and race today," Lunsford said. "She gave me a lot of thrills and was a very special filly for me. But, at the end of the day I had to let her go because this is a business and racing is my first priority."

Racing for Lunsford, Madcap Escapade won seven of nine career starts, including six in stakes company. Her biggest win came in the 2004 Ashland Stakes (gr. I) which she followed with a third-place effort in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). As a 4-year-old, Madcap Escapade established a new track record for seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park in 1:22.06 while winning the Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. II). She earned $1,052,852.

A daughter of Hennessy, Madcap Escapade was bred in Kentucky by Needham/Betz Thoroughbreds and Jamie Blackburn and was produced from the Saratoga Six mare Sassy Pants. She is a half-sister to grade I winner Dubai Escapade (by Awesome Again ).

The sale continues through Nov. 19, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m.

Hip by hip results from Keeneland