Vindication heads trio of first-crop sires making news at Keeneland sale.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Vindication heads trio of first-crop sires making news at Keeneland sale.
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Barbara D. Livingston

September Sire Power: Young and Old Rule at Keeneland

While it was Sheikh Mohammed who drove the market during the two-day select sessions of Keeneland's September yearling sale Monday and Tuesday, it was powered by the sires of those yearlings. The leading sires from Book One are a heady mix of the old guard with a trio of young shooters making some interesting headway.

There was no surprise among the top two sires, with Danzig, represented by his last crop of yearlings, and perennial leader Storm Cat running one-two by average price. Of note was the strength of this year's first-crop sires, specifically Vindication, Mineshaft , and Empire Maker , who all finished in the top 10 among those with three or more yearlings sold.

LEADING SIRES: Sessions 1-2

"The bottom line is, it takes the sire and the conformation to get into this (Book One)," said Ric Waldman, stallion advisor for Overbrook Farm and manager of Storm Cat's book, of this year's freshman sires. "These guys satisfy that, and the prices confirm that."

Last year, there was not a first-crop sire in the top 15 leading sires from the select sessions.

"We're fortunate to have three exciting, high-level, first-crop sires," Waldman said. "The buyers are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a racehorse, and I think they'll be satisfied. They got good mares; there are some really nice female family pedigrees to some of these first-crop sires."

Vindication, a son of Seattle Slew who was the unbeaten champion juvenile of 2002, had 15 yearlings sell for an average of $777,667. That's 15.6 times his initial stud fee of $50,000 when he entered stud at Hill 'n' Dale Farm in 2004. He ranked fourth overall on the select sale sire's list.

He had a pair of monster yearlings sell for seven figures. On Monday, a colt out of champion Serena's Song daughter Serena's Tune consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent, went to Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock agent John Ferguson for $2.8 million. On Tuesday, Ahmed Zayat went to $4.6 million to purchase a half-brother to grade I winners El Corredor and Roman Ruler consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent. The dark bay or brown colt is out of Silvery Swan.

Mineshaft , the 2004 Horse of the Year, ranked ninth among all select sires, with 14 yearlings averaging $450,000. Mineshaft scored a seven-figure colt on day two of the sale. Consigned by Gainesway, agent for Marylou Whitney Stables, the colt out of Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Dear Birdie and a half-brother to classic winner Birdstone  and Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Bird Town, went to William S. Farish for $1.3 million.

Mineshaft , along with Empire Maker  both entered stud for $100,000 in February 2004. Mineshaft  stands at Farish's Lane's End Farm near Versailles, Ky., while Empire Maker  stands at Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm near Lexington.

"The two of them started out at $100,000, and you don't see that too often," said Anne Peters, a renowned pedigree analyst who provides in-house mating counsel for Three Chimneys Farm. "Usually, you get one 'stand-out' horse and the rest sort of trail behind.

"It's a strong group of first-crop horses," she said. She also added to the mix first-crop sire Sky Mesa  who stands at Three Chimneys and who had great success at both the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July and Saratoga auctions. "They're well-bred and were classy racehorses. Each of them had enough 'oomph' on their own on the racetrack. Empire Maker was such an incredibly well-bred son of Unbridled; one of the last Unbridleds. Mineshaft is by A.P. Indy and has that whole first-class pedigree. They are from the strongest sires...Vindication is by Seattle Slew and Sky Mesa is by Pulpit. There isn't one that seems to have a weak point of view."

Classic-winning Empire Maker , who won the 2003 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), had 19 yearlings sell during the first two days for an average of $440,789 off a $100,000 stud fee. On day two, he had a million-dollar yearling colt, out of Top Rung, sell to Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell. Consigned by Three Chimneys Sales, agent, the bay colt went for $1.45 million.

It wasn't just the new kids on the block that had all of the success during Keeneland's two-day barnburner. In all, 30 yearlings brought at least a million dollars, and 14 different sires were represented, showing the depth of the market.

Of course, Storm Cat led the way with 10, or a third of the total. A.P. Indy had a pair, as did Vindication, Kingmambo, Unbridled's Song, Seeking the Gold, Giant's Causeway , and Danzig.

There was one each for Mr. Greeley, Fusaichi Pegasus , Distorted Humor , Dynaformer, Empire Maker , and Mineshaft .

Rising stars Distorted Humor  and Elusive Quality had great showings. Now both sires stand for six figures but in the year of conception, 2004, both stood for $50,000. Distorted Humor 's 18 yearlings averaged $433,611 and Elusive Quality's average was $341,364 for 11 sold yearlings.

One of Elusive Quality's yearlings was a $300,000 colt out of stakes winner A. O. L. Hayes sold to Mike Ryan, agent. The yearling was bred by Edward Evans.

"It's a calculated risk that everybody takes with a young stallion or a stallion that is on the rise," said Chris Baker, farm manager of Evans' Springhill Farm in Virginia. They bred to Elusive Quality while his first crop had barely turned three. "Elusive Quality was $50,000, then went to $100,000 the next year. He impressed us with what those 2-year-olds did and the quality runners he had. That's what made us bullish on him, and that was before Smarty Jones  took off.

"It's nice when it works that way, but it doesn't always work that way," he said. "Of the group out there now, Vindication's foals, in the physical, have been impressive to me."

In total, Storm Cat yearlings sold for $29,675,000, or 16.2% of the select portion's entire gross of $182,860,000.

Responsible for buying 12 of the 30 million-dollar yearlings was Ferguson. Remarkably enough, of the $56,885,000 that he spent on Sheikh Mohammed's behalf, and along with the $15,075,000 spent by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Estate (39.4% of the sale's gross), not one dollar was spent on a yearling sired by a sire that stands at Coolmore Stud or Coolmore's Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky.

Bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne, who buys for the Coolmore team, was the sale's fourth leading buyer, spending $8,825,000 for eight yearlings.