The pace of the 2006 Keeneland September yearling remained brisk Tuesday with the buying power of Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai leading the way. A new September sale record price of $11.7 million was established along with an all-time high for a session average.The ruler of Dubai and his chief bloodstock adviser, John Ferguson, outlasted their Irish-based Coolmore rivals to purchase the second-highest priced yearling in Keeneland history when Sheikh Mohammed made the final bid of $11.7 million for a son of Kingmambo out of the Seattle Slew mare Crown of Crimson from the consignment of Lyn Burleson's Burleson Farms. Fueled by the determination and deep pockets of Sheikh Mohammed--who spent $27,225,000 for nine head on the second day of the 14-day sale--a total of 161 horses brought $94,960,000, a decline of 3.6% from last year's gross of $98,502,000 when 184 horses were sold (12.5% more than in 2006). The average increased 10.2% to $589,814 from 2005's figure of $535,337 to establish a new record session average. The median was $300,000, up 10.1% over last year's median of $272,500. A total of 49 horses (23.3%) failed to find new homes. Last year, 61 horses (24.9%) failed to meet their reserves."The select market is alive and well," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland director of sales. "The upper echelon is obviously very strong, and the top two buyers go at it at a higher level."Russell continued, "A strong first two sessions always bodes well for the next two sessions. I know some buyers who have said they haven't been able to raise their hands to bid yet." Fourteen horses sold for seven figures during session two, bringing the number of million-dollar yearlings to 30. Last year, through the first two sessions, 39 horses sold for $1 million or higher.For the first two days, 324 horses--compared to 372 last year--have sold for $182,860,000, a decline of 2.3% from last year's gross of $187,214,000. The average increased 12.1% from $503,263 to $564,383. The two-day median increased 5.3% to $300,000, compared to $285,000 in 2005. The cumulative RNA rate was 25.7%, with 112 horses failing to find new homes. Last year, through the first two sessions, 122 horses had failed to sell.During the first two days of the auction, Sheikh Mohammed and Ferguson spent $56,885,000 for 25 head - representing 31.1% of the total gross receipts.The bidding for the session-topping colt, who was bred in Kentucky by Jayeff B Stables, was fierce with Team Dubai and Team Coolmore taking their regular spots behind the sale ring, with Ferguson bidding while leaning on the rail of the left chute leading into the sale ring. Sheikh Mohammed, with his wife, Princess Haya, was standing just behind him. About 10 yards behind them was the Coolmore group, their main representative, as usual, Demi O'Byrne. The bidding had been going in increments of $200,000 or $300,000 when O'Byrne jumped from $10 million to $10.5 million.
Ferguson bid $10.7 million and O'Byrne nodded at $11 million. Ferguson came right back at $11.2 million, O'Byrne went to $11.5 million, and Ferguson then made the final bid of $11.7 million.
The $11.7 million price tag made the colt the second most expensive yearling ever to sell at Keeneland. The highest price ever for a yearling was $13.1 million for a half-brother to Seattle Slew by Nijinsky II sold at the 1985 Keeneland summer sale. That auction, held in July, is no longer conducted. The flashy son of Kingmambo became the highest-priced yearling ever sold in September, passing the $9.7 million Storm Cat colt sold last year and also bought by Ferguson for Sheikh Mohammed. "I knew he was a nice horse but never knew anything like this would happen," Burleson said. "It's an indescribable feeling. "He has always been a nice horse, and he vetted very well." Burleson said Crown of Crimson was purchased privately off the racetrack and bloodstock agent Reynolds Bell Jr., adviser to Jayeff B, selected the mating. Crown of Crimson died after foaling a Storm Cat colt this year. The colt survived.Burleson formerly worked for Lakland, going out on his own this year."Sheikh Mohammed always knew he was going to be the number one horse in the sale," Ferguson said. The colt's full brother, Ashaawes, was purchased for $2,850,000 by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell at the 2004 September sale.Earlier in the day, Ferguson again outbid the Coolmore group for a colt from Danzig's last crop hammered down for $9.2 million. The Danzig colt was bred and sold by Gary Knapp's Monticule and is out of the Deputy Minister mare Sharp Minister."I thought he would sell exceptionally well. We showed him about 120 times. All the people who buy really fine horses were looking at him," Knapp said. "Once you get to a certain point and see the two people who really want the horse, you know it is going to realize a nice price. You just get really lucky. I had a price in mind, but this far exceeded it," Knapp said. "(The colt) has an absolute magnificent physical frame and has the heart to move that frame." Knapp still owns Sharp Minister, who produced a Fusaichi Pegasus colt this year and is in foal to Elusive Quality. He purchased the mare at the 2000 Keeneland November sale for $220,000 in foal to Joyeux Dancer.Despite being shut out on the top two prices of the day, the Coolmore team did manage to score when they purchased a son of Danzig for $5.2 million from the consignment of Shack Parrish's Indian Creek.The colt was bred in Kentucky by Bjorn Nielsen, who is from Connecticut. The mare was in England, where she had been barren for two straight years. She was shipped to the United States, and Neilsen purchased a no-guarantee season to Danzig. "He has always been a nice colt," Parrish said. "This is another score for the little guy."The sale continues Wednesday, with the session beginning at 10 a.m.Leading Sires: Session Two