Storm Cat colt, sold for $3.5 million at Keeneland's opening session.

Storm Cat colt, sold for $3.5 million at Keeneland's opening session.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Day One: Keeneland Sale Gets Quick Start Out of the Gate

The marathon Keeneland September yearling sale got a quick start out of the gate Monday with a strong session in which the gross, average, and median prices were well above figures for the comparable session one year ago.

Keeneland reported 188 horses were sold for $88,712,000, which was the second-highest single session in fall sale history and 40.4% above the $63,185,000 figure for the comparable 2004 session.

The average price soared 27% to $471,872 from the opening day last year and the $300,000 median represented an increase of 14.3% over the $262,500 median for 2004's opening session. Keeneland reported 61 yearlings, or 24.5% of the total through the ring, did not achieve their reserves.

With a fall sale session record of 21 yearlings bringing final bids in excess of seven figures, Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said the numbers exceeded company officials' expectations. However, he noted that buyers had told Keeneland representatives the quality of the horses on offer was the best in the last five years.

Asked whether he could anticipate a similar outcome during Tuesday's second session, Russell said buyers had told him before the beginning of the sale that the better-quality horses were equally dispersed between the two sessions.

The session was highlighted by strong spending from the Maktoum family of the United Arab Emirates with John Ferguson, the agent for Sheikh Mohammed, leading all buyers with 10 horses purchased for $15,265,000.

As expected, a colt by Storm Cat produced from champion Serena's Song brought the day's top price of $3.5 million, with Ferguson signing the ticket for Sheikh Mohammed. The colt was consigned by Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud, as agent for Robert and Beverly Lewis, who campaigned Serena's Song.

The colt is a full brother to group I winner Sophisticat and grade II winner Grand Reward. He is a half-brother to Serena's Tune (by Mr. Prospector) whose daughter Serena's Cat (by Storm Cat) broke her maiden on turf Sunday in her third career start.

Ferguson said the colt was an athletic looking individual with an "exceptional pedigree."

Shortly before the Serena's Song colt went through the ring, Ferguson went to $3.4 million for an A.P. Indy colt consigned by Lane's End, agent for Stonerside Stable. Bred by Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside, the colt is out of Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) winner Sahara Gold.

"They are two lovely horses," Ferguson said. "It is just like any September sale, where if you want to buy these horses with pedigree and athleticism you have to go hard."

Ferguson said the A.P. Indy colt, a full brother to promising colt Idaho, owned by the Maktoum family, would likely remain in the U.S. to race, although the final decision on where any of the yearlings purchased by Sheikh Mohammed will eventually end up will not be made until later in the year.

Ferguson also signed the $3-million purchase ticket for a Storm Cat colt produced from the champion Strawberry Road filly Ajina. The colt, consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, was bred in Kentucky by Stonerside.

After selling the Serena's Song colt, the Lewises turned around and spent $2.7 million for a Mr. Greeley filly who is a full sister to grade I winner El Corredor and and a half to Roman Ruler. The filly was consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent for Liberation Farm and Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds. The Lewises were the second-leading buyers, taking home eight yearling for $6,535,000.

To show that the Maktoums and Lewises did not have a monopoly on the top of the market, the co-fifth- and sixth-highest prices of the session were paid by domestic interests.

Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation went to $2.7 million for a Kingmambo filly produced from the champion Strawberry Road mare Escena. Consigned by Denali, agent for Falls Creek Farm, the filly was bred in Kentucky by Guy B. and Diane Snowden.

Bringing a final bid of $1.7 million was a Storm Cat filly produced from Strawberry Reason. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent for Payson Stud and Overbrook Farm, the filly was purchased by John Kimmel, agent for Circle E Racing.

The frenetic bidding began about an hour after the start of the sale when a son of Lemon Drop Kid  became the first seven-figure offering when Gainsborough Stud went to $1.4 million to purchase the colt from the Lane's End consignment. Gainsborough is owned by Sheikh Maktoum, who was making his first visit to Kentucky since Arazi ran eighth as the favorite in the 1992 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Produced from the stakes-winning Sadler's Wells mare Myth to Reality, the half-brother to European champion Divine Proportions and top European runner Whipper was bred in Kentucky by Mr. and Mrs. Gary Middlebrook.

Not long after the Lemon Drop Kid colt broke the million-dollar mark, Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell went to $1.1 million for a Storm Cat filly consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency. Produced from the Mr. Prospector mare Onaga, the filly was bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm. Shadwell purchased seven yearlings for $4,230,000.

The sale, which runs through Sept. 26, continues Tuesday with a 10 a.m. session.

Hip-by-hip results from Keeneland