Keeneland's September yearling sale broke out of the starting gate running hard. Nearly every key business figure sprinted ahead of last year's pace on Sept. 8 during the first of the auction's two select sessions.The gross revenue and average price rose 20.1% and 41.1%, respectively, while the median price increased 32.4%. The number of horses sold for $1 million advanced from six last year to 10 this year.Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, said the cancellation of the July yearling sale contributed to the upswings, pushing more quality horses into the September market."People were very keen to get in the game early today, and they were happy with what they saw," he said. "I still think it's a very selective market, but the ones they liked certainly went through the roof. All the signs were positive."Additional details of the financial trends were as follows:
--The number sold fell 14.9%, from 195 last year to 166 this year.
--Gross revenue increased from $50,431,000 to $60,555,000.
--The average soared from $258,621 to $364,789.
--The median rose from $170,000 to $225,000.
--The buy back rate increased from 28.3% to 29.7%."It's been fabulous," said Catherine Parke of Valkyre Stud. "There is a tremendous depth to the market for a good horse-a filly or a colt."A Danzig colt out of the champion Queena (by Mr. Prospector) brought the top price of $3.6 million. Irish agent Demi O'Byrne purchased the handsome bay for Coolmore Stud managing partner John Magnier and Michael Tabor.The colt is a full brother to Brahms, who captured the Early Times Hollywood Derby (gr. IT), River City Handicap (gr. IIIT), and Seattle Slew Stakes (at Keeneland) in 2000 while racing for a partnership headed by Eaton Sales' Tom VanMeter. The partnership purchased Brahms privately after he placed in two group I events in England and a group III event in Ireland while racing for Magnier's wife, Sue, and Tabor. Brahms was a 1998 graduate of the Keeneland July yearling sale, where John T. L. Jones III bought him for $1 million."This horse is a better-looking colt than Brahms. He's bigger and scopier," O'Byrne said.Helen Alexander of Kentucky-based Middlebrook Farm consigned the colt as agent for her sister, Emory Hamilton of Texas. The session topper's 2-year-old half-sister, La Reina (by A.P. Indy), broke her maiden by five lengths at Belmont Park two days before the Keeneland September sale started. Bred and owned by Hamilton, La Reina is trained by Shug McGaughey."I don't think you ever expect that kind of money; I'm happy," Alexander said.O'Byrne was the session's biggest spender, paying $10,550,000 for nine head. His purchases also included Unbridled Evil, the highest-priced filly at $2.4 million. From the last crop of Unbridled, who was euthanized in 2001, the bay filly is a half-sister to 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick (by Phone Trick) and stakes winner Cold n Calculating (by It's Freezing). Their dam is the stakes- winning Evil Elaine (by Medieval Man)."She looks very sound, very racy, and mature. She should be a good 2-year- old," said O'Byrne, adding that he had to pay "a little more" for her than he had planned.Frank and Jane Lyon's Summer Wind Farm near Georgetown, Ky., bred Unbridled Evil, who was consigned by William S. Farish's Lane's End, agent.The session's second-highest-priced horse was an Unbridled colt out of the champion Serena's Song (by Rahy). Pharmaceutical executive Eugene Melnyk bought him for $2.8 million from Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud, agent. Melnyk was represented at the sale by veterinarian Robert McMartin and Phil Hronec, manager of Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Florida. The immediate underbidder was Graham Beck, the South African who owns Gainesway Farm near Lexington.Bred by Robert and Beverly Lewis of California, the colt is a half-brother to English group I winner Sophisticat (by Storm Cat) and stakes winner Serena's Tune (by Mr. Prospector). He also is a half-brother to Grand Reward (by Storm Cat), who finished second in this year's Scottish Equitable Gimcrack Stakes (Eng-II).Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai attended the September sale for the first time since it was disrupted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. His bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, purchased three horses for $3.4 million, and his Darley Stud Management bought four horses for $1,385,000. Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Estate Co. paid $2.76 million for seven yearlings, and Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's Gainsborough Stud Management was also active."Our buyers could be summed up by the buyer of Hip No. 1, Old Friends," Russell said. "We had our traditional, professional yearling buyers at the top end."The auction was scheduled to continue through Sept. 20.Live hip-by-hip results from bloodhorse.com, Keeneland