Gone West filly, topped Tuesday's Keeneland sale session.

Gone West filly, topped Tuesday's Keeneland sale session.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Gone West Filly Brings $3.8 Million; Keeneland Numbers Soar

By Ron Mitchell and Deirdre Biles
Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, attending his first American auction since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, outbid American-based Jayeff B Stables to acquire a Gone West filly for $3.8 million to top the Tuesday session of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

The filly, produced from the Hero's Honor mare Touch of Greatness, was consigned by Robert Clay's Three Chimneys Sales. The filly is a full sister to stakes winners Rossini and Elusive Quality, who is also off to a good start as a stallion.

"She was a very nice looking filly and very well bred," Sheikh Mohammed said, noting that the success of Elusive Quality was a factor. "But she looked good as an individual, even without (the success of) Elusive Quality. She was scopey, a very nice filly."

"I thought she was a splendidly athletic filly with a great pedigree," said Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson. "As you know, Elusive Quality has had a fast start at stud. It's an outstanding family. Sheikh Mohammed is a seriously good horseman and he thought she was outstanding. We had pretty good idea she would make that kind of money."

Jayeff B Stables, a partnership of Richard Santulli and George Prussin, were co-breeders of the top-priced filly. Agent Reynolds Bell Jr. represented Jayeff B in the bidding.

Sheikh Mohammed was by far the sale's leading buyer, as he has been for the previous four Keeneland September yearling sales. Ferguson bought 19 yearlings for a total of $19,025,000.

From start to finish, the two selected sessions of the fall sale on Monday and Tuesday showed that there is strong demand for well-bred, well-conformed yearlings. The fall sale included some horses that otherwise would have been sold during Keeneland's July yearling sale, which was cancelled due to the effects of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome on the 2002 foal crop.

For the two days, a total of 339 horses were sold for $131,250,000, a 30.5% increase over the $100,576,000 gross last year. The cumulative two-day average price of $387,168 reflected a gain of 45.1% and the median was up 35.3% to $230,000. The 136 horses that did not attain their reserve prices represented 28.6% of those through the ring, compared with a 29.1% RNA rate in 2002.

Keeneland officials were obviously pleased with the outcome of the selected sessions and were optimistic about the rest of the sale that goes through Sept. 20.

"We're unbelievably happy; we're ecstatic," said Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell. "This surpassed our wildest expectations. To be up 30% is surreal."

Russell attributed the success of the sale to several factors, including a conclusion that the 2002 foal crop is better than some recent crops and the presence of some yearlings that otherwise would have sold in July. He said the presence of principal buyers, rather than relying upon their agents, also played a role.

"We think it is a better crop physically," Russell said. "There are several pedigrees that normally would not be here. People were ready to spend money. They had a feel-good attitude. The principals (buyers) being here brings on spirited bidding. They have a budget, but they overcome their budget when they are here. That is the magic of the auction."

Russell said Keeneland officials hope the success over the past two days carries over to the rest of the sale. "We hope that since it started so strong a rollover effect will happen."

Despite the early success of the September sale, Russell said Keeneland plans to have a July sale next year. Opening the possibility for a change in those plans, however, Russell noted that if asked at this time last year he would have said there was going to be a summer sale this year. And there wasn't.

With 17 horses bringing final bids in excess of seven figures (Tuesday's Top Prices), the Tuesday session saw 173 horses sell for a gross of $70,695,000, compared with 182 head bringing $50,145,000 in 2002. The session average price of $408,642 represented a gain of 48.3% over the $275,522 average in 2002. The session median of $240,000 was up 37.1% over the 2002 session median of $175,000.

Tuesday's second-highest price of $2.6-million was paid by Irish agent Demi O'Byrne for Storm Cat colt whose fourth dam is a half-sister to Northern Dancer.

Consigned by Matagorda Farm, the colt was produced from the French One Thousand Guineas (Fr-I) winner Bluemamba (by Kingmambo).

O'Byrne said the colt was bought for the Coolmore Stud interests of John Magnier and Michael Tabor. Considering the strength of his pedigree, O'Byrne said the colt had future stallion potential. "He is a very good mover; a very nice horse," said O'Byrne, noting the colt will be sent to Europe to race.

Agent Mark Reid paid $1,850,000 for an A.P. Indy colt produced from the stakes-placed Danzig Connection mare Adoradancer. The colt was consigned by Lane's End.

As he did after buying horses at the July Fasig-Tipton yearling sale, Reid said he was bidding on behalf of a new client who is experienced in the horse business. Reid said he liked the A.P. Indy colt because he was "rangy and athletic looking" and fits his client's goal of buying horses with Kentucky Derby-winning potential.

Despite their earlier pledge not to purchase any yearlings this year, California owners Bob and Beverly Lewis were among the active buyers Tuesday.

Lewis said he and his wife, who previously had said they would not be buying yearlings this year, had a change of mind for several reasons. Lewis said he and Beverly were at the Keeneland sale primarily because they are selling horses. "I told Beverly that with all the factors -- the favorable tax considerations and that there was no Keeneland July sale this year -- maybe we should go back to buy. I did a pretty good job in not coming back to buy (at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale) in July."

Lane's End was the leading consignor during the two select sessions, with 40 horses sold for a total of $25,595,000.(Leading Consignors List)

O'Byrne was second-leading buyer, with 12 head bought for $15,525,000. (Leading Buyers List)

Lane's End stallion A.P. Indy was leading sire, with 24 of his yearlings bringing $13,225,000.(Leading Sires List)

Live hip-by-hip results from bloodhorse.com, Keeneland