Topped by an Uncle Mo colt sold for $750,000, the Keeneland September yearling sale continued on a robust note Sept. 17 in terms of average prices and median.
Keeneland reported 224 horses changed hands on the day for gross receipts of $30,383,000, down 5.3% compared with the same session last year. The $135,638 average rose 12.8% from the comparable 2015 session when 267 averaged $120,206 from $32,095,000. The session median of $100,000 was unchanged and the session RNA rate was 34.7% as 119 went unsold.
Through Books 1 and 2, there have been 812 horses reported sold for $189,506,000, down 7.5% from the same point a year ag, when 968 had changed hands for $204,918,000. The cumulative average price of $233,382 is 10.2% over the $211,692 figure of 2015; median is up 13.3% to $170,000. The cumulative RNA rate is 31.8%.
The session mirrored other Thoroughbred auctions the past couple of years in which there was stiff competition for the yearlings perceived to be the best and lesser demand for horses with weaker pedigrees, conformation flaws, and defects in radiographs on file in the sale repository.
Taylor Made Sales Agency was leading consignor for the session, with 28 horses bringing $3,409,000 and leads all consignors after five sessions with 115 sold for $25,043,000.
Spendthrift Farm purchased six head for $1,635,000 to lead that category; the leading buyer for the entire sale so far is Shadwell Estate Company, with 15 bought for $10,750,000.
“I thought we had brisk and active trade all the way through,” Keeneland director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said. “It’s the old adage that quality sells. The strength in the $400,000-$750,000 level was very good today."
“The market is holding it’s own and I think it is better than expected,” said Gabriel Duignan, a partner in Paramount Sales Agency. “There was a lot of pessimism coming in.”
“It’s really tough under $50,000, but if they’re on them, they’re really on them,” said Paramount’s Pat Costello.
“I’ve never had as much trouble buying the kind of horses I want in Book 2,” said buyer Pete Bradley.
The session-topper, produced from stakes-placed Victory Gallop mare Magical Victory, was consigned by Columbiana Farm on behalf of breeder Bo Hirsch. Miss Houdini, the colt’s second dam, also produced Papa Clem, the 2009 Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner, and is granddam of stakes winner Ready Intaglio. Third dam is the grade I winner Magical Maiden.
"He's a really nice colt,” said Lane’s End’s Bill Farish. “We knew he was going to be one of the feature lots of the day, and we went a little further than we wanted to, but we got him.
"It's just so competitive for these ones that everybody's on. The sire's obviously doing great. He's a Book 1 sire, and you just expect you're going to have to pay up for ones like him.”
Breeder Hirsch, who owns eight broodmares, said he usually breeds to race but sold the colt to generate profit for his breeding operation. Kathy Berkey, who advises Hirsch and works wioth Columbiana, said the colt went well beyond his reserve price of $150,000.
Berkey said the colt likely could have been offered during the sale’s Book 1 sessions, but the connections opted for Book 2 so he would stand out and because they had another selling Saturday.
Second-highest price on the day was the $650,000 winning bid from Dickman Legacy Ranch for a Ghostzapper colt from the family of grade I winner The Cliff's Edge.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert signed the ticket on behalf of Dickman Legacy Ranch.
"He's a big, strong colt, but I didn't think he would bring that much," said Baffert, underbidder on the Uncle Mo colt. "It's been a strong sale and everyone wants the good ones. He showed himself well."
Baffert said he's had good luck with Ghostzapper progeny, including grade I winner Contested, but he liked this colt because "he was a different kind of Ghostzapper."
"I see a lot of Dynaformer in him," he said, referring to the colt's broodmare sire. "He looks like a big, strong, sound horse and that's what we all want. I saw him earlier in the day and just really liked him."
Bred in Kentucky by his consignor, the colt was produced from the winning mare Formal Affair, the dam of Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Rezif.
The sale continues through Sept. 25.
Eric Mitchell contributed to this story.