Three Chimneys Farm's champion Will Take Charge led the ranks of first-crop yearling sires during the Keeneland September yearling sale's third session Sept. 13, bolstered by a $975,000 colt that was the fourth-highest price of the day.
Chris Baker, Three Chimneys' chief operating officer, said enthusiasm for the colt bought by Willis Horton, who campaigned Will Take Charge, began building the day he foaled.
"I heard about him the day after he was born, and I kept hearing about him," Baker said. "His price exceeded everyone's expectations, but we were not surprised he was the stallion's top seller."
Will Take Charge's first foals got off to a fast start last year, generating the only six-figure weanling average for his sire class. He had 18 sell for an average of $128,444.
At the end of Keeneland September's third session, Will Take Charge was represented by five yearlings sold for an average of $272,000—the 12th highest average among all sires represented at this session.
"They are straightforward horses mentally with a lot of quality about them," said Grant Williamson, Three Chimneys' director of stallion nominations and sales. "They generally are very athletic horses that have good walks to them and are mentally very good. Even the horses that sold for $130,000-$150,000—some fillies that may have sold a book early—were still athletic horses that will continue to improve as 2-year-olds."
Despite Will Take Charge's strong session, the son of Unbridled's Song has tough competition for the title of first-crop yearling market leader.
The strongest challenger is Airdrie Stud's multiple graded stakes winner Cairo Prince , a son of Pioneerof the Nile . For the three Keeneland September sessions combined, Cairo Prince has the edge with a $359,000 average from five sold. His top seller to date went to Shadwell Estate for $900,000 during the sale's second session.
"We knew we had a beautiful horse and all the right people looking at him," said Airdrie's Bret Jones. "At that point you are at the mercy of the market. Thankfully the right two or three people hooked up. We are happy the horse went to Shadwell and should be trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who knows (Cairo Prince) better than anyone. It was the perfect scenario."
Jones said the size, athleticism, and good minds of the Cairo Prince yearlings are why they wind up on most buyers' short lists. Now, he said, all they need to do is run.
"He has the numbers. He's been booked full all three years—the quality is there. You see how his horses are selling, and they are getting into the best hands possible, so now it is on Cairo Prince. He's run out of excuses," he said.
The third-leading, American-based first-crop yearling sire by cumulative average from two or more sold is Lane's End Farm's Noble Mission , a multiple grade 1 winner and full brother to undefeated European champion Frankel. Noble Mission has had four sell to date for an average of $168,750.
"We have been very happy with how they've been received," said Bill Farish with Lane's End. "His yearlings are well made with nice size. They have good balance and good walks. While there is no doubt he is a turf sire. That doesn't seem to deter anyone. The breeders have been savvy, and he's gotten a good mix of turf and dirt mares."
Noble Mission was represented by two $200,000 colts during the third session. One colt, out of the stakes-producing Vindication daughter Seal of Approval, was bought by J.S. Company. The other was out of the stakes-placed Dynaformer mare Sharbat and acquired by Godolphin.
Noble Mission, who was bred and raced by Juddmonte Farms, will get every opportunity to succeed as a freshman sire. Juddmonte retained a quarter-interest in the sire when the stud deal was struck with Lane's End, and Juddmonte has supported him by breeding about a dozen of its mares in his first crop. Those yearlings won't be sold. They will all be raced by Juddmonte, who also bred, raced, and now stands Frankel.
"Because we have Frankel in England, this made a lot of sense to get someone else involved (with Noble Mission) and use some of our U.S. mares with him," said Garrett O'Rourke, manager of Juddmonte Farms in Central Kentucky. "So far we are very happy with the results. Teddy Grimthorpe, our racing manager, was pleasantly impressed with the yearlings we have here."
Noble Mission's progeny will have their work cut out for them, as Frankel's runners have set the bar awfully high. This year alone Frankel has had 13 black-type stakes winners and is tracking at 7% stakes winners from foals from two crops to race.
"He doesn't have to be Frankel, but he is a full brother and if he can approximate what Frankel is doing at the moment, then there is huge upside to breeding to him," O'Rourke said.
"He is very good-looking horse—a sound and honest horse," O'Rourke continued. "If there is one thing exciting about having him over here, (it) is injecting a little bit of American speed. We haven't had the injection of the top-class European horses we had with the Sir Ivors, Nijinskys, Blushing Grooms, Irish Rivers, and Caros were coming over. They weren't any better bred than what he is, so why wouldn't he be another one?"