Two subplots running through the Keeneland September yearling sale have been a broader acceptance of turf-rich pedigrees and greater participation by European buyers than has been seen in recent history.
Woven into both storylines is the market's solid reception of the first yearlings by Coolmore Stud's multiple group 1 winner Australia. The classic-winning son of Galileo—Ouija Board, by Cape Cross, is the leading first-crop yearling sire by average (minimum three sold) with five progeny averaging $218,000 and generating a $175,000 median. He is the 13th-leading sire by average for the sale overall through Book 4.
Godolphin bought the two highest-priced Australia yearlings, a $490,000 colt that is the first foal out of the Zamindar mare Fly Past; and a $300,000 colt out of the stakes-placed Giant's Causeway daughter Magical Steps.
William Shively's Dixiana Farms bred the top-seller out of Fly Past, a mare that Dixiana acquired privately through Four Star Sales when she was bought back for $290,000 in foal to Australia at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
"Dixiana has always been a great supporter of turf individuals and turf pedigrees so it was great for them," said Tony Lacy, bloodstock and sales consultant for Four Star Sales. "John Gosden loved the horse. Paul Shanahan and the whole Coolmore crew loved the horse. The colt was an average size and very balanced with an amazing walk. That is what grabbed everyone's imagination who saw him. He was really, really beautiful. His athleticism sold him."
Lacy, who is also the North American representative for the Arqana sales company, was not surprised the Australia yearlings sold as well as they did.
"When the Europeans come over here, they are interested in pedigrees they are familiar with, so Fly Past is a British-bred mare and the entire family is European," he said. "A colt by a European horse out of a European family that is so well received here is great for the Keeneland market and shows the diversity of what we can sell. We still have European agents walking around and we're into Book 5. That says something."
Lacy also noted the addition of mares like Fly Past to American broodmare bands will help revitalize the gene pool here.
"The European pedigrees are what drove the market many years ago and the Europeans did very well with those horses," Lacy said. "Now the amount of interest from Europe is up along with a lot buyers from Korea and Japan walking around. I think we are hitting a sweet spot."
Reiley McDonald with Eaton Sales, which sold the second-highest-priced Australia yearling, also said he was confident his colt would get plenty of attention.
"I think our horses have been running so well in Europe the last two to three years that we had a much broader base of buyers from Europe than we have had in quite awhile, particularly with the success of Scat Daddy," McDonald said. "I had no qualms about bringing that type here. He was a beautifully balanced horse, very clean on X-rays, he had a great walk, and he sold well.
"We don't need a turf showcase in September for these types of horses," he continued. "We already had a turf sale—it's called Keeneland September."
Lacy thought enough of the Australia yearlings that he bought the sire's last colt offered for $25,000 out of Michael Byrne's Book 4 consignment. The colt has an amazingly deep pedigree than might otherwise be expected for the price. He is the ninth foal out of group 1 winner Virginia Waters (by Kingmambo), who already has produced black-type winner Emperor Claudius and stakes-producing daughter Where. Agent Steve Young bought Where for €600,000 ($822,300) at the 2013 Arqana December breeding stock sale in foal to Galileo. The foal she was carrying was Rain Goddess, a group 3 winner and multiple group 1 placed. The 3-year-old filly finished third Sept. 10 in the group 2 Moyglare Jewels Blandford Stakes at the Curragh.
"This colt has a big pedigree and everything out of the mare has sold extremely well, but it is a family that is not respected in this segment of the sale," said Lacy, who bought the colt on behalf of Scottish trainer Keith Dalgleish. "I love picking up these kinds of horses for clients. If you do your homework, it can pay dividends. That is what is so great about the Keeneland market is that it is big and there is something for everyone. You keep your eyes open and don't be snobbish about where horses are because there are opportunities everywhere."