Scenics, 2017 Keeneland November Sale

Scenics, 2017 Keeneland November Sale

Keeneland Photo

Oppenheim: First-Crop Sires Bring November Intrigue

In My Opinion

Through the first five days of the Kentucky November sales—Fasig-Tipton November and Keeneland Books 1 and 2—exactly 1,400 horses were cataloged, 203 at Fasig-Tipton Nov. 6 (14.5%), and 1,197 at Keeneland 1-2 (85.5%), which ended Nov. 10.

Revenues for the first five days totaled $218,297,000, and the extent to which Fasig-Tipton is punching above its weight for this sale is illustrated by their grossing $74,200,000, which was a $20 million gain over last year and 34% of the five-day total. Keeneland, on the other hand, was down $11.7 million from last year. The combined sales were up only about $8 million, or 4%, from last year, and pretty clearly most of the difference was Songbird ($9.5 million) and Tepin ($8 million) selling at Fasig-Tipton, and adding $17.5 million to the gross between them.

There's nothing more interesting and intriguing to breeders than seeing how the first crops of the respective sire groups sell when they come up for auction. Admittedly the pricier sires have bigger representation in the first five days, whereas sires standing for $15,000 and under tend to feature more in the "back books." No fewer than 12 sires with their first foals in 2017 (I designate them as F2017) with three or more sold in the first five days figured among the top 50 sires by weanling average, and four of the top six by average are $7,500-$15,000 sires, which had three or four each sell. Their averages will inevitably tumble, as they have far more representatives later in the sale. Nonetheless the fact that top-rung youngsters by these sires commanded averages around the $160,000 mark shows right off the bat they are capable of throwing really nice individuals.

Much like Frankel when his first foals came on the market in 2014, Ashford's 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah  dominated proceedings among first-crop weanling sires. In a market where 55.4% of all horses cataloged were sold, and 47.2% of weanlings cataloged were sold, American Pharoah suffered a spate of withdrawals, with more than half (14 of 27) of those originally cataloged withdrawn before going through the ring. Ten of the 13 offered did sell (37% of those cataloged), and they averaged $445,500, behind only Gainesway's three-time champion sire Tapit  (three sold, $616,667 average, from nine cataloged) by weanling average for all sires with three or more weanlings sold. Hill 'n' Dale's Curlin  (five sold, $419,000 average from six cataloged) and Darley's Medaglia d'Oro  (four sold, $412,500 average, from six cataloged) also averaged over $400,000.

Lane's End's Honor Code  was a clear second by average among first-crop weanling sires, with eight sold from 15 cataloged (53.3%) for an average of $199,375. The judges liked them. Then came this group of four sires, which stand for $7,500-$15,000 with three or four sold each: Darby Dan's Tapiture  (2016 stud fee: $7,500), who had three sell from four cataloged for a $166,667 average, including a $300,000 colt Nov. 9 (Book 2, Day 1); Hill 'n' Dale's Bayern  ($15,000), who had four sell from seven cataloged, for an average of $163,750; Gainesway's Karakontie  ($15,000), who had three sell from three cataloged for an average of $163,333, including a $250,000 colt bought by the Niarchos Family's Flaxman Holdings, which I was assured is for racing, not pinhooking; and Airdrie's Summer Front  ($10,000), who had three sell from six cataloged for an average of $155,000. 

Six other first-crop sires with three or more sold figured among the top 50 sires by weanling average: Lane's End's Liam's Map  (10 sold/22 cataloged, average $149,500); WinStar's Carpe Diem  (8/19, average $144,375); Three Chimneys' Palace Malice  (3/9, average $121,667); Lane's End's Tonalist  (8/17, average $117,500); WinStar's Daredevil  (3/4, average $116,667); and the same farm's Constitution  (7/15, average $96,429).

Interesting and significant, too, was that of the nine first-crop sires with six or more cataloged, only 44.5% (61/137) of their weanlings cataloged were actually listed as sold, with only Bayern (57.1%) and Honor Code (53.3%) achieving a clearance rate from the catalog of over 50%. It's not like you just walk them over and they hand you the money, is it?

Five covering sires averaged more than $800,000 for in-foal mares in the first five days. War Front  had five mares sold in foal for an average of $1.3 million; Curlin averaged $1,241,667 for 15 mares cataloged in foal, including Tepin for $8 million; Medaglia d'Oro had ten in-foal mares average $941,000; Tapit had three average $895,000; and WinStar's Pioneerof the Nile  had seven mares in foal average $817,143.

Among sires who covered their first mares this year and will have their first foals in 2018 (I designate them as F2018 sires), five had first-five-days in-foal averages over $175,000. Darley had the one-two finishers. Nyquist  led the way, with nine mares in foal averaging $308,889, while Frosted  was second, with 12 mares averaging $245,000. Claiborne's Runhappy  had eight mares in foal average $238,125, and two Taylor Made sires with three in-foal mares each were California Chrome  ($183,333) and Not This Time  ($178,333).

To read all Bill Oppenheim's columns and the Weekly Sales Tickers, including details of the first five days, please visit