Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell called Tuesday’s opening session of the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training “a success.” But the auction will have to seriously improve upon its first night gross of $7,127,000 in Wednesday’s second session to equal or surpass last year’s total of $16,637,000.
The other opening night statistics were 34 horses sold, an average price of $209,618, and a median price of $165,000. The buy-back rate was 46.9%, which was very close to the sale's all-time high of 47.1% in 2007.
Keeneland officials made several changes in the auction this year. They scheduled it a week earlier. They reduced the number of under tack shows from two to one. And they changed the format from one afternoon session to two evening sessions.
“I think the new format worked very well,” Russell said. “We had a lot of people on the grounds today. Our preview day yesterday was one of the best, if not the best, attended preview that I’ve been to at any sale. I thought the atmosphere tonight was great -- very festive. There was a great crowd out here, and they got things going. The performance horses (the ones that worked the fastest) sold like gangbusters tonight, there is no mistake.”
Russell attributed the high buy-back rate to the sophistication of the buyers and the desire of consignors to protect their considerable investments.
“They’re willing to race,” Russell said of sellers. “There are other alternatives.”
Jess Jackson, still glowing from Horse of the Year Curlin’s victory in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), purchased the first session’s most expensive horse, a muscular gray Langfuhr colt, for $700,000. WinStar Farm owners Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt were the immediate underbidders on the half-brother to this year’s Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Cool Coal Man (by Mineshaft ), who is scheduled to run in Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
“His showing of early precociousness was interesting,” Jackson said, “but what I’m really interested in his long-term potential and his breeding; Langfuhr (a son of Danzig) has a lot of good blood. I think he (the colt) can be something very special. He’ll be a good addition, but it’s going to be tough to beat Curlin, though.”
The colt will go to trainer Steven Asmussen, who conditions Curlin.
“It’s a been a great year for us,” Jackson said, “so we’re celebrating by buying another one with potential.”
Produced from the winning 13-year-old Rubiano mare Coral Sea, the Langfuhr colt also is a half-brother to added-money winner Kathleens Reel (by Lemon Drop Kid ). One of the first horses to sell Tuesday night as Hip No. 7 in the sale catalog, he worked an eighth of a mile in :9 3/5, which equaled the world juvenile sale record for the distance,
Niall Brennan, as agent, consigned the colt, which was owned by a partnership headed by the Florida pinhooker and Kentucky bloodstock agent Mike Ryan. When the colt brought $135,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling auction, Florida pinhooker Murray Smith signed the sale ticket, and Brennan and Ryan were the immediate underbidders. But Brennan said that Smith asked them if they wanted the ticket because she had so many horses, and he and Ryan ended up with the colt.
“We gave $135,000 for him, so we’re very happy,” said Brennan of the colt’s Keeneland April sale price. “It’s hard to figure out the market this early in a new format and when there is no momentum to the sale. It’s very difficult to expect a whole lot; $600,000 or $700,000 is really the ceiling at a lot of these sales this year. With that being said, he was a great buy. If his half-brother continues to do well, this colt is very cheap at that price.”
Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes also was active, purchasing an Aldebarancolt for $675,000 and a Cozzene colt for $575,000.
“We’re very happy to get them both,” said Seth Semkin, Hughes’ racing manager. “They both sold very strongly, I thought. As usual, I was low on my estimates, but Mr. Hughes was very game.”
The Aldebaran colt is out of the 8-year-old winning Storm Catmare Propriety and is a full brother to the grade I-placed winner Grace Anatomy. He breezed a quarter mile in :20 2/5, sharing the fastest clocking for the distance with a Forestry– Broad Dynamite colt.
“He had a fantastic workout ,obviously,” Semkin said. “He was extraordinarily fast and very, very strong in the way he did it. He moved himself over the ground very impressively. The family helps with the full sister being as talented as she is. He was the only other horse we had on our list; we had the Cozzene (colt) and him.”
Hall-of-Fame trainer Richard Mandella, a member of Hughes’ buying team, said the Aldebaran colt was “an awesome specimen with great action and a big workout. It wasn’t just how fast he did it; it was the way he did it.”
Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables, as agent, consigned the colt. Timbertown Stables bought him for $100,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale.
Brennan, as agent, was the consignor of the Cozzene colt, which is out of the 19-year-old grade II winner Fluttery Danseur (by Wavering Monarch). He is a half-brother to the grade I-placed winner Hendrix (by Sultry Song) and to the stakes-placed winner On Gossamer Wings (by Afternoon Deelites).
“He’s a gorgeous horse,” Mandella said. “He’s a well-balanced, sturdy-looking horse from a good family. We liked him pretty good before we saw him work, and his action was so awesome that it made us kind of excited. He had a big, powerful stride, and when we went back the barn, he was laid back and calm.”
Florida pinhooker Nick de Meric, as agent, purchased the colt as a yearling for $225,000 last September at Keeneland. The juvenile breezed an eighth of a mile prior to the Keeneland April auction in :10 1/5.