Business wasn’t as brisk the second evening of the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington as it was on opening night. There was one horse that brought a seven-figure price Sept. 12 compared to two in the first session. But the select portion of the auction still managed to finish with small increases in its key business figures from a year ago.
The gross for the two sessions combined rose 2.9% to $45,600,000. The average price grew 1.3% to $353,488. And the median advanced 5.3% to $300,000, which equaled the record for the select sessions, which have been part of the September sale since 1989. The $300,000 level had been reached previously in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
In addition, the number of horses that were sold rose from the select sessions' all-time low of 127 in 2010 to 129. The buy-back rate increased a smidge, from 31.4% to 32.5%.
“With all the things going on in the world, the fact that this market is as consistent as last year’s with a slight upward tick is very positive for the industry,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We felt last year the sale gave stability to the Thoroughbred industry and I think the industry has built off of it since last September. And we’re continuing to build off of it now.”
The results for the second and final select session included a gross of $20,340,000 for the 62 yearlings that were sold. The average was $328,065 and the median was $300,000. Compared to 2010, when 58 horses were sold, the gross was exactly the same. The average price declined 6.5% while the median dropped 4%.
The buy-back rate fell to 32.6% from 37% last year.
A strapping Unbridled's Song filly topped the second select session and became the most expensive filly sold so far during the September auction when she brought $1 million. Mandy Pope of Florida-based Whisper Hill Farm purchased the gray or roan yearling for $1 million.
“We had her pegged there; we were expecting her to bring that,” said Pope of the filly’s price. “Physically, she is very well balanced. She’s a little immature, but she’s a May foal, so she is going to grow. She has the correct length of body to go with her legs. She’s very elegant and very classy.
“Her attitude was wonderful,” Pope added. “Nothing fazed her. She just was a nice horse to be around. Watching her going in and out (of her stall), she never gave anyone any problems. Of course, her pedigree is wonderful. If she can run like her half brothers did, she’ll be a very lovely horse, and she has a home for the rest of her life. We’ll race her and then breed her.”
Pope has 25 mares and the filly’s future potential as a producer, the Whisper Hill owner said, “was a pretty big factor for me. I’m more inclined to spend that kind of money on a filly because I know if something does go wrong with her racing career she’ll be a wonderful broodmare. I’ll still have a very classy horse with a bright future ahead of her.”
Produced from the 17-year-old unraced Silver Deputy mare Silvery Swan, the filly is a half sister to 2000 Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) winner El Corredor (by Mr. Greeley), 2005 Haskell Invitational Handicap (gr. I) winner Roman Ruler (by Fusaichi Pegasus ), and 2001 Reeve Schley, Jr. Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Silver Tornado (by Maria's Mon).
“She’s lovely,” Pope said. “I’ve never spent anywhere near this kind of money on a horse before, but I just fell in love with her. And I have a thing about grays anyway. I bought an Unbridled’s Song filly last night for $400,000 that also is a gray. I love gray horses, so that helped (in the decision to buy), too.”
John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale operation, Betz Thoroughbreds, Phil Needham, and Rob Whiteley’s Liberation Farm bred the $1 million filly in Kentucky. Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned her to the September auction.
“I think the most obvious attraction is her pedigree, the fact that her dam has produced two grade I winners,” said Sikura of the filly. “As far as the physical horse, she was a May foal, but very leggy, and she looked like a filly that was going to develop into a really special, good horse.”
The filly could be the last foal out of Silvery Swan, according to Sikura, because the mare has physical problems and might not be bred again.
Hill ‘n’ Dale consigned and Hill ‘n’ Dale was the co-breeder of an A.P. Indy – Malka colt that brought $1.4 million to top the September sale’s first session and was the highest-priced horse sold during the select sessions.
The second session’s most expensive colt and second-highest-priced yearling was a son of Street Cry out of grade I winner Balance (by Thunder Gulch), who is a half sister to 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta (by Street Cry).
John McCormack purchased robust chestnut yearling. The Irish bloodstock agent revealed afterward that the colt would be sent to Japan, but declined to identify who would be his new owner.
“The horse (out of Balance) last year was very good,” McCormack said. “This horse perhaps was a stronger version that probably will take a bit of time, but he was a good-moving horse, a very athletic horse.”
Balance’s first foal, a son of A.P. Indy named Mr. Besilu, brought $4.2 million to top the 2010 September sale. Jerry Amerman, the wife of former Mattel chairman and CEO John Amerman, bred both of Balance’s colts and Mill Ridge Sales consigned them. The Amermans are members of the partnership that purchased the $1.4 million A.P. Indy – Malka colt
The biggest spender during the September sale’s select sessions was Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai, buying in the name of Shadwell Estate Co. He paid $5,180,000 for 13 yearlings. Benjamin Leon Jr.’s Besilu Stables ranked second, spending $4,575,000 for seven head.
Rounding out the top five were Demi O’Byrne, who paid $2,375,000 for four horses; Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, who spent $2,030,000 for six yearlings; and Japanese horseman Nobutaka Tada, who paid $1,910,000 for five head.
The Keeneland auction continues through Sept. 24, with a day off from selling Sept. 16.