Updated 2 months ago
The 70th Keeneland September Yearling Sale opened Monday with active participation from a broad cross section of buyers, both domestic and foreign, and four yearlings selling for $1 million or more each.
During the first session, 130 yearlings sold for $34,735,000, for an average of $267,192 and a median of $200,000. Keeneland reformatted the September Sale this year, expanding Book 1 to comprise the first four sessions of the sale. As a result, there are no comparable session figures for 2012.
On Tuesday morning several consignors and buyers talked about the opening session:
Ben Glass, buyer: "The good ones will always sell high. The money's here. You're not going to steal anything at Keeneland. Everybody knows that."
Dell Hancock, Claiborne Farm, consignor: "The War Fronts sold well. Anybody could have sold him (Hip 61, who brought $1 million) he was such a nice horse, and he's by the hottest sire in the world. He's an easy sell."
Michael Hernon, Gainesway, leading consignor by gross: "I think we were very happy with the sale results. Some of the sales exceeded expectations. We bring horses here to sell that are realistically reserved. We felt very optimistic based upon the strong level of play here at the barn. We're continuing to see that. You just have to look around here Tuesday morning and we've got some major players in the house. The horses are here and our consignment continues to produce graded stakes winners. Gainesway has become the brand name now and we're optimistic about the future."
Duncan Taylor, Taylor Made Sales Agency, consignor: "I thought it was a good sale. I thought it was solid. The real good horses are bringing a lot. There seems to be quite a variety of buyers. I thought it was good."
Becky Thomas, buyer/pinhooker: "I thought it was a very solid sale. The top end of the horses -as a pinhooker - they were way out of my range. I was buying for an upper-level person, and they were still out of my range. I feel good about that. When we have a healthy market, it bodes well for our pinhooking ventures. I bought two horses from yesterday that were buybacks, and I know when I've been to the barns there's been solid trade afterward."
BEDOUIN BLOODSTOCK MAKES A SPLASH
Bedouin Bloodstock isn't the largest consignor at Keeneland's September Yearling Sale but the Central Kentucky-based operation made plenty of noise on opening day by selling the top-priced colt.
Hip 110, an Unbridled's Song colt out of the Grade 1 winning Smoke Glacken mare Irish Smoke, was purchased by Canadian Nat Rea's Regis Farms for $1.1 million. The price was the highest take for a sales horse for Bedouin Bloodstock, which Neal Clarke and Conor Doyle launched in 1998.
"Coming in we would have been happy with a bit less than that so it was a nice surprise to go quite that far," Doyle said of the price tag for the colt.
Clarke and Doyle met several years before launching Bedouin, which has steadily grown since its inception.
"We're based on Atlas Farm, out toward the village of Keene," Doyle said. "We farm on about 350 acres and probably have a population of 150 head, so it's a fairly big scale. We consign on a small level just so we can manage to do both."
During a quiet moment in Barn 27 Tuesday morning, Doyle said he was pleased with the new format of the September Sale, which extended Book 1 over a four-day period instead of consisting of a single session. The market proved to be bullish for consignors.
"I thought it was fine. It was right at the upper end," Doyle said. "The changes were fine. It means there are more people moving around and not centered in one particular area for a couple of days. It's good."
Bedouin has another horse in Book 1, a Distorted Humor filly out of Grade 1 winner Unbridled Belle that sells Wednesday.
"She's doing very well," Doyle said. "She's shown great and had a little interest and action and we think she'll sell quite well."
Despite the success of opening day, the Bedouin team wasn't quite ready to celebrate after the final hip of the day.
"I went to bed early because I had an early start this morning," Doyle said. "We'll do that after the sale when it's finished."
MOVING SALES YEARLINGS IN AND OUT NO SMALL TASK
Over the course of the two-week Keeneland September Yearling Sale, more than 3,900 yearling Thoroughbreds will cross paths at Keeneland while coming and going. Coordinating and executing these moves is no small task, and making sure each stall is ready for its new occupant is a job that Keeneland's maintenance team doesn't take lightly.
The numbers alone are staggering. The horses are housed in 46 barns on the grounds; 875 horses will leave during the first four days of the sale and 875 will replace them. That number is closer to 350 or 400 per day during the remainder of the sale. This equates to anywhere from 10 to 14 barns per day that must be turned over seamlessly.
Many people aren't aware of the logistics that go into such a performance. Those who are have difficulty fathoming how the Keeneland team achieves such a feat.
"Everyone tells us, they don't know how we do it - it doesn't work on paper," said Keeneland Director of Maintenance Jimmy Young. "Well, we don't work on paper. We don't do paperwork."
Young and his crew do the work that has to be done. This Friday and Saturday, the crew of 30 "stall throwers" and six supervisors will turn over 10 barns before noon and may put in 12 hours of manual labor per day. Assistant Director of Maintenance Walter "Wally" Wallace says the trick to being successful under such circumstances is teamwork. It's a group effort and every crew member's role is important.
"I don't know of any other crew that could go anywhere else in the world and do what we do," Young said. "Everybody has a role and everybody's a piece to the puzzle. We all work together."
Choreographing such an event begins well before the horses in Book 1 set foot in a Keeneland stall. Consignors receive a letter detailing move-in dates and times for horses selling on a given day. The crew readies the barns ahead of the horses' arrival, and the horses take up residence four days before the sale begins. Once the hammer falls, a horse must leave the grounds within 24 hours. Horses that remain on the grounds too long become a problem for the maintenance crew.
"The key is having somewhere to move the horses," Wallace said. "It's not anybody else's problem but ours to find a place for (them).
Yearlings occupying a barn scheduled to be cleaned are moved to a holding barn to await transport, leaving room for new consignors to move in and begin marketing the next group of horses.
The sale is an intense time for consignors, and in the midst of orchestrating the movement of thousands of yearlings, Wallace and Young do everything they can to keep things running smoothly. With 36 years on the job, Young has learned not to get too wrapped up in problems that arise.
"The best way to (deal with issues) is to do it in a calm, calm manner," Young said. "I just kind of grin and go on about my business. Give us time to move and everything should go smooth as silk."
SMALL CONSIGNORS PREPARE FOR TUESDAY SESSION
Among the consignments represented Tuesday at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale are Noreen O'Neill's Ann Marie Farm of Paris, Ky., and Doug and Beth Fowler's Equest Thoroughbreds of Citra, Fla.
O'Neill's late husband, Ted, an Irish-born San Francisco businessman, founded 120-acre Ann Marie in 1994 and named the farm after the couple's mothers. After Ted's death in 2010, Noreen culled the broodmare band to the farm's 10 best mares. Ann Marie's two Book 1 fillies will sell back-to-back today, and the farm has four horses cataloged later in the sale.
Hip 294, a Lemon Drop Kid filly out of Paris Notion, and Hip 295, a Tiznow filly out of Paris Rose, share a second dam and an active female family. Paris Rose, by Accelerator, is the dam of Grade 3 winner Decelerator, by Dehere, and the 2-year-old Dixie Union colt Marsoud, who was purchased by Shadwell Estate Co. for $230,000 at last year's September Sale.
Like many of the Ann Marie horses, Paris Rose and Paris Notion are named after the farm's location.
"I got more ‘Parises' than there are people in Paris," farm manager Ron Patterson quipped.
Noreen, who lives in San Francisco, returns to the Bluegrass four times a year to check on her horses and attend sales. The family races a small string at Golden Gate Fields with trainer Lloyd Mason, and often retires fillies to join the Ann Marie broodmare band.
When the time comes, Patterson said the farm will be passed to the O'Neills' grandsons, who have been involved in racing from a young age.
"They had their own horses that they raced and we named them after the boys," he said. "They went to the races all the time with Grandma and Grandpa. It's pretty much family - a family deal."
Equest Thoroughbreds, who bred Grade 1 winner Emma's Encore, has one horse, Hip 269, a Quality Road filly who is a half-sister to champion Action This Day. Beth Fowler bought the filly for $40,000 at last year's Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
Beth is a veteran weanling-to-yearling pinhooker who took a hiatus from the industry during the economic downturn. Equest had not been involved at the September Sale since about 2009.
"We've been raising a few homebred in Ocala," Beth said. "Last year I said I'm ready to give it another little try. She (the filly) fell through the cracks, and we were very lucky."
Beth handles the couple's 100-acre horse operation, and Doug is an equine veterinarian whose practice covers a variety of performance horses, from Thoroughbreds to hunter-jumpers and Western pleasure, domestically and internationally.
"We're optimistic," Beth said about the reception of the Quality Road filly. "We'll find out when the hammer falls."
AROUND THE RING
Notable trainers seen at the sale include Tom Amoss, Rusty Arnold, Bob Baffert, Patrick Biancone, Kelly Breen, Chad Brown, Bret Calhoun, Mark Casse, Gary Contessa, Neil Drysdale, Tony Dutrow, Carla Gaines, John Gosden, Eoin Harty, Jerry Hollendorfer, Charlie LoPresti, D. Wayne Lukas, Michael Matz, Paul McGee, Andrew McKeever, Ken McPeek, Bill Mott, Carl Nafzger, Phil Oliver, Vicki Oliver, Danny Peitz, Neil Pessin, Todd Pletcher, Dale Romans, John Sadler, Dallas Stewart, Barclay Tagg, Wesley Ward, Ian Wilkes, and Nick Zito. ...
Two siblings to Kentucky Derby (G1) winners are in the September Sale. On Monday, a Giant's Causeway colt who is a half-brother to 2009 winner Mine That Bird and multiple Grade 1 winner Dullahan sold to Zayat Stables LLC for $675,000. Out of the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own, he was consigned by Pauls Mill, agent.
On Wednesday, a Medaglia d'Oro colt who is a half-brother to 2010 Derby winner Super Saver will sell as Hip No. 523. Hill n' Dale Sales Agency, agent, consigned the colt out of the A.P. Indy mare Supercharger. He also is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Brethren.
SPOTLIGHT ON SEPTEMBER SALE GRADUATES
Graduates of the 2011 September Sale captured two of the summer's top three-year-old stakes.
Verrazano romped to victory by a record-setting 9¾ lengths in the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (G1) in late July at Monmouth. A son of More Than Ready, Verrazano was consigned by Middlebrook Farm, agent, and sold for $250,000 to Let's Go Stable (click here to see auction video).
Will Take Charge took the $1million Travers Stakes (G1) in August at Saratoga. Owner Willis D. Horton paid $425,000 for the colt, who is by Unbridled's Song out of multiple Grade 1 stakes winner Take Charge Lady. He was consigned by Hill ‘n' Dale Sales Agency, agent (click here to see auction video).