Keeneland’s 74th September Yearling Sale opened Monday with a premier Book 1 catalog of 167 elite Thoroughbred yearlings and successfully launched the reformatted Week 1 of the auction. The showcase produced eight yearlings that sold for seven figures led by a daughter of Tapit who is a full sister to 2017 Grade 1 winner Cupid purchased by Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier for $2.7 million.
The filly, out of the Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart, is the most expensive yearling sold at public auction in North America this year and the highest-priced filly sold at the September Sale since 2008. She was consigned by VanMeter-Gentry Sales, agent.
The session produced spectacular results as Keeneland sold 95 yearlings for a gross of $54,175,000, up 56.89 percent from the $34,531,000 posted for the opening session of last year’s three-day Book 1. The session average of $570,263 jumped 78.36 percent from last year’s $319,731, and the median price of $500,000 was 86.92 percent higher than $267,500 in 2016.
The eight million-dollar horses from Monday’s session is one less than the number sold during last year’s entire September Sale. The top 10 highest-priced horses were purchased by eight individual interests representing both U.S. and foreign buyers.
Sessions today through Thursday comprise Book 2 of the sale, which has cataloged 4,138 yearlings over 12 sessions concluding Sept. 23.
The entire September Sale will be streamed live on Keeneland.com.
PARTICIPANTS COMMENT ON STRONG MONDAY SESSION
Buyers and sellers in the opening Book 1 session of Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale commented on Monday’s strong trade:
Trainer Ben Colebrook: “The market was very strong. We got outbid on a few, so we will be doing some more shopping. The good ones sold the way they are supposed to sell. A lot of people are still trying to buy horses, so I think there will be a lot of carryover.”
Jerry Crawford, president, Donegal Racing: “We bid on four on Monday and got outbid on all four. We didn’t come close on three of them. We were the underbidder on one but we had the idea that the winner could have gone as high as they wanted. It is not unusual for us to get outbid on Day 1, but what is unusual is that the average and median had such big increases from previous years. That is extraordinary. We have always been able to buy good horses on later days, but I am concerned that the upward price pressure will follow us to the later days. That is great for the breeders, great for the industry and great for Keeneland, but it makes it tougher on buyers.”
Pinhooker Scott Dilworth, who purchased a Tiznow filly for $250,000 with his wife, Evan: “It was extremely strong. Good horses are going to bring good money.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer: “The market was very strong and it looks like it will hold up for the rest of the books. We only bid on two horses and we got both.”
Bloodstock agent David Ingordo: “The way the horses are gathered up on the first day is very good. The clients buying the top-end horses know when to be here. My clients have the funds to play at this level so we got what we wanted, but we had to stretch. We got outbid on others but that is par for the course.”
George Isaacs, general manager, Bridlewood Farm: “It was certainly a strong market; I expected it to be. I had my eye on one filly and I bought her, and I paid what I thought she’d bring ($550,000 for a daughter of Speightstown). Sold one at the very end of the sale for a reasonable return so helped commerce on both ends. The sale started out really strong, and I think you’re going to see a continuation of that.”
Jeff Lifson, executive vice president, West Point Thoroughbreds: “I thought it was a really strong market, and everything that we looked at and liked, a lot of other people liked too. We were delighted to see that in a boutique-type market that you encounter the first day of the Keeneland sale that we were able to buy sort of a mid-level horse. A mid-level horse the first day of the sale is different from a mid-level horse from a pricing perspective a week from now. There’s the seven-figure horses on Day 1; there’s the $100,000-$200,000 horses on Day 1; and there’s those horses in the middle.”
Bloodstock agent John Moynihan: “The market was strong so kudos to Keeneland for the new format. They put together a great bunch of horses. They piled them up and it was really reflective in the bidding. It was tough to buy horses we really wanted. A lot of people got outbid so I think the next several days will be really strong.”
Ned Toffey, general manager, Spendthrift Farm: “It was obviously a very strong sale. (Keeneland) put together a great catalog. They had the pedigrees and had some really nice individuals, and that showed in the results. We brought two out here that we sold (a Temple City filly for $475,000 and an Into Mischief filly for $385,000 with Brandywine Farm), and we’re very happy with how they sold. I’m sure there’s some people that got outbid, so they should still be here looking. Hopefully they’ll be here right on through the end of the sale.”
BEHIND THE SCENES: OBSERVANT BID SPOTTERS ARE KEY
TO KEENELAND SALES SUCCESS
A bid spotter at Keeneland since 1979, E.C. Larkin Jr. is a fixture at the September Yearling Sale. Standing in the aisles near the sales ring in the Sales Pavilion, he and his colleagues are masters at accepting subtle signals from seated buyers and using a shout and a wave to relay the information to the auctioneer on the stand.
E.C., who is from San Antonio, Texas, is a highly regarded media specialist in the beef cattle industry and longtime publisher of Gulf Coast Cattleman magazine. He has strong roots in the auction business, belonging to a fraternity that sells just about anything – anywhere. In addition to animals, cars, real estate and equipment, E.C. has participated in a video-streamed cattle sale on a cruise ship and an impromptu necktie auction on a commercial airline flight. Through a connection made at a fine art auction, he landed the Keeneland job.
“Auctions are all different, but yet they are all the same because bid spotting is all about people,” E.C. said. “The product is quite a bit different, and at Keeneland the big difference is the big dollars and the people from all over the world and from all walks of life. It is a unique situation compared with anywhere else. Other (auctions) have good crowds, but nobody has the variety of buyers that Keeneland has.”
Each time a Thoroughbred enters Keeneland’s sales ring, five bid spotters are stationed throughout the theater-style seating area of the Sales Pavilion while two others accept bids “out back,” directly behind the auctioneers stand where prospective buyers are allowed to bid. Each bid spotter works shifts of one hour on and 30 minutes off.
Regardless of a yearling’s value, the Keeneland crew works diligently to entice the most from every bidder. Prices can leap in increments of $10,000 or more. When the action slows, E.C. and his peers scan the crowd for someone willing to up the ante.
“We work just as hard on a $10,000 horse as we do on a million-dollar horse,” E.C. said. “If we coax another $1,000 on a $10,000 horse, that is a 10 percent increase for the seller.”
Anecdotes abound about bidders’ coded movements such as crossed legs and the presence or absence of hats, but E.C. said most buyers use simple nods or shake their heads.
“You have to pay attention and be on your toes,” he said. “With so many different people, communication can be tough. It helps when you know the bidder.”
Therefore, E.C. recommends that people who buy at Keeneland Occasionally introduce themselves to the spotters prior to bidding.
“Once someone bids, we stay focused on them and they can be more discreet after that,” he said. “But they need to make sure we know they want to bid. They shouldn’t wait for the last minute.”
If an unfamiliar person motions E.C., however, he accepts their bid as he would a regular customer, adding, “I learned a long time back that you can’t tell who has money by the way they look.”
E.C. looks forward to coming to Keeneland each September for the world’s most important Thoroughbred sale.
“To me the Keeneland September Sale is the real kickoff to the Thoroughbred sales season,” he said. “It sets the tone for the whole year. There is so much enthusiasm for the big crop of yearlings and Keeneland always has such good ones. It is a real exciting time.
“Keeneland is such a special and pretty place. It feels exciting to be in the horse business when you are there.”
Joining E.C. as Keeneland bid spotters are Mitch Armitage, Mike Baker, Steve “Bo” Black, Stanley Deupree, Jeff Fritsch, Mark Harman, Ty McClary, Pete McCormick, Ralph Means, Roger Spencer and Jeff Stansberry.
SEPTEMBER SALE GRADUATE SPOTLIGHT: SPORTING CHANCE;
TRAINER LUKAS HAS LONG ASSOCIATION WITH KEENELAND SALES
The Hopeful (G1) is a strong indicator of 2-year-old talent that could produce Triple Crown success.Sporting Chance, a graduate of the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, let everyone know he is a colt to keep an eye on as he cruised down the Saratoga stretch, abruptly ducked out and still pulled ahead to win this year’s running on Sept. 4 by a neck.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas purchased Sporting Chance for $575,000 at last year’s September Sale from Woods Edge Farm, agent, for longtime clients William Mack and Robert Baker. Breeder Hunter Valley sold the Tiznow colt as a weanling at Keeneland’s 2015 November Breeding Stock Sale for $275,000 to Lapis Bloodstock.
“It was very gratifying to win the Hopeful with Keeneland September graduate Sporting Chance, especially for Bob Baker and Bill Mack,” said Lukas as he looked at September Sale yearlings Monday morning. “They come every year and buy two or three quality horses, and we have had a lot of luck together.
“I have had a lot of success at this sale, but then again that means I am old and have been around longer than most people,” he added with a laugh. “We have been coming to this sale for a long, long time. We have always done well here. With three or 4,000 horses to look at, we always feel comfortable that we can find some to fall in love with. This sale has been good to us over the years.”
Other September Sale graduates Lukas has trained include 2015 champion Take Charge Brandi (who following her racing career sold for $6 million at Keeneland’s 2015 November Breeding Stock Sale), 2013 Preakness (G1) winner Oxbow and 2009 Belmont (G1) winner Editor’s Note.
Lukas added that his first Keeneland purchase was a Secretariat filly he bought at the 1977 July Selected Yearling Sale for $275,000. Named Terlingua, she became a multiple graded stakes winner more famously known as the dam of legendary sire Storm Cat.
Baker and Mack’s interests grew by one horse during Monday’s opening Book 1 of this year’s September Sale when they acquired a son of Into Mischief consigned by Lane’s End, agent, for $550,000. The colt is out of the A.P. Indy mare Divine Presence, whose dam, Divine Proportions, by Kingmambo, was a European champion at 2 and 3.
SEPTEMBER.KEENELAND.COM IS USEFUL TOOL
Keeneland’s comprehensive September Sale microsite is an expansive digital platform that provides a unique range of tools and services to both sellers and buyers. The site offers an interactive index that enables users to browse and filter all six September Sale catalogs. Also available are profiles of September Sale graduates that have won graded stakes in 2017, featuring footage of their sale at Keeneland as a yearling and race replays, and details about Keeneland’s new September Sale Bonus Program and Week 1 sale format and events.
Keeneland.com/sales has a wealth of free and useful sales information for consignors, buyers and others, including a list of outs for the September Sale; searchable catalogs and results for Keeneland sales beginning with the 1999 July Selected Yearling Sale; and lists of stakes-winning Keeneland sales graduates that can be sorted by sale and are available by year back to 2010.
Can't find something?