LEXINGTON, Ky. – Amer Abdulaziz’ Phoenix Thoroughbreds paid $2.1 million for a Medaglia d’Oro colt who is a half-brother to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Stopchargingmaria to top Thursday’s fourth session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Six million-dollar horses were sold during the session, the final day of the premier Book 1, increasing the total number of seven-figure purchases to 26, the most since 2007, and driving double-digit gains in gross, average and median prices when compared to last year’s Week 1.
Through the auction’s first four days, Keeneland sold 596 horses for gross sales of $216,813,000, up 10.26 percent over last year’s $196,645,000. Average price of $363,780 increased 25.98 percent over $288,759 in 2017. Median rose 50 percent, from $200,000 to $300,000 this year.
“There is a hunger for top-quality horses; people are looking for a ‘Saturday horse’ – that’s what our business is founded on,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said. “At the moment I think we have a good, strong group of top-end buyers who are willing to pay top price for these horses. I heard more complaints about people not being able to buy what they wanted because they were surprised at how much (the horses) brought, and these are the people who have the wherewithal to do it.”
The new September Sale format also proved successful. Last year’s September Sale opened with a one-day elite Book 1 followed by a three-day Book 2. This year the format was adjusted so Book 1 spanned all four days of the sale’s opening week. A total of 1,203 yearlings were cataloged in Week 1 in 2017 versus 989 in Week 1 this year.
“Our new format worked very well,” Russell said. “Our goal was to reduce the number of horses cataloged in Week 1 to give buyers the chance to get around to look at them all and for consignors to be able to show them in a less cramped area. It worked very well from start to finish. We sold fewer horses for more money, more average and more median and had less buybacks. So all indicators are very positive.
“We consider the Book 1 horses to be the cream of the North American crop, so they need to be showcased as such. We wanted to give buyers the chance to look at horses for all four days (after torrential rains made showing a challenge on Sunday, Sept. 9), so we moved the sale start time back two hours and I think it was beneficial. And it gave people a head start at looking at Saturday and Sunday horses.”
On Thursday, Keeneland sold 139 yearlings for a total of $49,475,000, marking an average of $355,935 and a median of $300,000.
The $2.1 million session-topping colt is the third-highest-priced yearling of the 2018 auction behind a $2.4 million War Front colt sold on Tuesday and a $2.2 million American Pharoah colt sold Monday.
“We liked this colt so we decided to go for it,” Abdulaziz said about today’s high-seller, who was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent for Stonestreet Bred & Raised. The colt is out of the stakes-winning Montbrook mare Exotic Bloom.
“Obviously (we were going to battle for him),” Phoenix’s Tom Ludt said about the bidding competition for the colt. “We do our work; we work really hard. The ultimate answer and the compliment come at this stage with who we’re competing against, and it just comes down to how much you’re willing to stretch.
“He’s beautiful. He’s got everything. He looks like he has a big engine on him and that he’s going to be fast. That guy over here (Bob Baffert) said he liked him, and he’s done a pretty good job for us (as trainer of Grade 1 winner Dream Tree, winner of this year’s Las Virgenes-G2 and Prioress-G2).”
With total sales of $8,842,000 for 22 horses, Taylor Made Sales Agency was the leading consignor on Thursday.
Gainesway, agent for Stonestreet Bred & Raised, consigned a colt by Medaglia d’Oro out of champion Dayatthespa, by City Zip, that sold to Godolphin for $1.6 million.
“We liked everything about him,” said trainer John Gosden, who signed the ticket. “He is by (Godolphin stallion) Medaglia d’Oro, and he is very much the horse we wanted today. We were very keen to get him.”
Medaglia d’Oro is the sire of three of the six highest-priced yearlings sold Thursday. The two most expensive horses were bred by Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings.
“We are bringing fantastic horses here out of great broodmares and by great sires, and I am gratified to see the sale is going so well with a lot of million-dollar horses selling.” Banke said. “Stonestreet Bred & Raised means quality at the highest level. That is what we are striving for with our broodmare band and our breeding. We spread them among several consignors and place them with consignors that have experience with that particular type of horse, a boutique consignment where they can get a lot of attention or with just very good consignors.”
Godolphin went to $1 million for a Medaglia d’Oro filly consigned by Runnymede Farm, agent. She is the first foal out of the Street Cry (IRE) mare Esprit de Vie, a daughter of Irish highweight Irresistible Jewel (IRE). Esprit de Vie is a full sister to Group 3 winner Princess Highway and a half-sister to Group 3 winners Royal Diamond and Mad About You (IRE).
Runnymede purchased Esprit de Vie for $500,000 at Keeneland’s 2015 November Breeding Stock Sale.
“I don’t think you ever expect this, but we were quite pleased with her first foal,” Runnymede CEO Brutus J. Clay III said. “(This filly) certainly looks the part of a horse who can go on and do well at the track, and we could not be more delighted for our partners and our farm team that has done a tremendous job. For this to be our second horse in the same sale to sell for more than $1 million, it has been a long time coming.”
On Wednesday, Runnymede sold a filly by Uncle Mo out of Grade 3 winner Bizzy Caroline, a half-sister to champion Lady Eli, to Godolphin for $1.1 million. Prior to 2018, the last time Runnymede sold a yearling at the September Sale for at least $1 million was in 2004.
Godolphin/Godolphin Japan was the session’s leading buyer, spending $3.41 million for five yearlings.
Larry Best’s OXO Equine paid $1.2 million for an Into Mischief colt out of the Distorted Humor mare Gaudete, a half-sister to Grade 2 winner and sire Munnings and stakes winner Munnings Sister. The colt was consigned by Castle Park Farm, agent.
“Into Mischief has been very good to me,” said Best, who owns the undefeated, Grade 2-winning 2-year-old Instagrand, by Into Mischief. “I love the power of them. This horse looks the part. He has a great pedigree.”
A filly by Curlin who is the first foal of Grade 1 winner Dame Dorothy, by Bernardini, sold to West Bloodstock/Robert and Lawana Low for $1.05 million. Stone Farm, agent, consigned the filly, who is from the family of Group 1 winner Mrs. Lindsay.
“(The Lows) are making a concerted effort to get some two-turn dirt horses, and that is exactly what this filly is,” West said. “She will go to Todd Pletcher, who trained her mother. He told me Dame Dorothy was one of his best 2-year-olds. He said she was very, very fast.”
“She’s a lovely filly, and you can’t keep a good horse hidden,” Arthur B. Hancock III said. “There’s so many good judges up here.
“She reminded me of a filly my dad (A.B. “Bull” Hancock Jr.) used to have named Moccasin, and I told a lot of people that. (Moccasin) was (1965) Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old. (This filly) looked just like her, big chested, and if you saw a picture of (Moccasin) you’d say, ‘My golly that’s her’.”
Shawn Dugan, agent, spent $1.05 million to acquire a Pioneer of the Nile filly who is a half-sister to Grade 3 winners Cali Star and Delightful Joy and stakes winner Seymourdini. Consigned by Gainesway, agent, she is out of the Grade 3-winning Graeme Hill mare Graeme Six.
“There is one word for this filly: everything,” Dugan said. “She is one of the top physicals in the sale. We reached very far, I promise you. There is always a residual value with a filly, and she has everything.”
“It has been a great market and long may it last,” Gainesway Director of Sales Michael Hernon said about Week 1 of the September Sale. “Quality is what people want to buy. There is a lot of money here coming from various quarters. I think we will see some fresh faces in town when we start selling again on Saturday.”
The September Sale takes a one-day break tomorrow then resumes Saturday with the first of the two-day Book 2 beginning at 10 a.m. ET.
The entire sale, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 23, is streamed live at Keeneland.com.