New format for Keeneland September sale a success

awincze@herald-leader.comSeptember 13, 2013 

In the select portion of the Keeneland September auction, 18 horses sold for seven figures, topped by a War Front colt for $2.5 million.

PHOTOS BY Z/KEENELAND — Keeneland Photo

Among the many catalysts spurring grand upswings thus far during the Keeneland September Yearling Sale has been the fact both international shoppers and domestic buyers are spreading their money around with equal strength.

With the select Book 1 portion of the catalog concluding a bullish four-day run Thursday, sires with appeal on both sides on the ocean fittingly helped elevate the bar of excellence at the elite end of the market.

Claiborne Farm's stallion War Front reached another rung on the upper echelon of the industry when a dark bay son of his became the new sale topper at the Keeneland September auction, selling to representatives of Coolmore Stud for $2.5 million.

Many buyers had commented after the first three sessions how hard it has been to prevail in the bidding for the best individuals. Thursday's action proved no different as five more yearlings sold for $1 million or more, bringing the total number of seven-figure horses for the sale so far to 18, the most since 18 horses also hit that mark in 2008.

Two of those million-dollar sales were consigned by Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm, including the War Front colt who became the highest-priced yearling to sell at public auction in North America since Mr. Besilu brought $4.2 million to top the 2010 Keeneland September sale.

Of the 18 seven-figure sales, four have been sons or daughters of Gainesway stallion Tapit, who leads all sires by gross with 31 offspring sold for $13,995,000. Coolmore's flagship stud Galileo leads all sires by average with five sold for $523,000 with War Front second in that category at $475,370 from 27 offspring sold.

"Be it Tapit or War Front or Medaglia d'Oro, those kind of sires ... if (the offspring) look the part there seems to be no limitations," O'Callaghan said.

Keeneland officials had been hesitant to make many comparisons to its 2012 sale the first few days, given that it altered its Book 1 format from a single session last year to a four-day run this season.

With the select portion officially in the books Thursday, the broader approach could officially be hailed a success. The four-day gross of $53,385,000 from 546 head sold is up 15.45 percent compared to 2012.

The cumulative average of $280,925 and median of $207,500 boasts the strongest increases, up 38.5 percent and 38.33 percent, respectively. The rate of horses not sold stands at 27.01 percent.

While the quality of the catalog is widely considered the best in years, the depth of the buyers has been championed as much as any key indicator. Shadwell Estate leads all buyers thus far with 25 horses purchased for $11,300,000, but 15 different buyers representing both domestic and international interests have accounted for purchasing the 18 seven-figure horses.

"All our goals were accomplished, and there has been huge diverse buying power both internationally and domestically," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "New buyers, old buyers, pinhookers, end users, you name the criteria of the buyer and they were here. Week 1 was a great success."

That the War Front colt would be subject to the hottest bidding war yet at the September sale validated what O'Callaghan saw when he purchased him for $180,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November sale.

"He was just really a nice horse, very strong horse, very correct," O'Callaghan said. "You know at the time, it ($180,000) was probably plenty of money for him. A lot of people would have thought it was too much money. We bought him, we loved him, we took a chance and we got lucky."

M.V. Magnier who signed the ticket on behalf of Coolmore said the dark bay colt out of the During mare Blading Gold Ring will be sent to Ireland.

The sale continues on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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