Barely a racing weekend goes by these days without Gainesway Farm receiving more evidence of how dominant its top sire, Tapit, has become. So it is natural to leap when the chance comes to acquire a horse with a similar foundation to his.
The single-session Keeneland April 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale presented such an opportunity as Gainesway teamed with Greg Goodman's Mt. Brilliant Farm and owner Robert LaPenta to buy a half-brother to Tapit for a sale-topping $1 million Monday, pacing an evening of highly selective bidding.
Already established as one of the Thoroughbred industry's most desirable stallions, Tapit is enjoying another banner season at stud, leading the general sire list with likely Kentucky Oaks favorite Untapable and Kentucky Derby contenders Constitution and Tapiture among his most productive offspring this year.
Tapit's half-sibling has a long way to go to match Tapit's list of achievements, but the chestnut colt answered every bell for consignor Niall Brennan, including breezing an eighth of a mile in 94⁄5 seconds during the under tack show on Thursday.
"He's worth every penny, and if he's as good as I think he is, he's worth way more than that as a stallion prospect," said Brennan, who sold the $1 million colt on behalf of breeder Barouche Stud. "He's been an unbelievable student. The horses who have a mind like him, look like him, train like him ... those horses have a chance to get to that 'A' level.
"His breeze was always within himself. He was never out of rhythm, never hustled. Only good horses can perform like that."
Flanked by Goodman and John Panagot, agent for LaPenta, Gainesway president Antony Beck signed the ticket for the colt out of Tap Your Heels and said the youngster would head to the barn of trainer Chad Brown.
"It's very seldom you get to have a horse like Tapit on your farm," Beck said. "So when a half-brother comes along with a lot of ability, you really want to try and own a horse like that if you can. He moved over the ground really easily, just skipped along effortlessly."
The Malibu Moon colt became the first horse to sell for seven figures at the Keene land April sale since 2009. However, he was one of just 38 horses that sold from 125 cataloged. The boutique nature of the auction was heightened because 70 were withdrawn before the sale — 53 before the under tack show.
Not surprisingly, the overall gross of $8,769,000 was down 35.59 percent compared to last year's sale. The average of $230,763 and median of $200,000 improved by 16.97 percent and 33.33 percent, respectively, while 17 horses failed to meet their reserve.
Some consignors have suggested that with the shrinking foal crop, the market might not be able to support as many select sales going forward. Officials with Keeneland said any talk of altering or removing the April sale from its schedule would come later.
"The nature of the 2-year-old market is very polarizing," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "Disappointing number of outs, but the horses that went through the ring sold very well. We proved yet again we are able to recruit a group of buyers willing to give top money for horses. But we sent buyers home without horses, and that's not a good thing.
"I would suggest all three boutique sales will be evaluating between this and next year."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.