John Sikura has cultivated some of the best female families within the Thoroughbred industry on his palatial Hill 'n' Dale Farm, balancing his head and his heart as he has invested in and sold fillies and mares that have become game-changers.
All those bloodlines paid him tribute Wednesday during the second session of the 11-day Keene-land November Breeding Stock sale. Rewards for Sikura and his partners helped lift all the boats on a gangbuster day of selling that now has the auction's overall gross running ahead of 2013 numbers.
Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales can put Wednesday in the annals of its best days inside the sales arena. Of the 11 offerings that cracked the seven-figures barrier during the auction's second session, five were consigned by Hill 'n' Dale, including three of the day's top four prices. The best was the sale of a Tapit filly for $3 million, a North American record price for a weanling of either sex.
Where Tuesday's opening session featured across-the-board declines, Wednesday's lineup blew last year's corresponding session out of the water, producing a single-day gross of $54,454,000 that was 22.98 percent higher than in 2013. Global sire power once again fueled the fire, most notably in the case of Aloof, a 5-year-old daughter of world-elite sire Galileo in foal to leading Claiborne stallion War Front. Aloof went for a sale-topping $3.9 million to Mandy Pope.
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Though the overall average of $351,106 and median of $200,000 are still running 1.81 and 9.09 percent behind last year's totals, respectively, the cumulative gross of $95,852,000 is up 10.77 percent from 2013.
Pound for pound, Sikura knew he had a consignment full of families that would rule the day.
At the 2003 Keeneland November sale, Sikura sold Serena's Cat — the first foal out of his former top producing mare Serena's Tune — as a weanling to Dell Ridge Farm for $1.4 million, but he later bought back a percentage of her after Serena's Tune was euthanized in 2006 because of laminitis.
With Serena's Cat having already produced graded stakes winners Noble Tune and Honor Code, her leggy Tapit filly Sikura offered up Wednesday represented a rare chance to buy into a family that Bridlewood Farm general manager George Isaacs called "a genetic masterpiece."
"Really it came full circle," said Sikura, who earlier sold the 2-year-old Tapit filly Modeling, out of another top Hill 'n' Dale mare, Teeming, in foal to Distorted Humor for $2.85 million to Don Alberto Corp. "I was always so sick I had sold (Serena's Cat), so I went back in and did a deal with Dell Ridge after Noble Tune won a stakes.
"That was the goal, to be the highest-priced filly in the world sold this year, and (the Tapit filly) achieved that. We brought some unique fillies in here. I thought we'd have what other people wouldn't and we got rewarded."
Thus, Isaacs battled bid for bid with Pope for the Tapit filly, getting the go-ahead from Bridlewood owner John Malone via phone to go up to $3 million, then walk away if it wasn't enough.
"She's everything we're looking for. We'll own her until the day she draws her last breath," Isaacs said. "Physically she's the best filly on the grounds. You couldn't draw a picture any prettier."
Pope may have lost out on the Tapit filly but her broodmare band that already features 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty and champion Groupie Doll gained another notable addition in Aloof.