Following a workmanlike initial day of selling at the Keeneland September yearling sale, about the only summation many were willing to make was that the opening act of the Thoroughbred industry’s bellwether exercise didn’t produce any grand surprises.
The first of three select Book 1 sessions featured trade that was more steady than remarkable. With many of the usual suspects shopping at the top end, including Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier signing the ticket for $1 million to land a well-muscled dark bay son of Medaglia d’Oro, some lingering spottiness showed up as the average and median improved over the corresponding 2015 figures while the gross of $34,531,000 generated by 108 horses sold was down 28 percent compared to the $44,642,000 yielded by 150 sold last year.
It is not unusual for there it to be a bit of a feeling out process in the first of the 13 sessions, especially given the up and down nature of the yearling market heading into the September exercise. As expected, selectivity among buyers is still prominent as the rate of horses not sold came in at 35.71 percent, up from 31.19 this session in 2015.
Though the breakout horses didn’t materialize Monday beyond the session-topper, a total of 25 horses sold for $500,000 or more, up from 19 offerings that hit that level during last year’s opening session. That brought the average in at $319,731, up 7.43 percent from 2015, while the median improved by .94 percent to $267,500.
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“The diversity of buyers, when they got into it, they were very spirited in their bidding so that’s very positive,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “We were kind of all hoping that we’d get a breakout (horse) and that it would seem to bounce over but … a million dollars is a lot of money. There seems to be more of a comfort level right beneath that million-dollar range than above it.
“The comments we get are the same. For consignors, it’s tough out there, and for buyers it’s tough out there.”
It takes an exceptional individual for buyers to get out of their upper-middle market comfort zone, and the Medaglia d’Oro colt which hit the seven-figure barrier boasted that combination of an outstanding, active pedigree as well as a top physical presence.
Consigned by Taylor Made Sales on behalf of Stonestreet Farms, the Medaglia d’Oro colt is out of the stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Spring Party, a half sister to Grade I winner Emcee and Grade I producer Baffled. Coolmore has enjoyed previous success with offspring of Medaglia d’Oro, most notably with champion Vancouver, and the resemblance to that one is what helped lure attention to the day’s lone million-dollar baby.
“He’s a very nice horse. He reminded a lot of the lads of Vancouver,” Magnier said. “He (Vancouver) was an exceptional looking horse and an unusually good 2-year-old, so if this horse is anything like him, we’re in good shape.”
Added Duncan Taylor, president of Taylor Made, “You hardly ever get a horse that well-bred that actually walks like that. He looks like he was gliding on air and he had all the muscle in the world to go with it. You knew he was a special horse but, what the market would say, you never know. I think that’s a Medaglia d’Oro colt that might be standing in Kentucky for a lot of money one day. He sure looks the part.”
Seeing so many horses stall out in the $500,000-$600,000 range did put some consignors on edge regarding how some of their better offerings would be received. After selling a War Front filly out of Group III winner Aloof for $900,000 to agent John Ferguson, Timber Town’s Wayne Sweezey conceded to a bit a relief and cautious optimism for what may lie ahead as the sale continues on through Sept. 25.
“This market is so dodgy right now, we were a little concerned,” said Sweezey, who consigned the War Front filly on behalf of owner Mandy Pope. “(The final price) was more than we expected but on the other hand … to think that you can’t get close to a million for a War Front that is perfect on a scope and x-ray, we’re missing the plot. So, it ended up being really good.
“Mondays for me are typically a little bit scary because you don’t know who is going to step up to the plate and spend. Thank goodness for the Shadwell guys and Darley and those guys for supporting. I think once we get into the next book and we get into the athletes and the middle market, I think the middle market will be super.”
The sale continues with the second Book 1 session on Tuesday beginning at 11 a.m.