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Keeneland’s September yearling sale kicks off with elite book

The two-week Keeneland September yearling sale begins Monday with a one-day elite book of 167 horses that will be eligible for bonuses if they win top races around the world. Last year, nine horses sold for $1 million or more.
The two-week Keeneland September yearling sale begins Monday with a one-day elite book of 167 horses that will be eligible for bonuses if they win top races around the world. Last year, nine horses sold for $1 million or more. Keeneland photos

Want to see some of the best young horses sell for big money?

The Keeneland September yearling sale, an annual rite for the Thoroughbred breeding market, opens at 3 p.m. Monday with an elite sale reminiscent of the tuxedoed days of the 1980s.

The yearling auction, which is open to the public and free, is also a prime opportunity for people-watching: some of the world’s richest Thoroughbred owners and top trainers from around the world come to scout the field and bid big money for their next potential champions.

This year, Keeneland has restructured the first week of the sale: on Monday, 167 top yearlings — the best prospects for the all-important classics such as the Kentucky Derby and the rest of the Triple Crown races — will go up for auction.

On Tuesday, the sale continues with three days of Book Two, an additional 1,036 yearlings, followed by a day of rest on Friday. The sale, which has cataloged 4,139 yearlings altogether, will continue Sept. 16-23.

Keeneland, which is the largest Thoroughbred auction house in North America, this year added a bonus program for horses sold in Book One, the first day, that could mean as much as an extra $500,000 for the horse’s owner and seller combined.

If a horse sold in the first book wins a Grade or Group 1 stakes in eligible countries as a 2- or 3-year-old, it will qualify. Keeneland expects to pay out nearly $3 million over the next two years in bonuses, which are designed to attract top-flight horses to the sale.

This year’s catalog features yearlings by 206 established sires, led by Animal Kingdom, Bernardini, Bodemeister, City Zip, Curlin, Distorted Humor, Frankel, Giant’s Causeway, Kitten’s Joy, Medaglia d’Oro, Pioneerof the Nile, Street Sense, Tapit, Tiznow and many more. It also features 83 yearlings from the last crop of the internationally successful sire Scat Daddy and the first known yearling in a U.S. sale by leading Japanese sire Deep Impact.

The highest price ever paid for a yearling at the Keeneland September sale was $11.7 million in 2006, when John Ferguson, bloodstock adviser for Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s Godolphin racing and breeding stable, bought a Kingmambo colt subsequently named Meydan City.

Last year’s top seller was a Scat Daddy colt, now named Mendelssohn, that sold for $3 million to M.V. Magnier.

The entire September Sale will be streamed live on Keeneland.com. TVG2 will present full coverage of the first two days with periodic live hits on subsequent sale days on TVG1.

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