Business

$1 million dollar Unbridled's Song filly sets tone for Keeneland's Tuesday sales

Just after sunrise and with a shaft of sunlight striking the hay, Russell Blackmer and other Keeneland employees cleaned stalls in preparation for today's September Yearling Sales at the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, September 13, 2011. The annual Keeneland September Yearling Sales started Sunday and will run through Sept. 24. The sales resume this morning at 11 a.m. As horses are sold, Keeneland employees clean out the stalls to prepare them for new horses. Each stall gets 2-3 bales of hay. Charles Bertram | Staff
Just after sunrise and with a shaft of sunlight striking the hay, Russell Blackmer and other Keeneland employees cleaned stalls in preparation for today's September Yearling Sales at the Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, September 13, 2011. The annual Keeneland September Yearling Sales started Sunday and will run through Sept. 24. The sales resume this morning at 11 a.m. As horses are sold, Keeneland employees clean out the stalls to prepare them for new horses. Each stall gets 2-3 bales of hay. Charles Bertram | Staff

In the wake of an opening session that took its participants on a stomach-churning ride of emotions, Monday's action at the Keeneland September yearling sales managed to level off both in terms of attitude and overall spending.

While the peaks were not as high as Sunday's, the second day of select offerings still produced enough sparks to maintain the overall positive trend.

Unlike the first session which finished strong to post across-the-board gains after getting off to an ugly start, Monday's session was a steady — if not as spectacular — exercise as both domestic and international buyers continued to seek out good value at the top end of the market.

Led by a strong-bodied daughter of Unbridled's Song that sold to Mandy Pope for $1 million, the gross for Monday's session was dead even compared to the corresponding date in 2010 while the average and median declined 6.45 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

But overall results remain up through the first two days, with the gross of $45.6 million improved by 2.92 percent from last year and the average of $353,488 up 1.33 percent from 2010. The median, which soared by 40 percent in the opening session, is still up 5.26 percent at $300,000 as the sale heads into the Book 2 portion on Tuesday.

The rate of horses not sold is at 32.46 percent, up 3.54 percent from this time last season.

"I think with all the things that are going on (in the economy) the fact this market is as consistent as last year with a slight upward tick is very positive for the industry," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "We felt last year this sale gave stability to the Thoroughbred industry and I think we continue to do it now."

The decline of the stallion market has been one of the many results of the ongoing correction in the Thoroughbred industry as the days of syndicating a stud for multiple millions of dollars have become rare.

That trend has prompted some buyers like Pope to put more of their money into fillies with residual value — something the $1 million Unbridled's Song youngster has.

Out of the Silver Deputy mare Silvery Swan, the filly is a half-sister to Grade I winners Roman Ruler and El Corredor and Grade III winner Silver Tornado.

"If she can run like her brothers did, she'll be a very lovely horse," said Pope, who said she will race the filly as part of her Whisper Hill Farm. "I've never spent anywhere near this money on a horse before but I just fell in love with her.

"I'm more inclined to spend that kind of money on a mare because I know if something does go wrong with her racing career, she's a wonderful broodmare and I still have a very classy horse with a bright future ahead of her."

Of the three horses that have hit the million-dollar mark during the September auction, two have been consigned by John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency. Hill 'n' Dale consigned and bred the A.P. Indy colt that went for $1.4 million to top the first select session Sunday, and the operation also co-bred the Unbridled's Song filly.

"You try to collect special mares over several years and they're expensive but we got rewarded," Sikura said. "It's good when it works out."

While domestic shoppers have bought the three highest-priced horses, four of the top five overall buyers represent foreign interests.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's Shadwell Estates leads all buyers with 13 horses purchased for $5.18 million, and Japanese interests have also been active.

Agent John McCormack bought Monday's second-highest priced horse, a son of Street Cry out of the Grade I-winning mare Balance, for $750,000. McCormack was seated with Japanese buyer Nobutaka Tada during the bidding, and he said the colt would be sent to Japan, but he did not specifically name his client.

"The yen to the dollar is in their favor to buy here," McCormack said of the Japanese buyers. "People play into the currency exchanges."

The sale continues Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments