Since it started in 2002, consignor Four Star Sales has prepared countless horses for the sales ring, with such stars as champion Uncle Mo among their notable graduates.
But no horse led to the ring by the Four Star crew commanded as much attention as the beautiful mare bearing Hip No. 537 on Tuesday. The mare, named Up, departed the pavilion with a new owner — Ran Jan Racing — having brought $2.2 million during a steady second session of the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages sale.
The combination of Coolmore Stud's leading sire Galileo and Claiborne Farm stallion War Front continued to produce fireworks as Up, a daughter of the former selling in foal to the latter, became the highest-priced mare to sell at the Keeneland January sale since Irish Cherry went for $2.7 million in 2008. Up is the highest priced horse Four Star Sales has sold at public auction.
Mares boasting the Galileo-War Front 1-2 punch have been major collectors' items in the sales area. At the 2013 Fasig-Tipton November sale, Betterbetterbetter — a daughter of Galileo in foal to War Front — sold for $5.2 million, the top price at that auction. At the 2014 Keeneland November sale, Aloof, another daughter of Galileo selling in foal to War Front, topped all offerings when she elicited a final bid of $3.9 million.
Out of the Spectrum mare Halland Park Lass, Up is a half-sister to Group I winner Dutch Art and was a multiple Group winner on the track herself. Adding to the 6-year-old mare's appeal was her bay yearling filly by War Front that sold for $800,000 to LNJ Foxwoods moments later.
"They were the kind of horses where you look at them each day and ... they just exude class," said Kerry Cauthen, who founded Four Star Sales with John T.L. Jones, Jr., David Greathouse and Dan Kenny and consigned both Up and her yearling filly. "I think she (Up) was a very special mare, and I really didn't doubt she would get sold. I thought it was a very fair price.
"When you have horses of this caliber, the people who are aware of them and who want them and can buy them, they're looking for them, because they just don't come along. These are special individuals, and she was a very special mare."
Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Sales signed the ticket for Up on behalf of Ran Jan principals Jan Vandebos and Robert Naify, saying that their desire to own a Galileo mare pushed them to stretch to that price level.
"We just love the pedigree, love War Front, love Galileo," Taylor said. "They had been wanting a Galileo mare for a long time, so she was the one. We're going to take her back, foal her out. They could sell (the foal), they could race, they're not sure yet. But they're happy to have her."
Up's yearling filly by War Front saw Katey Caddel of Solis/Litt Bloodstock sign the ticket after purchasing her on behalf of LNJ Foxwoods. The amount is the sixth highest price paid for a yearling filly in the history of the January Sale.
"They plan on racing her, and hopefully she will join the broodmare band eventually," Caddel said. "She has a real good physical, good length to her."
The expected staunch bidding for Up and her filly kept the January auction tracking at decent levels, with the average showing a slight increase as overall gross and median price declined heading into the final two days of the sale.
The cumulative gross of $27,798,400 is down 8.88 percent from 2014. The average price jumped 2.4 percent more than last year's total to $61,501, while the median price of $30,000 is down 14.29 percent.
The demand for newly turned yearlings remains strong, with three selling for $200,000 or more on Tuesday. But the polarization in the market is tangible, as the overall rate of horses not sold is 29.15 percent, up from 20.50 percent a year ago.
The sale continues at 10 a.m. Wednesday.