Phillips Racing Partnerships’ multiple stakes-winning homebred BELLAVAIS (Tapit) topped the leaderboard at Monday’s opening session of the Keeneland Horses of All Ages Sale, selling to Steve Young, agent, for $485,000.
Consigned by Darby Dan Farm, agent, as Hip No. 334, the newly turned four-year-old descends from an outstanding family. She is the first foal from Grade 3 victress La Cloche (Ghostzapper), who is herself a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Winter Memories (El Prado) along with stakes scorers British Blue and War Trace (both by Storm Cat). Bellavais’ second dam is another multiple Grade 1 star and millionaire, All My Memories (Little Current), from the same female line as champions Sunshine Forever (Roberto) and Ryafan (Lear Fan), as well as Dynaformer and Brian’s Time (both by Roberto), To Honor and Serve (Bernardini), and Time and Motion (Tapit), a Grade 1 heroine recently retired by Bellavais’ connections.
Not as if she needed a catalog update, but Bellavais got some more free advertisements courtesy of weekend maiden wins by her full brother Tap Fever (at Golden Gate Sunday) and “cousin” Hawkish (at Gulfstream Park Saturday).
“It is kind of sad (to sell Bellavais), but we are bound by business disciplines,” Darby Dan’s John Phillips said. “We have several in this family and we are going to keep that family going. I’ll never sell a gold mine, but every now and then I will sell a little gold because we have to.
“The price was very good. She is small but very correct and has a great heart and is very competitive. If you look into the pedigree, you will find that some of the smaller fillies have produced really well. I regret that I had to sell her, but someone else will do very well with her.”
Here is the sale video courtesy of Keeneland:
Young, who was acting on behalf of an undisclosed client, indicated that Bellavais would stay in training and join Todd Pletcher.
“She’s from a family that you have to have a world of respect for – the Darby Dan mares,” Young said. “And there’s such an infrastructure of other horses in that pedigree that are doing well.
“I thought she would be a good gamble to go ahead and run as a four-year-old. A lot of that family gets a little better as they get older. She’s a multi-surface stakes horse, and I think she was an obvious pick. She’s going to run again; she’ll run with Todd Pletcher.”
Bellavais earned $199,210 from a record of 11-3-2-2 for trainer Jimmy Toner, reflecting wins in last year’s Ginger Brew at Gulfstream Park and the restricted Drumtop at Suffolk Downs and placings in Belmont Park’s Wild Applause (off the turf) and Soaring Softly.
The day’s standout yearling, and second best seller overall, was a $400,000 colt from the hotly anticipated first crop of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. Offered by Pope McLean’s Crestwood Farm, agent, the half-brother to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Smooth Air (Smooth Jazz) and Grade 2 victor Overdriven (Tale of the Cat) was knocked down to Alex and JoAnn Lieblong.
“Those American Pharoahs don’t get much better than that,” said Robby Harris, who signed the ticket. “I have (inspected the other American Pharoah yearlings) that were here, and we just thought he was the best one for sure. We were getting a little bit out of the comfortable zone (as the bidding increased), but he was bullish and you don’t get a chance at those kinds too often.”
“We are thrilled with that price,” Crestwood manager Marc McLean said. “We were thinking something in that range but when you get up to that price range you don’t exactly know. He had a lot of interest (at the barn), but sometimes people think that these kinds of horses are out of their price range so he wasn’t crazy busy. We were getting the right people looking at him.”
Sporting Hip 303, the April 27 foal was produced by the winning Air France (French Deputy). They hail from the further family of multiple Grade 2 scorer Justwhistledixie (Dixie Union), dam of 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) hero New Year’s Day (Street Cry) and multiple Grade 2 victor Mohaymen (Tapit).
Rounding out Monday’s top three was the $375,000 mare STRADIVARIUS, a Street Cry half-sister to Grade/Group 1 winners Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway) and Balmont (Stravinsky), carrying her first foal on a March 5 cover to Medaglia d’Oro. Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services, agent, purchased the five-year-old from the consignment of Denali Stud, agent for Earle I. Mack.
A winner and twice placed from four starts, Stradviarius is out of the winning Aldebaran Light (Seattle Slew), a descendant of the influential matron Almahmoud (*Mahmoud) via Queen Sucree (*Ribot).
Keeneland reported Monday that 186 horses grossed $13,265,100, a 26.2 percent jump from the $10,514,000 realized by 163 sellers at the 2017 Keeneland January opener. The average climbed 10.6 percent, from $64,503 to $71,318, and the $45,000 median represented 28.6 percent spike from $35,000.
Those improved numbers, significantly, did not rely on the kind of pricey top sellers who had buoyed the first session last year (i.e., Siren Serenade’s going for $1.025 million and the $700,000 Delightful Joy).
“We started the sale week off very well,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said. “The gross, average and median are all up, so there’s a positive start to the sale. It was a good, consistent market all the way through today. (Short yearlings) were at a premium, and January’s always been a good spot to buy a racehorse, and today Steve Young found one (in Bellavais). When these rare pedigrees are offered, they command premium prices.”
The four-day auction runs through Thursday, with each session beginning at 10 a.m. (EST). For complete coverage, visit Keeneland.com.