A $2.2 million colt from the first crop of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah not only topped Monday’s opening session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but ranked as the most expensive horse sold at a North American public auction so far in 2018. The winning bidder was Godolphin, on a spending spree as the day’s leading buyer with its impresario Sheikh Mohammed on the scene.
Consigned by Peter O’Callaghan’s Woods Edge Farm, the chestnut is the second registered foal from multiple Grade 2-placed stakes winner Kindle (Indian Charlie). The February 22 Kentucky-bred was a pinhook triumph for O’Callaghan, whose Cavalier Bloodstock initially bought him for $400,000 as a weanling here last November.
“It was the most I’d ever paid for a foal,” O’Callaghan said of the colt bred by HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing. “He was exceptional the day we bought him, and he did just continue to get better and better. He was a tenacious physical specimen, but his temperament and his demeanor (were) almost as big.
“He was a really special horse. He’s probably the best yearling we’ve ever had, so I hope (his success) proves to be the case on the race track. Just very grateful for Sheikh Mohammed to come here and buy him. When (Sheikh Mohammed) saw (this colt) today, his eyes lit up. I just had a feeling he was going to try hard to buy him.”
“It is an honor for us when Sheikh Mohammed is able to clear his schedule and come here,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “It has been about 10 years since he was last here. He has been such a huge supporter of Keeneland and the September Sale. To see him on the grounds and participate the way he did today is very rewarding for all of us here at Keeneland.”
Cataloged as Hip No. 91, the session topper was the first to smash the seven-figure barrier. Four more would follow suit, the bulk later in the evening.
Larry Best’s OXO Equine purchased only one yearling, keeping his powder dry all day for Hip 211, a Curlin colt who commanded the second highest price of $1.8 million. The first registered foal from Grade 1 heroine Molly Morgan (Ghostzapper), the January 25 bay was offered by Summerfield (Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck) as agent for Stonestreet Bred and Raised.
“It’s a good pedigree; I think it’s flawless,” Best said. “Now the big question is can he run? I don’t have a Curlin. I’ve always wanted to find a quality Curlin, and now I’ve found one.”
Similarly, Don Alberto Corp. struck once, going to $1.4 million for a Tapit half-sister to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam’s Map and Grade 3 hero Not This Time, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up. Touring the ring as Hip 203, the gray daughter of Grade 3 vixen Miss Macy Sue (Trippi) was bred by Albaugh Family Stables and prepared by leading consignor Taylor Made Sales, agent.
“She is one of the best fillies we have ever raised,” Taylor Made President and CEO Duncan Taylor said. “It may look like a lot of money, but with that pedigree she could produce million-dollar yearlings every year. I think the buyers made a great buy.”
Godolphin made another million-dollar buy, snapping up a Medaglia d’Oro colt from the consignment of Lane’s End, agent, for $1.3 million. Hip 218 is the first registered foal from Grade 2 winner Moulin de Mougin (Curlin), in turn a daughter of the prolific Cambiocorsa and relative of reigning Eclipse (G1) and Juddmonte International (G1) star Roaring Lion.
Rival global empire Coolmore made its presence felt, especially with M.V. Magnier’s prevailing for the Tapit half-brother to two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome. Bred along similar lines to that 2014 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) champion, the $1.1 million colt out of Love the Chase (Not for Love) was offered by Bedouin Bloodstock, agent, as Hip 141.
“He’s a very nice horse,” Magnier said. “The mare is a good producer and he’s a brother to a very good horse. He’s going to stay here and go to (trainer) Todd Pletcher. Let’s hope he’s good. He’s by a good sire, obviously, in Tapit, and if he’s anything the way (Coolmore’s) Cupid turned out (to be a Grade 1-winning millionaire), he (will be) quite remarkable.”
Tom Ryan, commenting for breeder SF Bloodstock, was happy with the result.
“I am delighted with the buyer – it is always great when a horse is under their management,” Ryan said. “This was a superstar colt from day one, and that was reflected in the price. The market seems to be holding up very well and it is great to have Coolmore and Godolphin on the grounds today with a lot of domestic buying going on as well.”
Early in the session, Ryan signed the ticket for a Pioneerof the Nile colt who flirted with million-dollar status before selling to SF Bloodstock/Starlight West for $950,000. Out of multiple Grade 3-placed Inny Minnie (Hard Spun), Hip 44 was consigned by Craig and Holly Bandoroff’s Denali Stud, agent for Stonestreet Bred and Raised.
“I loved everything about this horse,” Ryan said. “Beautiful horse by a great stallion and looks like the perfect horse to go to war with next year.
“He is mentally strong; he never turned a hair. He was fantastic in every way. He is balanced and he is like all the Pioneerof the Nile horses – a very athletic horse.”
Ryan revealed that the colt would go to Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who trained Pioneerof the Nile and his best son, American Pharoah, the leading sire so far at Keeneland September.
Monday’s five million-dollar yearlings did not match last year’s bumper number of eight on the opener, but the comparison breaks down because of the reconfiguration of Book 1. In 2017, a much slimmer Book 1 was restricted to the first session, while this year, it’s expanded to four sessions.
The other key figures likewise must be put in that context. Keeneland reported 138 yearlings sold on Monday for a total of $48,620,000, resulting in a $352,319 average and $260,000 median. Last year’s kickoff was obviously gaudier, when 95 horses realized $54,175,000, sparking a $570,263 average and $500,000 median.
“It was a strong session with competitive bidding at the top,” Elliston summed up. “It is hard to do comparisons to last year because of the format change this year. Last year on the first day we had 167 horses (cataloged) in Book 1 and then three days of Book 2. This year, we have four days of a blended Books 1 and 2.
“If you try to do some comparisons, look at the numbers after four days. Every one of those indicators was dynamite. We are very encouraged that the sale started off like we wanted it to.”
The sale continues Tuesday at 1 p.m. (EDT), with the catalog, updates, and, livestreaming on keeneland.com. After Book 1 wraps up on Thursday, and the auction takes a day off Friday, the September 15-September 23 sessions open at 10 a.m.