Darley patriarch Medaglia d’Oro was responsible for three of the six million-dollar sellers at Thursday’s fourth session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, including the top two on the leaderboard, and thereby reigned as the leading sire at the conclusion of Book 1.
A Medaglia d’Oro half-brother to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner Stopchargingmaria (Tale of the Cat) led the day’s trade when commanding $2.1 million from Phoenix Thoroughbreds. Offered by the leading consignor, Taylor Made Sales Agency, as agent for Stonestreet Bred and Raised, Hip No. 899 is out of multiple stakes scorer and Grade 3-placed Exotic Bloom (Montbrook).
“We liked this colt so we decided to go for it,” Phoenix founder Amer Abdulaziz said.
“We do our work; we work really hard,” Phoenix’s Tom Ludt commented on the latest acquisition. “The ultimate answer and the compliment come at this stage with who we’re competing against, and it just comes down to how much you’re willing to stretch.
“He’s beautiful. He’s got everything. He looks like he has a big engine on him and that he’s going to be fast. That guy over here (Bob Baffert) said he liked him, and he’s done a pretty good job for us.”
Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, Book 1’s leading buyer, sprang for the other two seven-figure yearlings by Medaglia d’Oro.
Also hailing from Stonestreet Bred and Raised, via the Gainesway consignment, was a $1.6 million son of Medaglia d’Oro and champion turf mare Dayatthespa (City Zip). The second foal from the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) heroine, who toured the ring as Hip 823, is presumably Newmarket-bound after trainer John Gosden signed the ticket.
“We liked everything about him,” Gosden said. “He is by Medaglia d’Oro, and he is very much the horse we wanted today. We were very keen to get him.”
Godolphin spent $1 million for a Medaglia d’Oro filly from Runnymede Farm, agent. Listed as Hip 893, she is the first registered foal from Esprit de Vie (Street Cry), an unraced full sister to 2012 Ribblesdale (G2) victress and classic-placed Princess Highway.
Another busy shopper, Larry Best’s OXO Equine, added to his collection by prevailing for a $1.2 million Into Mischief colt. Consigned by Noel Murphy’s Castle Park Farm, Hip 948 is a half-brother to multiple Group 3-placed Snowboarder (Raven’s Pass). Their dam, the Distorted Humor mare Gaudete, is a half-sister to multiple Grade 2 winner and successful sire Munnings (Speightstown).
“Into Mischief has been very good to me,” said Best, whose undefeated Best Pal (G2) hero Instagrand and Del Mar Futurity (G1) runner-up Rowayton are both by the same sire. “I love the power of them. This horse looks the part. He has a great pedigree.”
Two fillies each brought the gavel down at $1.05 million, ironically Thursday’s bookends as million-dollar sellers.
The first to reach that figure was Hip 814, a daughter of Curlin who was snapped up by West Bloodstock for Robert and Lawana Low. Stone Farm, agent, offered this first foal from Grade 1 winner Dame Dorothy (Bernardini), in turn a half-sister to Grade/Group 1 star Mrs. Lindsay (Theatrical).
“She will go to Todd Pletcher, who trained her mother,” Jacob West said. “He told me Dame Dorothy was one of his best two-year-olds. He said she was very, very fast.”
Stone’s Arthur B. Hancock III put her Curlin filly in historic company.
“She reminded me of a filly my dad (A.B. “Bull” Hancock Jr.) used to have named Moccasin, and I told a lot of people that. (Moccasin) was Horse of the Year as a 2-year-old. (This filly) looked just like her, big chested, and if you saw a picture of (Moccasin) you’d say, ‘My golly that’s her’.”
The last to make seven-figure territory was Hip 977 from the draft of Gainesway, agent, a Pioneerof the Nile filly out of Grade 3 winner and multiple stakes producer Graeme Six (Graeme Hall). Shawn Dugan, agent, supplied the winning bid for the half-sister to Grade 3 scorers Cali Star (Street Cry) and Delightful Joy (Tapit) as well as stakes victor Seymourdini (Bernardini).
“There is one word for this filly: everything,” Dugan said. “She is one of the top physicals in the sale. We reached very far, I promise you. There is always a residual value with a filly, and she has everything.”
That brought up the total of million-dollar yearlings sold in Book 1 to 26, the highest number since 32 in 2007. No other intervening year has come close, with 18 the high-water mark in 2008 and 2013.
If this year’s change in Book 1 format made year-to-year comparisons problematic early in the sale, the completion of the elite four sessions have now made such an exercise meaningful. Last year’s single-day Book 1, plus three days of Book 2, are comparable to the 2018 Book 1 comprising four sessions.
Keeneland reported double-digit increases across the board. Cumulatively so far, 596 yearlings produced gross receipts of $216,813,000, a 10.3 percent climb from $196,645,000 in 2017. The average spiked nearly 26 percent, from $288,759 to $363,780, while the median skyrocketed 50 percent, from $200,000 to $300,000.
“There is a hunger for top-quality horses,” Keeneland Director of Sales Operations Geoffrey Russell said.
“People are looking for a ‘Saturday horse’ – that’s what our business is founded on. At the moment I think we have a good, strong group of top-end buyers who are willing to pay top price for these horses.
“I heard more complaints about people not being able to buy what they wanted because they were surprised at how much (the horses) brought, and these are the people who have the wherewithal to do it.
“Our new format worked very well. Our goal was to reduce the number of horses cataloged in Week 1 to give buyers the chance to get around to look at them all and for consignors to be able to show them in a less cramped area. It worked very well from start to finish. We sold fewer horses for more money, more average and more median and had less buybacks. So all indicators are very positive.
“We consider the Book 1 horses to be the cream of the North American crop, so they need to be showcased as such. We wanted to give buyers the chance to look at horses for all four days (after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Gordon hampered the inspection process Sunday), so we moved the sale start time back two hours and I think it was beneficial. And it gave people a head start at looking at Saturday and Sunday horses.”
“It has been a great market and long may it last,” Gainesway Director of Sales Michael Hernon said. “Quality is what people want to buy. There is a lot of money here coming from various quarters. I think we will see some fresh faces in town when we start selling again on Saturday.”
Friday’s dark day gives a breather going into the final nine sessions of the marathon sale. From Saturday through the September 23 finale, the daily trade gets under way at 10 a.m. (EDT). For the catalog, complete results, and live streaming, visit keeneland.com.