Godolphin prevailed in protracted bidding wars for the top two sellers at Monday’s kickoff to the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, going to $2.5 million for a Tapit half-brother to 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) champion Nyquist and $2.15 million for a Medaglia d’Oro colt out of Grade 1 queen Tara’s Tango.
The Tapit colt took the pavilion by storm early on as Hip No. 75. Offered by breeder Hinkle Farms, the April 11-foaled gray is out of the winning Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle, herself a half-sister to Grade 3 vixen Seeking the Sky, dam of Grade 1-winning millionaire Sahara Sky.
At last year’s sale, Godolphin had also secured Seeking Gabrielle’s War Front filly for $1.75 million. She has since been named Maria Rosa. Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation stands Nyquist, who emulated Street Sense by turning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)/Derby double.
“Sheikh Mohammed is delighted to be here,” his agent Anthony Stroud told the Keeneland press office. “It is great for him to be back at Keeneland. He selected the horse. He owns the half-brother Nyquist. (Hinkle Farms does) a great job breeding and raising a horse. Sheikh Mohammed really liked this horse; he was his pick of the day. (The colt) has a fantastic pedigree, a good physical, and he will be an exciting prospect.
“We have been very impressed with the Nyquist yearlings as we have gone around looking at them,” Stroud added of the young stallion’s first crop. “That was one of the factors (in this purchase).
“The boss is just looking for attractive horses that will make good athletes and good racehorses, and that’s why we’re here.”
The son of Medaglia d’Oro (also a Darley sire), Hip 138 from the consignment of Denali Stud, agent for Stonestreet Bred & Raised, is the first foal from Tara’s Tango. An Unbridled’s Song half-sister to Grade 1-winning sire Visionaire and Grade 3 scorers Scarlet Strike and Madison’s Luna, Tara’s Tango earned her marquee victory in the 2016 Santa Margarita (G1). (Earlier, a Curlin half-brother to Tara’s Tango was purchased by Mike Ryan, agent, for $800,000 from the same breeder/consignor tandem).
“It is always nice to get this kind of start,” Denali Vice President Conrad Bandoroff said. “We knew that (Hip) 138 was popular with all the right people, but you never let your expectations get that high. He is an incredible physical. Stonestreet raises as good a horse as anybody in the business. He is a testament to the evolution of their program: a homebred from a Grade 1 winner (also bred and raced by Stonestreet).
“We are fortunate that we get to represent them. We appreciate the whole Stonestreet team. We give them all the credit; they did a fantastic job raising the horse.”
A total of seven yearlings commanded $1 million or more, outstripping the five seven-figure sellers during the 2018 opener that had featured a larger catalog (248 compared to Monday’s 190). Most were clustered near the end of the session, notably three in a row (Hips 172-74).
Tied for third on the leaderboard at $1.5 million was another pair of colts by Medaglia d’Oro and Tapit, both full siblings to star fillies.
The Tapit, a full brother to two-time champion Unique Bella, is Japan-bound after being gaveled down to Yuji Hasegawa. Consigned by Timber Town (Mr. and Mrs. T. Wayne Sweezey), agent, Hip 172 was produced by 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) winner Unrivaled Belle by Unbridled’s Song.
Hasegawa is already mapping out a path to the 2021 Kentucky Derby.
“This horse had the best pedigree of all the horses we looked at today,” Hasegawa said. “The plan is to take him back to Japan, and hopefully run him on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby and bring him back over here as a Derby horse.”
Repole Stables, Vincent Viola, and Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier teamed up to land the Medaglia d’Oro colt, a full brother to 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) heroine New Money Honey who added the 2017 Belmont Oaks (G1). Their dam, the unraced Distorted Humor mare Weekend Whim, is a full sister to Grade 1-winning sire Any Given Saturday. The yearling, named Golden Whim, appeared late in the day as Hip 185 from draft of the Lane’s End, agent.
A three-quarter brother to champion Classic Empire brought $1,050,000 from Ben McElroy, agent, for Qatar Racing. By the same late sire in Pioneerof the Nile, Hip 174 is the first foal from Classic Empire’s half-sister, the stakes-winning Twirling Candy mare Uptown Twirl. Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, offered the dark bay.
“The horse is for Qatar Racing; it will be trained by Simon Callaghan,” McElroy said. “I thought it was one of the better colts today; obviously, that was reflected by the price. I was actually the underbidder on his dam as a yearling when Warrendale (Sales) sold her a few years ago. I always followed the dam; she was pretty talented and ended up being half-sister to Classic Empire so (this colt is) bred on the same cross as a champion two-year-old.”
Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Co. went to the same price for a Curlin colt out of a half-sister to recent Pacific Classic (G1) romper Higher Power and millionaire Alternation (sire of current Kentucky Oaks [G1] winner Serengeti Empress). From Hinkle Farms like the session topper, Hip 162 is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Transportation.
Magnier and Peter Branch’s White Birch Farm joined forces to buy a $1 million three-quarter brother to recent Phoenix (G1) runner-up Monarch of Egypt, who went to the same connections for $750,000 at last year’s sale. Monarch of Egypt has the distinction of being the first winner by American Pharoah, while Hip 173 is by American Pharoah’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile. Both colts were produced by Group 2 scorer and classic-placed Up, a Galileo half-sister to multiple Group 1-winning sire Dutch Art, and sold under the auspices of Lane’s End, agent.
In sum, Keeneland reported that 107 yearlings sold for $46,231,000. Given the smaller number of lots cataloged for this year’s opener, the gross was understandably off 4.9 percent from the $48,620,000 realized by 138 sellers a year ago.
But the trimming yielded dividends in improved average and median. Monday’s average of $432,065 rose 22.6 percent from $352,319, and the median jumped 25 percent, from $260,000 to $325,000.
“The session was incredible,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “The results represent incredible trade and a deep buying bench that was active.
“The number I am most proud of today is the RNA rate, which was down almost six points to 29 percent. A lot of folks were trying to get these horses bought and there were multiple bidders, particularly on the top ones.
“What a day Hinkle Farms had: selling two horses for seven figures. What a tremendous family the Hinkles are. They are loyal Keeneland customers, and we could not be more proud of them. Sheikh Mohammed carried a lot of the water today, and he is a tremendous supporter of Keeneland. Sheikh Hamdan was up there as well, ranking as today’s second-leading buyer.”
“It’s really amazing,” said Anne Archer Hinkle, the co-owner and Director of Operations for Hinkle Farms, “and I’m really happy for our team at the farm. Good combination of two years’ work that all happens in 30 seconds. This is a testament to the hard work, and I’m so happy for my dad (Tom Hinkle) because he’s been doing this for so long.”
Book 1 continues Tuesday and Wednesday at noon (EDT), followed by a dark day Thursday. Book 2 picks up on Friday, and the marathon auction goes on through September 22 with daily sessions starting at 10 a.m.
For complete results, the catalog with updates, and live streaming of the sale, visit keeneland.com.