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Battaglia to be honored by KTO with Horseman of the Year award

Edited release:
Longtime announcer, odds-maker and handicapper Mike Battaglia will be feted by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners with the organization’s prestigious Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award.
 The Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion for the industry exemplified by Jones, founder of Oldham County’s renowned Hermitage Farm and who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence. Jones was the inaugural winner in 1988, six years before his death.
Battaglia, a lifelong Kentuckian, has authored the morning line for Churchill Downs and Keeneland since 1974 and was the oddsmaker at Latonia (now Turfway Park) before that. He was Churchill’s track announcer from the fall of 1977 through 1996 and continues to call the races at Turfway, a post he started in 1972.
Battaglia’s warm personality, enthusiasm and deep knowledge long have made him a go-to analyst for the Kentucky and national media, as well reporter and analyst for NBC broadcasts 21 years. He came into the sport early as the son of the late John Battaglia, the influential track manager who created Turfway’s Spiral Stakes as a major Kentucky Derby prep and pioneered night racing in Kentucky, along with turning his sons at an early age into odds-makers and handicappers.
“I had a lot of respect for Warner Jones. This is a big honor to me,” Battaglia said. “Two people were so instrumental in my success, my father and (veteran NBC broadcaster) Tom Hammond. I’m accepting this reward on behalf of myself and my father. He did so much for Kentucky racing and Kentucky horsemen. This is not just a tribute to me, but also to my father.”
Battaglia will be the  featured honoree at the KTO’s 28th annual awards gala Nov. 21 at Big Spring Country Club, 5901 Dutchmans Lane, Louisville. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7. Tickets available for $125, including dinner and drinks, by contacting Marlene Meyer at 502-458-5820. Hall of Fame sports journalist Billy Reed is the emcee.
The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners is an educational and social organization dedicated to the betterment of racing in the state. Membership is open to anyone interested in the sport, including prospective owners. More information, including applying for membership, at

American Pharoah’s stud fee set at $200,000

Triple Crown winner and champion American Pharoah will stand his first season at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud for an advertised fee of $200,000, the farm announced early Friday morning.

American Pharoah’s fee is the highest for a first-year stallion since 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper entered stud at Adena Springs in 2006 at the same fee. Ghostzapper’s $200,000 fee was believed to be a North American record for a first-year stallion.

Trained by Bob Baffert and owned and bred by Zayat Stables, American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to sweep the American classics when he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes this season and recently concluded his career with a 6 1/2 length win in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on October 31.

American Pharoah’s fee also ties him with proven, Claiborne Farm stallion War Front as the second most expensive stallion in North America for 2016 behind only leading sire Tapit, who will once again stand for $300,000 at Gainesway.

Owner Ahmed Zayat announced he had sold American Pharoah’s breeding rights to Coolmore prior to the Belmont Stakes but he does retain an undisclosed interest in his champion colt’s stallion rights.

WinStar Farm, which stands American Pharoah’s sire Pioneerof the Nile, announced prior to the Breeders’ Cup that the son of Empire Maker would command at least $125,000 for 2016 though that fee could be adjusted upwards. Empire Maker himself, who recently returned from Japan to stand at Gainesway, will stand for $100,000 this coming year.

The last Triple Crown winner to enter stud prior to American Pharaoh was 1978 hero Affirmed, who retired to Spendthrift Farm in 1980  after his syndication rights were sold for $14.4 million. Though a solid sire, Affirmed never reached the upper tier of stallions and stood his final season at Jonabell Farm for $30,000 in 2000. He was euthanized in 2001 due to complications that developed following surgery to realign an ankle joint.

Starting stallions off at a lofty price range can result in a quick payoff towards the investment, but has a spotty history with regards to long-term success. After starting off at $200,000, Ghostzapper’s fee steadily declined, though he has worked his way back up to the $60,000 he will command again in 2016.

Dual classic winner Smarty Jones began his stud career at Three Chimneys in 2005 for a $100,000 fee. By 2011, the son of Elusive Quality’s fee had dropped to $10,000 and he had been relocated to Pennsylvania. The champion horse currently stands at Northview Stallion Station in Pennsylvania and had an advertised fee of $4,000 for 2015.

By contrast, Tapit began his stud career in 2005 with a fee of $15,000. The late Storm Cat, who once commanded $500,000 as the flagship sire for Overbrook Farm, also got off to modest beginnings when he stood for $30,000 during his initial season in 1988.

One stallion who started off near the top and has stayed there, however, is Darley sire and champion, Bernardini. The son of legendary sire A.P. Indy entered stud for an advertised fee of $100,000 for 2007. By 2012, Bernardini’s fee was up to $150,000 and he is set to stand the 2016 season for $100,000.

Two-time Horse of the Year Curlin is another recent example of success. The son of Smart Strike entered stud in 2009 at a fee of $75,000. After standing the 2015 season at Lane’s End for $35,000, Curlin was recently relocated to Hill ‘n’ Farms and it was announced he would command a $100,000 fee for 2016.

American Pharoah retired with nine wins, including eight Grade I triumphs, from 11 career starts and $8,650,300 in earnings.









Hill ‘n’ Dale buys Take Charge Brandi for $6 million; leads all consignors at Keeneland November sale

John Sikura stood inside a doorway looking into the heart of the Keeneland sales pavilion, a smile of immeasurable satisfaction upon his face  as he glanced over to the seats and put the events of the day into perspective.

“We’re happy for ourselves, our clients, for everybody. And my family is here,” the owner of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms said. “Hopefully, seeing these kind of things will inspire them and get them to say ‘I want to be a horseman’.”

What was witnessed during the second session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale touched all the bases of success in the Thoroughbred marketplace.

There was the champion filly with her regal pedigree  bringing the highest price the sale had seen since 2011. There was the record-priced weanling from the same family.

There was an emotional owner seeking out a replacement for the girl he let go and there was Sikura, having as good a day on both fronts as a sales participant could ask.

The second and final Book 1 session of the November sale brought the drama on all fronts Tuesday, led by Sikura both consigning and purchasing champion Take Charge Brandi from owner Willis Horton for $6 million to pace a day of top-end fireworks that yielded double-digit, across-the-board gains in the key indicators.

Take Charge Brandi, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2014, is the highest priced horse to sell at the Keeneland November sale since Royal Delta brought $8.5 million in 2011. The chestnut daughter of Giant’s Causeway is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Charming, who herself is a daughter of 2013 Broodmare of the Year – and Keeneland legend – Take Charge Lady.

That family would prove the star of the day as a bay filly by War Front out of Take Charge Lady established a North American record price for a weanling when she sold to Mandy Pope for $3.2 million.

Sikura didn’t have too bad a day himself, selling 22 head for $23,875,000 including three of the top five prices on a day that saw 14 seven-figure horses go through the ring. Though he has had bigger days in terms of numbers – selling 13 horses for $27,350,000 in the 2008 Fasig-Tipton November sale – Tuesday’s session was arguably pound for pound some of the best his operation has ever brought to the table.

“My job as a seller and a buyer is to find unique things,” Sikura said. “We sold unique product today and they are exceeding the marketplace. We try to bring the best of the best with that goal that they fit all the criteria of what the market will demand.

“It’s sort of ever changing but once you define it, you want to try and bring that product here. And if they like it you are well rewarded.”
Take Charge Brandi was that offering that hit every box in terms of looks, race record and pedigree.

The fight to grab her was fierce with Sikura getting aggressive as he battled with the likes of Mandy Pope and Gainesway’s Antony Beck. With the bidding jumping in $200,000 and $300,000 increments, Sikura raised it one last time from $5.7 to the final tally.

“I wanted to own her so bad, we kind of jumped our own bid at one point,” Sikura said. “They wanted 4.2 million, and we said 4.5 million. I wanted to end the process. You have to be aggressive and let people know we are here to buy the mare and they can react as they wish.”

Though Pope lost out on Take Charge Brandi, she made up for it one hip later when she landed the leggy War Front filly, which she says she plans to race.

Horton, who was seated just in front of Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who conditioned Take Charge Brandi, ended the session on a fitting note when he purchased a War Front filly out of Grade I winner Awesome Maria for $2 million from the Hill ‘n’ Dale consignment.

Still, as he talked about hopefully buying “the heir to Brandi”, the Arkansas resident was awash in emotion while reflecting on what his champion filly meant to him.

“I’m holding back tears,” Horton said. “But it’s been a good deal and I’m proud of everything.”

Added Lukas, “Mr. Horton agonized over (selling Take Charge Brandi) a lot. She got to be so special to the family. But at some point, you have to regroup and maybe reinvest. The best part is the Horton family will reinvest.”

Weanlings accounted for three of the top five prices of the session and the strength of that market sparked bullish overall results. The total gross of $108,878,000 from 279 head sold after two days is up 13.59 percent over 2014 while the average ($390,244) and median ($230,000) increased 11.15 and 15 percent, respectively.

The rate of horses not sold is at 27.53 percent, up from 23.96 percent last year.

“We anticipated we had a box full of Crack Jack foals and they certainly delivered,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales.

The sale continues Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m.

Alicia Wincze Hughes:  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Half brother to Honor Code sells to Coolmore for $2.6 million

The strength of the weanling market and the lure of one of the top female families in the stud book combined for fireworks again Tuesday as representatives of Coolmore Stud purchased a War Front weanling colt for $2.6 million during the second session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.

Consigned and co-bred by John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, the dark bay colt becomes the highest priced weanling colt ever to sell at the Keeneland November auction. Along with his striking physical looks, the colt is out of the top producing mare Serena’s Cat and is half brother to multiple Grade I winner Honor Code and graded stakes winner Noble Tune.

Serena’s Cat has been the proverbial golden goose for  her owners Hill ‘n’ Dale and Dell Ridge Farm. The Mr. Prospector mare also produced the Tapit filly which sold for a North American record $3 million out of the Hill ‘n’ Dale consignment at last year’s November sale.


Grade I winner Photo Call sells for $3 million; will stay in training

Grade I winner Photo Call will get a chance to build upon her already impressive resume as she is slated to head to trainer Todd Pletcher to remain in training after being purchased for $3 million by agent J. J. Crupi during Tuesday’s session at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.

Consigned by Denali Stud, Photo Call literally walked down the hill and into Barn 18 at Keeneland following her fifth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Saturday. The 4-year-old daughter of Galileo had won her two previous starts leading into the Breeders’ Cup including a victory in the Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita Park on September 26 while under the care of trainer Graham Motion.

“I thought this filly is a real nice filly,” said Crupi, who purchased her on behalf of an undisclosed domestic-based client. “We’re going to race her for a while and then she’ll go into our breeding program where she’ll definitely fit.”


Weanling Tapit filly sells for $1.1 million to Shadwell

A bay daughter of Tapit out of multiple Grade I winner Marketing Mix became the highest priced weanling to sell thus far during the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale when she sold to Shadwell Estate for $1.1 million midway through the second Book 1 session on Tuesday.

Consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales, the filly is the first foal out of Marketing Mix, who won 10 of 21 career starts and earned $2,015,893 for Glen Hill Farm.

“I thought that price was about where she would be,” said Rick Nichols, general manager of Shadwell. “She’s out of a great race mare, top sire, she’s a gorgeous filly. We’ll let her grow up and see what the boss (Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum) says next September.

John Sikura of Hill ‘n’ Dale, which sold another Tapit weanling filly at last year’s November sale for a North American record $3 million, said the final price was right on par with his high expectations for this filly.

“World class filly with a great type, great body,” Sikura said. “No surprise, we thought she’d make at least a million dollars. We were happy with the price. It’s early yet (in the market) but it looks really strong in places. Much like it’s been for several years now, they either love you or they don’t like you at all. Hopefully we have enough that they love.”


Dam of Runhappy sells to Stonestreet for $1.6 million at Keeneland November

There are moments in the commercial marketplace when even a high-priced figure doesn’t fully illustrate how valuable a moment is.

When the Broken Vow mare Bella Jolie sold to Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farm for $1.6 million during the early portion of Tuesday’s session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale, the seven-figure price tag was only part of the reason consignor Wayne Lyster swelled with emotion.

Lyster operates Ashview Farm along with his sons Bryan and Gray. They are a small, family-run operation working against the odds of the Thoroughbred breeding industry in  trying to produce top level horses from relatively tiny stock.

One of the eight babies the Lysters had on the farm in 2012 was a son Super Saver their mare Bella Jolie had produced, a colt now better known to the racing community as Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and likely champion Runhappy.

To say Runhappy is the gift that keeps giving for the Lysters is understatement, as Bella Jolie provided the family with one their greatest success ever in the sales ring.

“We couldn’t be more pleased,  I mean that’s pretty big deal for Ashview Farm,” said Wayne Lyster, who also co-bred 2001 2-year-old male champion Johannesburg. “We’re a small farm, I run it with my sons and my family. And to have it happen here at Keeneland and a really strong, good price , there is just no way to describe it.

“But it’s not all the price and it’s not all the money that’s important. For me to be able to co-breed this champion sprinter with my two sons, there is no value that you put on that. And therefore it’s very hard to describe how good a feeling I have as a father.”

Bella Jolie got a massive boost with Runhappy’s Breeders’ Cup win this past Saturday but also boasts a solid female family. The 8-year-old bay mare, who sold in foal to Cairo Prince, is out of the mare Jolie Boutique, who has also produced stakes winner Millennium Storm.

“I’m hoping that Runhappy’s dam will make me happy,” Banke laughed. “I like her looks. Cairo Prince, we’ll wait and see. It’s not the mating that I would have looked for but we can breed her to many, many good stallions. And who knows? Cairo Prince could be another freak. But I think she’s young enough and she has produced a wonderful race horse so that’s always a good indicator.

“She has a long career ahead and we’ll take very good care of her.”


Stephanie’s Kitten sold privately to Northern Farm in Japan

One day after failing to meet her reserve at the Fasig-Tipton November sale, reigning Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Stephanie’s Kitten has been sold privately to Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm in Japan for $2.8 million, owner Ken Ramsey confirmed Monday.

Stephanie’s Kitten brought a final bid of $2.95 million at Fasig-Tipton Sunday night, below the reserve of $2.99 Ramsey put on the homebred daughter of Kitten’s Joy. Ramsey said Sunday that the plan was to bring the 6-year-old mare home to their Nicholasville-based farm and breed her themselves. However, representatives of Northern Farm came back with an offer of $2.7 million Sunday night and after some negotiation and evaluating of the market, Ramsey said they could have his prized mare at the $2.8 million price tag.

“We thought it was over with. We started trying to find out about (stallions) and make some inquiries and we figured we were finished,” Ramsey said. “This morning….I said ‘Well the sales are down. The indicators are down’. If they want to buy her for $2.8 million they can have her.”

Stephanie’s Kitten was also an RNA at $3.95 million at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton November sale.

The decision to enter Stephanie’s Kitten in the Fasig-Tipton sale was not a popular one among the Ramsey family  as she is named after Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s granddaughter. She is also a candidate for the Hall of Fame with her race resume, winning Grade I races at ages 2, 4, 5 and 6.

The bay mare captured the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and her win in the Filly & Mare Turf on Saturday made her first horse to win multiple Breeders’ Cup starts with four years in between.

“I am (crestfallen), we were already talking about which stallion we were going to breed her to,” said Jeff Ramsey, son of Ken and Sarah and father of their granddaughter Stephanie. “We actually made phone calls this morning. I thought we were keeping her. So did dad, he thought we were keeping her too.”

Stephanie’s Kitten retires with 11 wins from 25 starts and $4,292,904 in earnings.

“Last September, I bought Stephanie’s Kitten’s full sister so I’m not out of the family entirely,” Ken Ramsey said. “It’s just time to take a little money off the table. She’ll have a great home and they’ll take good care of her. I feel good about where she is going. All in all, I think I made the right decision for me, the family, and for her.”

Curlin to stand for $100,000 in 2016

Edited release:
Two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, sire of such Grade I winners as Keen Ice, Stellar Wind and Curalina in 2015, will stand for an advertised fee of $100,000 in 2016 at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms, up from the $35,000 he commanded this year.
Curlin relocated from Lane’s End Farm to Hill ‘n’ Dale this summer after the latter purchased a 20 percent interest in the stallion. The son of Smart Strike currently ranks seventh on  the General Sire List with progeny earning in excess of $9,500,000.

“The rise of Curlin as an elite sire of Grade I winners, on any surface at any distance of either sex, makes him a unique choice for breeders,” said John G. Sikura, President of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms.  “He has three outstanding Grade I winners this year and the best is yet to come. We will support him with our best mares and encourage our clients to do the same.”

Sikura added they would limit Curlin’s book 125 mares “with the ability to add up to 15 additional mares later in the season”.
“He is like a family member to us and we are thrilled by his rise to the top of the stallion ranks,” said Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm, which owns the other 80 percent in Curlin. “We will continue to support him with our stellar broodmare band, a great diverse group of mares that compliment his versatility. Our goal is to breed Classic winners by Curlin and enhance his legacy as a great sire.”

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