Though largely anecdotal, there has been some sentiment within the Thoroughbred industry that international shoppers were waning in their willingness to invest in pedigrees rooted in this side of the Atlantic.
The four days of selling that comprised the Book One portion of the Keeneland September yearling sale told a different yarn. And the flagship stallions from two of Thoroughbred racing’s most vaunted operations helped close out the final select session of the catalog with results that reflected the global buying strength which filled the pavilion.
The desire to own offspring from Claiborne Farm’s leading sire War Front and Gainesway’s top stallion Tapit is a near universal one within the industry. Fittingly, the two studs have the co-sale toppers as the 13-session exercise heads into its dark day Friday, with a Tapit colt selling to Shadwell Stud for $2.2 million Thursday and a bay son of War Front going to representatives of Coolmore Stud for the same price earlier in the session.
Where Wednesday’s session cooled slightly at the top end, selling just two yearlings for $1 million or more, the heavy hitters stretched themselves accordingly for exceptional individuals Thursday, helping the overall average and median stay ahead of last year’s pace even as the total gross of $142,153,000 is down 7.32 percent.
Six horses sold for seven figures Thursday, bringing the total number of $1 million-plus babies to 13 thus far in the sale. Of that baker’s dozen, offspring of Tapit and War Front account for six of them.
“Tapit and War Front are the No. 1 and 2 most sought after stallions in North America at the moment,” said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland’s director of sales. “These are the horses that are performing at the highest level on the racetrack.
“Both Claiborne and Gainesway have worked very hard and both horses have earned their positions. There was high competition for all of them.”
A flurry of action came early in Thursday’s session with three yearlings hitting the seven-figure mark within about a 10-minute span of each other, highlighted by a Medaglia d’Oro filly that is a half sister to Grade I winner Nereid and sold to Irish-based Moyglare Stud for $1.5 million.
Superior quality reared up again later in the day as Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier signed the ticket for the $2.2 million War Front colt that was both consigned by Claiborne and a tribute to its heralded breeding program.
The bay colt is out of the Arch mare Gold Vault – herself a half sister to Grade I winner Pomeroy – and is a half brother to Grade I winner Contested.
“He’s a great mover, a lot of quality, and you don’t need to say how good Claiborne is,” said Magnier, who added the colt would likely head to Europe. “It’s a brilliant pedigree. Arch is a brilliant broodmare sire with (Coolmore sire and champion) Uncle Mo. If he is anywhere along those lines we’ll be happy to pay for him.”
A gray Tapit colt from the consignment of Clearsky Farms matched that level, as Rick Nichols of Shadwell Stud outlasted several major operations to take home the half brother to 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner New Year’s Day.
“There is a whole lot of potential there,” Nichols said. “If he wins a Grade I, he’ll definitely be a stallion.”
Global operations were also at the head of the pack after four days of selling with John Ferguson, agent for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Magnier, and Shadwell representing the top three leading buyers, respectively.
While gross receipts are softer compared to this point in 2013, sparked in part to selling 13.37 percent fewer horses, the average of $300,535 is up 6.98 percent with the overall median of $240,000 up 15.66 percent.
The rate of horses not sold is running slightly ahead of last year, coming in at 27.34 percent compared to 27.01 percent in 2013.
“I think you’re seeing over and over again, the $400-$500,000 level is solid, solid sales. Even if it’s not spectacular at the top, I’ll take that any day over a few big numbers,” said Bill Farish of Lane’s End, the leading consignor heading Book Two. “You know the more stallions we get that fit that bill, then the more (international buyers) will be here. It’s as simple as that. Everyone likes to talk about medication and other things, but the bottom line is if you don’t have the pedigree for them they’re not going to come.
“When we had the Kingmambos and those kind of stallions, they all came. You just have to have the right pedigrees.”
The sale runs through September 21 and resumes on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.