September 26, 2023

Cupid’s $2.7 million sister leads Tapit hit parade at Keeneland

The Tapit filly prompted Coolmore to pay the highest price at any 2017 North American yearling auction (Photo courtesy of Keeneland)

Keeneland’s move to concentrate the crème de la crème into a single-session Book 1 produced a banner opening Monday of the September Yearling Sale. Not only did eight yearlings sell for seven-figure sums, equaling the total from the three-day Book 1 last year, but a trio – all by Tapit – went deep into $2 million territory.

The session topper, a $2.7 million full sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Cupid (Tapit), commanded the highest price for any yearling sold at a North American public auction in 2017, and the most for a Keeneland September filly since 2008.

Purchased by M.V. Magnier of Coolmore, which campaigns Cupid, Hip No. 69 was consigned by VanMeter-Gentry Sales, agent.

“She’s a very well-bred filly and she’s very good-looking,” Magnier said. “Let’s hope she’s anywhere as good as he (Cupid) is.”

“We’re really excited,” Tom VanMeter said. “She is a beautiful filly. She had probably the best pedigree in the book. It was an awesome price and we’re excited. That mare (dam Pretty ‘n Smart) has been very good to us. I think we have sold something like $7 million (worth of sales horses) out of her.”

Pretty ‘n Smart (Beau Genius), Grade 2-placed herself on the track, produced Grade 3 winners Ashley’s Kitty (Tale of the Cat) and Heart Ashley (Lion Heart), as well as stakes scorer Indianapolis (Medaglia d’Oro), prior to Cupid. Hero of last year’s Rebel (G2), Indiana Derby (G2) and West Virginia Derby (G2), Cupid earned a top-level laurel in the May 27 Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) and is pointing for more Grade 1 glory this fall.

The $2.6 million Tapit colt is a cousin of Gun Runner (Photo courtesy of Keeneland)

Mandy Pope went to $2.6 million to take a blueblood son of Tapit home to her Whisper Hill Farm. Hip 49 is the first registered foal from multiple Grade 1-placed Miss Besilu (Medaglia d’Oro), who is a half-sister to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam (Saint Ballado) and Grade 2 vixen Quiet Giant (Giant’s Causeway). Quiet Giant is back in the news these days as the dam of the streaking multiple Grade 1 star Gun Runner (Candy Ride), an earner of $5.7 million and again this week’s number one in the NTRA poll.

“I love Tapits as I buy them, breed them and sell them,” Pope said. “I have other members of this family and I know it is going to be a continuing successful family. He is a strong horse with good bone and substance. He seems to be very good-minded.

“I am hoping he will be another Gun Runner. I figured the price would be around $2 million so I stretched a little further. I really believe in this family. This is the most I have spent on a colt.”

Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Sales Agency, Book 1’s leading consignor who sold the $2.6 million colt, praised breeder Three Chimneys Farm.

“First of all, give the credit to Three Chimneys; they bred and raised the horse,” Taylor said. “When we went out there we didn’t really know what horses we were going to get to sell for them.

“When we saw this horse we were like, ‘Wow.’ We look at thousands of horses every spring, and when he came out I was like ‘Yeah that’s pretty close to the best one I’ve seen.’ We knew he would be very popular.

“I’m happy for Mandy Pope. (He’s a) beautiful horse, so we had really high expectations, but you never know. Once you get into seven figures it’s just a matter of who wants them the most. If he runs the way he looks like he can, with that pedigree, he’s one of the few horses that can command huge, huge upside as a stallion. Anyway, he’s got everything, now all he’s got to do is just run to his looks.”

The Tapit-Tiz Miz Sue colt went to the session’s top buyer, Shadwell (Photo courtesy of Keeneland)

Tapit delivered more fireworks later in the session, as his colt out of Grade 1-winning millionaire Tiz Miz Sue (Tiznow) went to Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwell Estate Co. (the session’s top buyer) for $2.5 million. Unlike the top two sellers, who are gray like their sire, Hip 105 from the draft of Paramount Sales, agent, is a bay.

“Fantastic,” Paramount’s Gabriel Duignan said. “Coming in, we knew he would sell well but we didn’t expect that much. We knew we had all the right people on him. We were confident he was going to sell good but it all came together and we are delighted.

“This is for my longest client, Mrs. Ran Ricks (owner/breeder of Tiz Miz Sue under her CresRan banner). This is the third generation of horses I have raised for her. As I tell her, ‘She is not my oldest client; she is my longest client.’”

War Front was responsible for four million-dollar sellers, with his priciest being the $1.9 million first foal from multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Iotapa (Afleet Alex). Donato Lanni, agent, signed the ticket for the colt from the Taylor Made consignment.

”He’s a nice horse – that is what they cost,” Lanni said of Hip 27. “He looks like a good horse, a strong horse, an athletic horse. He was high up on our short list.”

The $1.6 million War Front filly is out of a close relative of Churchill (Photo courtesy of Keeneland)

A War Front filly whose dam, Aloof (Galileo), is a Group 3-winning relative of Churchill (Galileo), commanded $1.6 million from Larry Best’s Oxo Equine. Offered by Mr. and Mrs. T. Wayne Sweezey’s Timber Town, agent, she toured the ring as Hip 128.

“I was looking for a War Front filly for a while, and this one just stood out: beautiful, beautiful horse,” Best said. “I went back to see it probably 15 times. I wanted to confirm my first instinct. But I saw it in the ring and loved it, still love it, I just hope it can run. I’m going to check on the hurricane conditions down there (in Ocala, Florida) before I ship, but hopefully it will be going to Eddie Woods (Training Center).”

Aloof was produced by multiple highweight Airwave (Air Express), making her a half-sister to Meow (Storm Cat), the dam of champion and dual Guineas winner Churchill as well as current Duchess of Cambridge (G2) vixen Clemmie. Both are by Aloof’s sire, Galileo.

Best also prevailed for the next filly on the leaderboard, a $1.25 million daughter of Medaglia d’Oro and Canadian Horse of the Year Sealy Hill (Point Given) from the consignment of Gainesway, agent. A three-time Sovereign Award winner, Sealy Hill is also starring as a broodmare with three graded stakes winners so far – Canadian champion female sprinter Hillaby (Distorted Humor) and Grade 3 winners Belle Hill (Sky Mesa) and Gale Force (Giant’s Causeway).

“This filly has always been nice,” Gainesway’s Brian Graves said of Hip 82. “We brought her to the market, and she brought more than we thought she would.”

Medaglia d’Oro interrupted the Tapit-War Front show with his daughter out of Sealy Hill (Photo courtesy of Keeneland)

“A beautiful Medaglia d’Oro filly,” Best said, “and the first dam is very productive. Just a horse I liked. A year ago I bought my first Medaglia d’Oro filly here. I love the filly I have, (she’s) doing very well in training. Yes, I like Medaglia d’Oros.

“Most likely (her) first stop will be Eddie Woods Training (Center) down in Ocala. He takes all my horses and does all my breaking. And then we’ll see from there.”

A pair of War Front colts rounded out the seven-figure lots. Hip 104, a son of Group 3 victress and Grade/Group 1-placed Theyskens’ Theory (Bernardini), was knocked down to Shadwell for $1.2 million. Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services (Sandy Stuart), agent, was the consignor of the colt, whose dam is a half to champion Stevie Wonderboy (Stephen Got Even).

Near the close of the session, VanMeter-Gentry Sales topped off their big evening by selling a $1.1 million War Front half-brother to Grade 2 heroine Parranda (English Channel). Out of the winning Rahy mare Dynamic Feature, Hip 165 was purchased by Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock for Phoenix Thoroughbreds.

“We all know War Front’s great on the turf at home,” Radcliffe said. “The results he’s got in England this year have been incredible, so I wanted to get a nice War Front here.

“(The colt) was scopey, great depth and great walk – most Europeans like that. I paid less than I expected to pay for him, actually, so I’m pretty happy.”

Radcliffe added that the yearling would be bound for Europe and likely the yard of her husband, Jeremy Noseda.

The total of seven-figure yearlings could have been 10, if not for two RNAs. A full brother to Shared Belief (Candy Ride), Hip 153, was a $1.9 million buyback, and a Tapit half-brother to champion Honor Code (A.P. Indy), Hip 86, failed to reach his reserve at a hammer price of $1.05 million. Had they sold, 10 million-dollar sellers would have beaten last year’s nine for the entire sale.

The numbers for the boutique Book 1 reflected the strong trade. Keeneland reported that 95 yearlings realized $54,175,000, producing a $570,263 average and a $500,000 median. A comparison to the first session of the three-day Book 1 from a year ago wouldn’t be apposite, given the change in format, but the results could hardly have been more positive. On the Monday opener in 2016, 108 horses (from a larger catalog of 202) grossed $34,531,000, with a $319,731 average and a $267,500 median.

Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston was understandably delighted with the outcome, and compared Monday’s results to the overall Book 1 numbers from last year.

“The first day, Book 1 session far exceeded our expectations,” Elliston said. “We had a couple of goals for this new format. First and foremost, we wanted to create momentum from the very beginning that we hoped to take through the entire sale. Second, we wanted to have as many good horses as we could (during Week 1) for this international buying group.

“Mission accomplished on No. 1. If you look at the numbers, the average today was $570,263. The average for the entire (three-day) Book 1 last year was $347,471. That is a 63 percent gain on the average and 66 percent gain in the median ($500,000 versus $300,000) from last year’s Book 1.

“We put as many good horses as we could in front of these folks, and there are incredibly good horses coming up in the next three days of Book 2,” Elliston said.

“The fireworks are not over, I promise you that. There were a lot of buyers who went home without their orders filled and they are not satisfied. These breeders are bringing incredible horses back for the Book 2.”

Book 2 runs Tuesday through Thursday, each session kicking off at a special time of 11 a.m. (EDT) (one hour later than Books 3-6). After a Friday dark day, the rest of the 12-day sale continues through September 23.

For in-depth resources and live streaming of the auction, visit