A son of War Front led the way at Tuesday’s second session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, becoming the most expensive horse sold at a North American public auction so far this year when bringing $2.4 million from Coolmore’s M.V. Magnier. Listed as Hip No. 458, the dark bay colt hails from the regal female family of Belmont Stakes winner and champion three-year-old filly Rags to Riches.
“We’ve been (very lucky with the family in the past),” Magnier said. “He’s a lovely horse and he has all the right credentials as well for a great racehorse. We’re going to bring him back to Ireland and hopefully he’ll end up being a good one.”
Consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent, the sales topper is out of the Grade 1-winning Smart Strike mare Streaming. His second maternal dam, the Storm Cat mare Teaming, counts Rags to Riches and Belmont Stakes victor Jazil as half-siblings.
“We had high expectations, but you never know,” Hill ‘n’ Dale President John G. Sikura said. “That is our best pedigree, and we are very proud of this one that we have developed over time. We retain fillies and offer these good colts. We thought he could be the sale topper but you just have to be humble and work really hard to present your horses as well as you can and hope they are well received.
“These are world-class professional buyers,” Sikura added, “and when good horses present themselves they are there to buy them.”
“He’s by one of the best stallions in America, and he’s out of one of the best families in America,” Magnier said. “It’s a lot of money to pay for a horse but he deserved it. He’s very good-looking. Let’s hope we made the right decision.”
A March 5 foal, the War Front colt eclipsed the $2.2 million paid for a colt from the first crop of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah during Monday’s opening session. After five seven-digit sellers on Monday, eight yearlings commanded $1 million or more Tuesday.
“The figures are phenomenal: eight millionaires today and five yesterday, which is equal to the number of millionaires sold during last year’s entire September Sale,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “Today’s session was competitive at the top; it was competitive in the middle; it was competitive at the bottom. When you have a 21 percent buyback rate, lots of business is getting done at every level.
“We were cautiously optimistic, but I can’t say we knew it would be as strong as it was today. That blew away our expectations,” Elliston said. “Everyone had high hopes, given the quality we have seen, observing what has transpired in other sales this summer and knowing the entire world would be coming to this sale. The buyers had their piggybanks open and it was quite a show.”
Keeneland sold 168 yearlings on Tuesday for gross sales of $65,835,000, for an average of $391,875 and a median of $300,000. Cumulatively, 306 horses have sold during the first two sessions of the September Sale for $114,455,000, for an average of $374,036 and a median of $300,000.
“I know there are high-quality horses in the next two days (of Book 1) and there are folks eager to buy, so I think we will continue to have competitive bidding,” Elliston said. “Today’s strong trade foreshadows strong sales throughout the entire auction.”
Claiborne Farm stallion War Front was also responsible for the sale’s top-priced filly, a $1.75 million half-sister to 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. Trainer John Gosden signed the ticket for Godolphin, who purchased Monday’s session-topper. Hinkle Farms sold the April 4 foal, who was listed as Hip 389, and the bay lass is out of Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle.
Gosden indicated the filly is likely headed to Europe.
“(Her price) was very strong,” Gosden said, “but when you’re buying a filly of that absolute quality from a fine breeder, by a great stallion, a half-sister to a Kentucky Derby winner, that’s exactly what you expect to pay to raise her to be a broodmare.”
Godolphin was the session’s leading buyer, spending $5.67 million for six yearlings. They also went to $1.3 million for Hip 456, a Curlin colt consigned by Eaton Sales, agent.
Anthony Stroud, who signed the ticket, said the colt is “very athletic. He just had a good way of going. (We paid) more than we anticipated, you know you’ve got to stretch when you see one you really like.”
Mike Ryan went to $1.4 million for Hip 383, Secret Agent, a colt by Uncle Mo. The January 30 colt is out of the Street Cry mare Secret and was sold by Bridie Harrison, agent for Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds.
“It blew me away when I saw him because he reminded me of Nyquist (who is a son of Uncle Mo),” Ryan said. “We bought Nyquist as a yearling here for a whole lot less ($230,000), but this horse was very, very special. I thought (he) might have been the best yearling I saw this year. I bought him for a partnership and haven’t figured out who is going to train him yet, but he’ll go to a top trainer.
“We think he’s a top prospect, a classic horse out of a Street Cry mare, and we’re dreaming Derby.”
A pair of seven-figure yearlings were consigned by Van-Meter Gentry Sales, agent. Phoenix Thoroughbreds paid $1.35 million for Hip 388, an Empire Maker colt. Magnier spent $1.2 million on Hip 306, a daughter of American Pharoah who is out of the Grade 2-placed Beau Genius mare Pretty ‘n Smart. This is the immediate female family of Grade 1 winner Cupid.
“(Pretty ‘n Smart) has been an awesome mare,” said consignor Tom VanMeter, adding that his late business partner, Olin Gentry, “who left us too soon, is responsible for everything this mare has done. She means everything to our operation – she has provided our own sale-topping yearling every year. This filly did everything right, and we were pretty confident she would sell well today.”
Gainesway was the leading consignor on Tuesday, selling 18 yearlings for $8,715,000.
Wednesday marks the third of four Book 1 sessions and the sale begins at 1 p.m. (EDT) the next two days. Friday is an off day and the September 15-23 sessions open at 10 a.m. Visit keeneland.com for catalog, updates and streaming.