Sales News

American Pharoah filly tops ‘excellent’ opening day of Keeneland at $1.4 million

The Keeneland September Yearling Sale kicked off in fine fashion, headlined by a knockout American Pharoah (Pioneerof The Nile) filly going for US$1.4 million (approx. AU$1.91 million) to Joe Allen.

The filly’s half-sister Echo Zulu (Gun Runner) had comfortably won the Spinaway Stakes (Gr 1, 7f) at Saratoga just eight days earlier to provide a significant update.

From the 201 horses catalogued for the Book 1 session on day one, Keeneland reported 95 yearlings sold for gross receipts of $38,172,000 (approx. AU$52.1 million), an average of $401,811 (approx. AU$548,300), and a median of $325,000 (approx. AU$443,500). The 61 horses that failed to meet their reserve represented an RNA rate of 39 per cent, up from 36 per cent in 2020.

Last year 109 horses sold on the first day for gross receipts of $40,680,000, with an average price of $373,211 and a median of $330,000. This year’s catalogue sessions run similar to last year, with the omission of Book 6 and an additional day of selling added to Book 5.

This year three yearlings broke into the $1m (approx. AU$1.36 million) bracket – two fillies and one colt – compared to the five sold in 2020 on the opening day.

Bidding was electric and competitive in the ring, with many buyers prepared to battle for their top picks.

“At the end of the day, the market looks fair; the right horses have sold well,” said Jacob West of West Bloodstock.

“Some people put horses in Book 1 to take a shot, and it worked for some. We followed quite a few colts into the ring, were underbidder on a few, and didn’t even get our hands up on others – they have blown by what we thought they were worth.”

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Keeneland made great efforts to get foreign buyers on the grounds, many of whom were seen on Monday hoping to secure horses for clients.

Shannon Arvin, president and CEO of Keeneland, said: “The sale should be an enjoyable environment, and it’s exciting that we’re here, it’s exciting that we’re all back together, it’s exciting that we have these phenomenal horses on offer in Book 1.

“We’ve worked hard to create that environment, and I think it did feel a little different this year. We hope it did; it did to us, and we got a lot of positive feedback about that. We had cocktails being passed, brunch being served, and a bluegrass band playing My Old Kentucky Home right before the sale started. Book 1 at Keeneland September is special, and it deserves to feel that way.”

Online and phone bidding was a feature, with six purchases for receipts of $2,605,000 (approx. AU$3.55 million).

Topping the session was the American Pharoah filly signed for on Allen’s behalf by Alan Quartucci of Northshore Bloodstock.

“She looks like a real runner,” said Quartucci. “She has a fantastic pedigree that’s still going forward every day. The filly who won in Saratoga [Echo Zulu] was amazing. She’s the whole package.” 

Consigned by Betz Thoroughbreds, the filly was bred in Kentucky by a partnership involving Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.

She is out of Grade 2 winner Letgomyecho (Menifee), who aside from Echo Zulu is also dam of Echo Town (Speightstown), winner of the 2020 H Allen Jerkens Stakes (Gr 1, 7f), and Grade 3 winner J Boys Echo (Mineshaft).

Taylor Made Sales Agency was the day’s leading consignor, with 14 yearlings selling for gross receipts of $5,782,000 (approx. AU$7.89 million) and an average price of $413,000 (approx. AU$563,600).

Taylor Made’s Mark Taylor said: “Today was excellent. It was a little polarised, there were some horses that didn’t quite fit the bill for Book 1, but for the horses that belonged, it was firm.

“My gut feeling is that the market is just going to keep getting better as the sale goes on. The people who play in the $150,000-$300,000 market, Book 3, that range is going to be very strong moving forward.”

West also found the market solid, securing four horses for client Repole Stable and St Elias, and two for Robert and Lawana Low.

“The facts are, Into Mischief and Quality Road are damn good stallions,” he said. “People are breeding to them, and we give good money for them – I’ll never take that away from the breeder.”

Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday) was the session’s leading sire, with 11 sold from 15 offered for gross receipts of $7,125,000 (approx. AU$9.72 million) and a $647,727 (approx. AU$883,900) average. 

The progeny of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy), whose first foals are yearlings this season, were also in demand – especially from those based in Japan. Hideyuki Mori took home the three highest-priced sons by the Ashford Stud stallion, while J.S. Company landed a filly. Justify ended the session with ten sold from 15 offered, for gross receipts of $4,322,000 (approx. AU$5.9 million) and a $432,200 (approx. AU$589,800) average. 

Looking forward to the rest of the week, vice president of sales Tony Lacy said, “I think there is a lot more confidence. I think it’s healthier in many ways. The money was spread out over more horses. The energy on the grounds was very strong. 

“I think you’ll find a lot of people got shut out today. I know of one group of buyers – they were underbidders; we sent them down a bottle of bourbon because I think they were underbidders on about 15 or 16 horses.

“That in itself was a very, very strong sign, and when you got some RNAs, that’s okay because these are people that want to race, they like their horses, and that’s not a sign of weakness. That’s a sign of strength.”

The sale concludes on September 25.