With the Keeneland September Sale looming, By The Numbers puts the performance of its graduates in Australasia in the spotlight.
Let’s start off with a quiz question. Can you name the two Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduates to have won Group 1 races in Australia since 2000?
The one which should immediately leap to mind is Con Te Partiro (Scat Daddy), who toasted dual Group 1 success in the autumn of 2020 when she won both the Coolmore Classic (Gr 1, 1500m) and the Queen Of The Turf (Gr 1, 1600m) for Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott in the black and red Newgate colours.
The second one is a bit trickier. Lighthouse (Mizzen Mast), who followed Con Te Partiro’s lead to become an American-bred winner of the Coolmore Classic in 2022, was initially catalogued in the 2018 Keeneland September Sale, but was withdrawn.
The answer is It’s Somewhat (Dynaformer), who was initially passed in at the 2012 edition. He was later bought by trainer Mark Johnston for US$150,000 on behalf of the Maktoum family before winning a Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) in the Godolphin blue for John O’Shea in 2017.
The four-and-a-half-year journey that It’s Somewhat took from the Keeneland sales ring to Randwick mile glory later is one which has been trod by plenty of other horses in the past 20 years. Like both It’s Somewhat and Con Te Partiro, often that route has taken in other stops along the way such as Europe and the United Kingdom and involved multiple ownership and stable changes.
Spectroscope (Medaglia D’Oro) followed into O’Shea’s stables two years after It’s Somewhat. He was a graduate of the 2014 Keeneland September Sale, where he had been purchased by the then Godolphin rep John Ferguson for US$325,000.
He had won two races in France with Andre Fabre and then came to Australia where he won a Doncaster Prelude (Gr 3, 1500m).
The 2010 Keeneland September Sale produced a couple of future Australian stakes winners in Mouro (Grand Slam) and Tales Of Grimm (Distorted Humor).
Mouro cost just US$20,000 at Keeneland as a yearling and was then spotted by Tony McEvoy as a prospect when racing in France. Purchased to race in Australia, Mouro won a trio of stakes races for McEvoy, including two at Group 3 level.
Tales Of Grimm was another to plot a path through elsewhere to stakes success in Australia. Initially a US$60,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, he won two races at Newbury before being sold to Sam Kavanagh in Australia through the 2014 Tattersalls Horses In Training Sale.
He would win the Scone Cup (Listed, 1600m) for Kavanagh, before transferring to Chris Waller, with whom he won another Listed race.
Selected Keeneland graduates who became Australasian stakes winners
|It’s Somewhat||Dynaformer||Passed In||2012||G1|
|Con Te Partiro||Scat Daddy||$130,000||2015||G1|
|Tales Of Grimm||Distorted Humor||$60,000||2010||Listed|
Waller had tasted earlier success with another Keeneland September graduate, Patrician’s Glory (Landholder), who, like Tales Of Grimm, came to Australia through the Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale. He would win two races for Waller.
Storm The Stars (Sea The Stars), offered at the 2013 Keeneland September Sale, would prove another useful graduate for Waller, placing twice at Group 2 level, while more recently the stable won a Pam O’Neill Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) in May with the progressive Frumos (Kitten’s Joy), initially a US$27,000 buy at the 2019 Keeneland September Sale.
Almoonqith (Dynaformer), a winner of the Geelong Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) for Lindsay Park and Shadwell, was a graduate of Keeneland September in 2011, where he cost US$725,000, while continuing the staying theme, this year’s Wellington Cup (Gr 3, 3200m) winner Leaderboard (Street Cry) was sold at Keeneland September in 2016 for US$70,000.
All the horses mentioned above took the indirect route to racing in this part of the world, but the direct involvement of Australian buyers at Keeneland has increased in recent years.
Michael Kent Jnr spearheaded an American experiment with training partner Mick Price Racing, purchasing a trio of yearlings at the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. All three have been winners, with the most promising being Green Belt (Declaration Of War), who was stakes-placed before suffering an injury.
Price and Kent returned to the buyers’ bench in 2021, buying an as-yet-unraced filly, Nakoa (War Front), while they train another graduate of that sale, the well-related filly Heaven Forbid (Violence), who was purchased by Sheamus Mills Bloodstock.
Last year, Ciaron Maher’s bloodstock representative Will Bourne was at Keeneland September and purchased a filly by Curlin (Smart Strike) out of Australian-bred Group 1 winner Bounding (Lonhro) for US$250,000.
Buying American-bred yearlings direct to race in Australia has its perils. Obviously, there is the cost of transportation and associated risks with younger horses, but there is also the fact that they are half a year behind their southern hemisphere contemporaries when it comes to competing in age-restricted races.
Buying fillies who carry significant residual value, such as the ones purchased by Bourne and Mills, is a much sounder business case, and may be one that other Australian buyers look to replicate in the coming years.
The connection between Australia and the Keeneland September Sale, where 99.6 per cent of the 2023 catalogue was bred in North America, is part of the broader relationship between the thoroughbred gene pools of the two countries.
The volume of horses travelling directly from the United States to Australia has been steady over the past decade. From 2012 until 2022, 984 thoroughbreds were imported from America, or 4.7 per cent of all overall overseas imports.
Since 2012, 0.5 per cent, or 39 Australian stakes races, have been won by American-bred thoroughbreds, with four Group 1 winners among that list.
The other American-bred Group 1 winner in Australia in that time, aside from It’s Somewhat, Con Te Partiro and Lighthouse, has been Homesman (War Front), who never went through a sale.
If we widen the net to include American-bred Australian Group 1 winners since 2000, we can add two Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winners, Media Puzzle (Theatrical) and Americain (Dynaformer), and a Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) winner, Tawqeet (Kingmambo). In all, there have been 28 individual American-bred stakes winners in Australia this century, winning 52 races between them.
American-bred Group 1 winners in Australia since 2000
|Tawqeet||Kingmambo||Caulfield Cup, The Metropolitan|
|Homesman||War Front||Underwood Stakes, Australian Cup|
|Con Te Partiro||Scat Daddy||Coolmore Classic, Queen Of The Turf|
|It’s Somewhat||Dynaformer||Doncaster Mile|
|Media Puzzle||Theatrical||Melbourne Cup|
|Lighthouse||Mizzen Mast||Coolmore Classic|
Taking that back to the breeding industry, the influence of American mares has been previously discussed in this column, with 12 Australian Group 1 winners out of American-bred mares in the past three completed seasons.
That’s a high return of success when you consider that in 2021, only 2.7 per cent of mares active in Australia sported the (USA) suffix.
Then, of course, there is the ongoing influence of American sires. Since 2000, 322 Australian Group 1 races, or 20.3 per cent of those conducted, have been won by the progeny of American-bred sires. When we broaden that out to include stakes races, the success rate is 18.4 per cent.
There hasn’t been a champion sire of Australia who was American-bred since Danehill (Danzig) won the last of his nine titles in 2004-05, the same year More Than Ready (Southern Halo) won the first-season sires’ title.
However, last season saw Justify (Scat Daddy), arguably the most famous Keeneland September graduate of the 21st century, become the first American-bred sire to claim champion freshman honours in Australia since More Than Ready’s success.
Stakes record of American-bred and American-sired horses in Australia (since 2000)
|Category||Stakes wins||SW % of overall||Group 1 wins||G1w % of overall|
|Horses by American-bred sires||1977||18.4%||322||20.3%|
By The Numbers will return in next Wednesday’s edition of ANZ Bloodstock News