Five first-crop sires to watch at Keeneland September

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

September 14th, 2015

For racing fans, the sales have a "circle of life" aspect to them. It doesn't seem all that long since we watched the parents of these yearlings compete on the track, and now their offspring aren't far from entering training themselves.

This is very much in evidence at Keeneland's September Yearling Sale, where the first-crop sires only just entered stud in 2013.

Since we've already discussed Frankel in another post, here are my five U.S.-based first-crop sires to follow (with their location and 2015 stud fee).

Bodemeister (WinStar, $30,000) figured to be popular, with his attractive pedigree as a son of exported Empire Maker, as well as his brilliant speed that he carried over a route of ground. But fuel's been added to the fire with the emergence of another prominent stallion son of Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile, who's sired Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in only his second crop.

Although unraced at two, Bodemeister wasted no time in jumping onto the 2012 Triple Crown trail. Making just his fourth career start in the Arkansas Derby (G1), he ran his rivals off their feet in a 9 1/2-length demolition job. That propelled him into favoritism for the Kentucky Derby (G1), where he made an heroic wire attempt through blistering fractions, only to be caught late by I'll Have Another. He came even closer to pulling it off in the Preakness (G1) in what turned out to be his last start.

Bodemeister gets that turbo from his dam, Untouched Talent, a daughter of Storm Cat who flashed high speed early in her brief career. Racing only at two, she dominated the Juan Gonzalez Memorial at Pleasanton in her debut, added the Sorrento (G3), and placed second in the Del Mar Debutante (G1) and Alcibiades (G1).

Untouched Talent has produced three other winners, led by multiple Grade 1-placed Fascinating and current two-year-old Finnegan, who is highly regarded by trainer Wesley Ward. If Finnegan lives up to expectations, Bodemeister's page will get yet another boost.

Bodemeister, whose yearling average now sits at $190,524, was in demand at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga last month. He was responsible for a $500,000 colt and three more who sold for $400,000 or greater.

That momentum should carry over to Keeneland September. Bodemeister has the quantity, with a total of 83 cataloged, but also the quality. His strong representation in Book 1 features half-siblings to Acapulco (Hip No. 297), Hot Dixie Chick (Hip 45), and Mine That Bird and Dullahan (Hip 452).

Union Rags (Lane's End, $35,000) likewise has plenty of commercial appeal. The handsome son of Dixie Union was a star two-year-old who dominated the Saratoga Special (G2) and Champagne (G1). He suffered his first loss when a wide-trip, near-miss second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), which cost him the divisional championship. Union Rags later developed into a classic winner at three, culminating in a rallying victory in the Belmont (G1) in what turned out to be his final start.

Out of the Gone West mare Tempo, Union Rags hails from a strong female line. He is a half-brother to the dam of multiple highweight and Group 1 winner Declaration of War, his second dam is Grade 2 victress Terpsichorist, and his third dam is classic-winning champion *Glad Rags II.

The market has already welcomed Union Rags' first progeny, with his 2014 weanlings bringing an average of $133,941 -- tops among freshmen, according to Lane's End. His yearlings are currently averaging $171,308, topped by a $460,000 seller at Saratoga.

The promising stallion has no fewer than 63 cataloged here, 16 in the elite Book 1, including half-siblings to Romacaca (Hip 569, since withdrawn), Super Ninety Nine (Hip 262), Handsome Mike (Hip 175), Gottcha Gold (Hip 305), and Grand Adventure (Hip 12), as well as a daughter of Indian Apple Is (Hip 333).

The Factor (Lane's End, $15,000) is really catching on, with his yearlings averaging $200,000 (making him the number one first-crop sire in this category, according to Lane's End). That statistic was buoyed by a terrific Saratoga sale, with progeny going for as much as $750,000 and $600,000.

Interestingly, his first weanlings averaged only $87,150, and that mirrors The Factor's own trajectory of being inexpensive early. He fetched $50,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and even less as a $40,000 yearling at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July. But he was a hotter commodity as a two-year-old in training at Barretts May, selling for $250,000.

The Factor famously set a new six-furlong track record of 1:06.98 when breaking his maiden at Santa Anita, and the speedy gray went on to front-running victories in the 2011 San Vicente (G2) and Rebel (G2). Ruled off the Derby trail, he later found his niche as a sprinter, beating his elders in the Pat O'Brien (G1) and adding the Malibu (G1) and San Carlos (G2) to his resume.

Among his 65 yearlings on offer here are half-siblings to So Many Ways (Hip 312) and Declassify (Hip 455) as well as a three-quarter sister to Giovanni Boldini (Hip 203).

Creative Cause (Airdrie, $15,000) hasn't had a showstopper in the auction ring so far, but that could change at Keeneland September, thanks to a few yearlings from deep Airdrie families.

Of 39 cataloged, six are in Book 1, and sure to attract attention as half-siblings to Littleprincessemma, the dam of American Pharoah (Hip 261); Believe You Can (Hip 247, since withdrawn); Include Me Out and Check the Label (Hip 233); Biofuel and Tu Endie Wei (Hip 476); The Pamplemousse (Hip 181); and Mark Valeski and Albano (Hip 515).

Creative Cause is by champion and leading sire Giant's Causeway, whose other successful sons at stud include Shamardal, Footstepsinthesand and First Samurai, and he's out of the Grade 1-winning racemare Dream of Summer.

Among the leading members of his generation, Creative Cause was a precocious juvenile who continued to perform at a high level at three. The gray won the Norfolk (G1), Best Pal (G2) and San Felipe (G2) and placed in such events as the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Del Mar Futurity (G1), Santa Anita Derby (G1) (by a nose to I'll Have Another) and Preakness in his finale.

Shackleford (Darby Dan, $20,000) has a total of 53 in the catalog, but just five in Book 1, with his highest-profile representative being a half-sister to Danza and Majestic Harbor (Hip 159).

Considering that Shackleford himself improved with age, it wouldn't be surprising if his progeny follow a similar path. The flashy chestnut missed in the 2011 Florida Derby (G1), and finished a gallant fourth in the Kentucky Derby, before upsetting Animal Kingdom in the Preakness. At four, Shackleford was a tremendously game winner of the Met Mile (G1) and Clark (G1), both accomplished on the front end.

Aside from his speed and tenacity, Shackleford brings a terrific pedigree. By Storm Cat's son Forestry, he is a half-brother to Grade 1 heroine Lady Joanne, Grade 2 winner Afleeting Lady and multiple Grade 3 queen Baghdaria. No wonder their dam, the Unbridled mare Oatsee, was honored as Broodmare of the Year. This is the further family of supersire Gone West.

Sales pavilion photo courtesy of Keeneland.