My day at Keeneland September, starring a few War Fronts and a Fastnet Rock
During Monday's opening session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, I enjoyed watching the yearlings as they kept circling before observers, awaiting their turn to go into the auction ring. So this post is more of a personal commentary than a proper sales recap.
Although these are the cream of the crop, cataloged in Book 1, some of course are more imposing specimens than others. But it's not only the physical appearance that intrigues me -- it's their behavior, their reactions to the noise and activity. Some are fairly bomb-proof, a few appear nervous, and others strut their stuff as if they're already looking forward to their racing careers.
And I wouldn't know how to gauge conformation flaws, or analyze the finer points of equine biomechanics. But I do try to recognize a good walk, a fluent mover, a horse who screams "athlete."
Even I could pick up on the sheer quality of the War Front filly who ended up being Monday's topper, selling to Shadwell for $1.45 million. Hip No. 116, consigned by Timber Town (Mr. and Mrs. T Wayne Sweezey), agent for Mandy Pope, had a mouthwatering catalog page too. She is the first registered foal from the Group 3-placed Galileo mare Betterbetterbetter, who is in turn a three-quarter sister to Irish classic winner Yesterday, Irish highweight Quarter Moon (herself the dam of Diamondsandrubies) and dual classic-placed All My Loving (dam of ill-fated multiple Group 2 victor Thomas Chippendale).
The overriding word that came to mind while observing her in the holding area was "lovely," which I duly wrote on her page, just for the record. I was also taken with the way she moved, and attempted to summarize it as "smooth walker."
Like wine appreciation, I might have heard all of the buzzwords and adjectives, without really knowing how to use them properly. At any rate, I loved her, and felt so happy when her price in the ring kept escalating.
I wasn't nearly as clever about the other $1 million War Front filly, Hip 99, who was purchased by Tonalist's owner, Robert S. Evans. That's not anything against her as an individual -- she looked fine -- but rather because I was too busy ogling the next yearling, Hip 100, a Scat Daddy half-brother to Grade 1 winner Let Faith Arise. The chestnut colt paraded around the place with a swinging cadence, prompting me to write, "exudes athleticism." Coolmore's M.V. Magnier scooped him up for $350,000.
Also circling in the back area at the same time was Hip 101, a More Than Ready half-brother to Florida Derby (G1) and Donn H. (G1) hero Constitution. While the yearling's a chestnut, and Constitution is bay, I could swear that their heads were very similar. I kept thinking of one of our Adam Coglianese photos of Constitution every time his young half-sibling went by -- dare I say same eye, even same expression? That's pretty brazen of me to say, since I've never seen Constitution in person! The yearling went to John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's representative, for $750,000.
A few hips later, Ferguson bought a War Front colt, Hip 106, for $900,000. Yet another War Front that really filled the eye, he's the first registered foal from Grade 2 victress Bauble Queen, by Arch. Hence he's bred on the same cross as Lines of Battle (now known as Helene Super Star in Hong Kong) and Air Vice Marshal.
There should have been a third milion-dollar seller on Monday, with a Tapit colt -- the spitting image of his sire -- bringing a bid of $1.2 million. But that wasn't high enough to reach the reserve price set by the seller, so he was led out unsold -- i.e., an RNA ("reserve not attained"). Listed as Hip 115, the robust gray is out of a Giant's Causeway half-sister to Hard Spun.
I would be remiss not to mention the first Frankel yearling to sell here, Hip 183, who struck me as a neat, attractive, colt, but not overly imposing. He fetched $500,000 from Hugo Merry Bloodstock, as agent for Nawara Stud. It will be interesting to compare him to the other Frankels yet to sell.
And there are always those that I thought would bring more. A case in point is Hip 181, a strapping Creative Cause half-brother to The Pamplemousse. As a late foal born May 18, he was entitled to be a bit immature compared to the rest. But he wasn't -- in fact, he was big and scopey, at least to my eye. Jon Kelly bought him for $155,000, and time will tell if that was a bargain.
Finally, I've got to add that Qatar's Al Shahania Stud purchased two yearlings that I really liked. The first was Hip 38, a colt by Australian champion and top sire Fastnet Rock, out of the dual classic-placed Kingmambo mare Wonder of Wonders. This is the extraordinary family of Sea the Stars and Galileo. That would be plenty to lure me in as a pedigree enthusiast. Yet truth be told, I was mesmerized by him before looking at his page. A grand, lengthy colt with a presence about him, he had an almost surging walk, as though his hind end were a fulcrum springing him onward. Bidding seemed to stall at $150,000, when the "sold" graphic briefly flashed, before interest sparked again, and he ultimately fetched $350,000.
The other Al Shahania acquisition I'll follow is a $600,000 colt by the sire of the day, War Front. Cataloged as Hip 182, this close-coupled bay looked to have an engine, with a hip built for speed and a strong neck. What added to the whole impression was that he was on his toes in a good way, commanding your attention while maintaining his poise and self-control. He's out of multiple Grade 3 victress Communique, and I hope that he achieves more than his Grade 3-placed half-brother, Woodfield Springs.
The Book 1 action continues Tuesday and Wednesday, and the sale is streamed live at keeneland.com.
Photo of session topper courtesy of Keeneland.