Curlin colt on top during Book 2 at Keeneland

Curlin colt on top during Keeneland Book 2 starter By Ron Mitchell of Blood-Horse 11:47AM 17 SEP 2016

TOPPED by a $1 million Curlin colt, the Keeneland September yearling sale continued on a strong note on Friday as the marathon auction didn't miss a beat moving into Book 2 after a strong three-day Book 1.

Boosted by a broad-based group of buyers that included leading international agents, end-users, and trainers, the session average of $160,736 represented a near eight per cent gain over the $149,078 figure from 12 months ago.

Keeneland reported 242 horses sold for gross receipts of $38,898,000, nearly even with last year's gross of $38,462,000 for 258 sold. The median was up eight per cent to $130,000 (from $120,000) and the buy-back rate was a reasonable 31 per cent, compared with 28 per cent in 2015.

After four days of selling, Keeneland had sold 588 horses for $159,123,000; last year 701 head grossed $172,823,000. The average of $270,617 is up ten per cent and the $200,000 median is even with last year.

The Curlin colt was the first seven-figure yearling during Book 2 since 2011 when two went above that ceiling.

"Having a million-dollar horse in Book 2 is a nice surprise," said Geoffrey Russell, director of sales operations for Keeneland. "He's a beautiful colt and was well-regarded by two sharp people.

"We've used the cliche and adage all the time: a good horse sells. He's by Curlin with a great pedigree behind it. Obviously he matured very well over the summer. He deserved to bring what he brought and I am glad we had the people here to support a horse of that quality."

The bullish market at Keeneland has been a welcome sight for breeders and sellers, coming as it does off a down market for the other yearling sales that preceded it.

While the numbers put up at the Lexington sale so far have been positive, buyers and sellers say it mirrors other sales in that there is stiff competition for horses perceived by end-users, agents and trainers to be the best racing prospects, with less demand for those below the top.

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"I don't recall the first day of Book 2 being this strong," said Mike Ryan, who purchased the session-topper on behalf of Bob and Cassidy Edwards' E5 Racing. "When you go up there to bid you had better be prepared to pay 20% more than you think you would."

Ryan said he's bullish on Curlin as a sire, having previously been involved with the group that purchased the sire's Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice .

"In my mind, he's as good as Tapit," Ryan said of Hill 'n' Dale-based Curlin in comparison to Gainesway's leading sire.

The Curlin colt was consigned as Hip 845 by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency on behalf of Stonestreet Bred and Raised. Glinda The Good, the colt's dam, was bred by Stonestreet, which offered her as a yearling at the 2010 Keeneland yearling sale.

Bought back for $200,000 after failing to attain her reserve, the filly won two stakes races and earned $226,758. Glinda The Good is a half-sister to five stakes winners, including Grade 3 winner Take The Ribbon.

Earlier in the session, Ryan went to $520,000 to buy a Paynter colt on behalf of E5 and Magic Cap.

Ryan said E5 Racing's owners are Floridians in their second year of ownership, with their horses campaigned in New York with trainer Chad Brown.

"They are new to the game and love it," he said. "They're in it for the long haul."

Casse collects

Trainer Mark Casse signed the sales ticket for the second-highest priced yearling of the day, a Pioneerof The Nile colt bought for $625,000. Casse said the colt, consigned as Hip 972 by Gainesway, would be the first horse owned in partnership by the "Okie connection" of Everett Dobson and John Oxley.

"I just loved him," said Casse of the colt. "We love Pioneerof The Nile."

Casse, who is scheduled to fly to Canada early Saturday morning to saddle 2015 champion turf mare Tepin in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile before returning to the Keeneland sale said the price for the Pioneerof The Nile colt was near his limit. "It was getting up there," he said.

Zayat Stables was the session's leading buyer, with five purchased for $1,395,000, and with 37 lots sold for $5,247,000, Taylor Made Sales Agency was leading consignor.

The sale in Lexington continues through to September 25 with a 10am local time (2pm GMT) start time each day.

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