The 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale got underway in Lexington on Sunday with session one seeing five lots sell for US$1,000,000 or more with Godolphin and Shadwell both absent from the buying bench.
The opening session was topped by a daughter of Tapit (Pulpit) who was bought by Claiborne Farm as agent for US$1,250,000. Catalogued as Lot 149 and sold by Bluewater Sales as agent for China Horse Club, the March-foaled filly is a daughter of Grade 1 winning mare Embellish The Lace (Super Saver) who is out of Expanse (Distant View) making her a half-sister to 2010 Travers Stakes (Gr 1, 10f) winner Afleet Express (Afleet Alex).
"This is for a Claiborne client," Claiborne's Bernie Sams said. "He is going to try to buy a couple more fillies and build a broodmare band in the next few years. He wanted a Tapit filly. I saw her for the first time here a few days ago. (My first impression was that she is a) pretty, athletic filly. She is from a young mare from a family that could run. (With Tapit) it is a good cross."
China Horse Club bought Embellish The Lace for US$2,400,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton November Sale. Her filly by Pioneerof The Nile (Empire Maker) sold at last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale to KSI for US$700,000.
Fillies accounted for the top four prices on Sunday with a daughter of former Darley shuttler Medaglia d'Oro (El Prado) the second most expensive lot to sell when she was bought by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm for US$1,100,000 from the draft of Denali Stud as agent.
Catalogued as Lot 58, the filly is out of the Graded placed mare Baffled (Distorted Humor) who has produced three winners to date headed by multiple Grade 1 winning sire Constitution (Tapit) as well as Graded winners Boynton (More Than Ready) and Jacaranda (Congrats).
"We are not looking for collectable (broodmares); we are looking for a racehorse first," said Todd Quast, who signed the ticket. "She obviously has great broodmare potential. She checked all the boxes for us. She is very athletic with a super, super shoulder like the Medaglia d'Oros have. We are happy to have her."
During Sunday's session nine lots by Medaglia d'Oro sold for US$5,110,000 at an average of US$567,778
The top-priced colt to sell on Sunday was a son of Spendthrift Farm's Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday) who was bought by Oxo Equine for US$1,000,000. Offered by Gainesway as agent, the February foaled colt is out of the Grade 2 placed Curlina (Cuvee) who is the dam of one winner to date in the dual Grade 3 placed filly Sine Wave (Big Brown).
Meanwhile, the Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) colt out of Irish Lights (Fastnet Rock) was bought by de Meric Sales for US$230,000. Sold as Lot 219 by Eaton Sales as agent the colt is a half-brother to Silver Shadow Stakes (Gr 2) winner Omei Sword (High Chaparral) and a brother to the Aidan O'Brien-trained juvenile Lipizzaner (Uncle Mo) who broke his maiden at Navan on September 5.
"The resiliency of this industry is unbelievable. With what everybody has been through, we appreciate the buyers and owners who are here to buy," said director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell.
"To have competitive bidding at all levels of the market was very rewarding. I think the quality of the horses we have this year is very, very good. There were a couple of horses I thought might break loose a little bit more, but we are in a different world.
"Overall, it was a good cross section of buyers at the top end."
Overall on Sunday, 109 lots sold (down 10 per cent) for US$40,680,000 (down 20 per cent) at an average of US$373,211 (down 11 per cent) and median of US$330,000. The clearance rate was 64 per cent. During the opening session of the 2019 sale 121 lots were sold for US$50,731,000 at an average of US$419,264 and median of US$325,000 when seven lots sold for US$1,000,000 or more whilst the clearance rate was 80 per cent.
"We were so happy to have an opening day of the September yearling sale," said Shannon Arvin, Keeneland president-elect and interim chief of sales.
"It was great to have people on the grounds, it was great to have trade, it was great to see people following [Covid-19] protocols so we can continue to have trade."
Five lots sold via the online bidding platform and Arvin added: "The mechanics of the Internet bidding worked really well. We spent a lot of time practicing and preparing for that. It was great that it worked out as well as we expected it would."
Taylor Made Sales Agency finished the day as the leading vendor by aggregate having sold 22 horses for US$7,260,000 whilst Donato Lanni as agent for SF, Starlight and Madaket was the leading buyer having spent US$4,170,000 on eight yearlings. The Hill 'N' Dale Farms-based Curlin (Smart Strike) was the leading sire with 13 lots having made US$5,245,000 at an average of US$403,462.