Half a Million and Up -- by Tammy Thomas Curlin

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Proven sire power and racetrack excellence on the dam side ruled the early days of the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale--and when the two stars aligned, competitive bidding rocketed the yearlings into an out-of-this-world price stratosphere.

Twenty-eight colts and fillies sold reached bids of $500,000 or higher during the first six days of the auction, which included two premier evening sessions of individually inspected yearlings that started off the marathon 14-day sale.

Nowhere was this more obvious than on the sales topper--a $4.2 million colt (hip #14) by A.P. Indy and the first foal out of grade I millionaire Balance, by Thunder Gulch, who is a half sister to Zenyatta. Pedigrees don't get much better than this.

These yearlings were conceived before stud fees began to decline -- and eventually drop drastically -- in 2009 and 2010. Leading this pack was top sire A.P. Indy, who stood for $300,000 in 2008. Although many stallions' fees have since fallen, breeders are still on the hook this year. These 28 yearlings, which represent the cream of the fall yearling auction crop, grossed $23,395,000 and averaged nearly $836,000. The average stud fee (a major component of a yearling's cost) was about $158,000.

Among other exceptional race mares who were mated to A.P. Indy in 2008 and whose offspring went through the Keeneland sales ring were Prioress Stakes (gr. I) winner Friendly Michelle (by Artax) and Madcap Escapade, a grade I-winning daughter of Hennessy who earned more $1 million and whose first foal, Mi Sueno (by Pulpit) is a grade I winner. The A.P. Indy--Madcap Escapade filly (hip #169) sold for $900,000, which was 10% shy of her full brother's sale price one year ago. The son of Friendly Michelle (hip #40) brought $600,000.

Another proven stallion who stood for $300,000 in 2008 was Distorted Humor and four of his yearlings reached bids in excess of $500,000 at Keeneland. The young Storm Cat mare Angel's Nest produced the second highest priced sales yearling, a $2,050,000 colt (hip #116), and although the dam is unraced she comes from a fine sire family being a half sister to French classic winner and top sire Kingmambo as well as graded/group winners East of the Moon, Mingun, and Miesque's Son.

A Distorted Humor colt out of La Brea Stakes (gr. I) winner Hookedonthefeelin (by Citidancer) sold for $900,000. This yearling (hip #157) is a half brother to multiple grade I winner Pussycat Doll (by Real Quiet). Also reaching the upper half of six figures were Distorted Humor colts out of the stakes-placed Oneofacat and the winning Deputy Minister mare Half Queen, who is also the dam of champion 2-year-old filly Halfbridled. They sold for $700,000 (hip #79) and $625,000 (hip #46), respectively.

One yearling by leading sire Smart Strike broke into the seven-figure range at Keeneland. The colt (hip #351), out of grade III winner Ask Me No Secrets, sold for $1 million and was bred when Smart Strike stood for $150,000. Additionally, Smart Strike colts out of the stakes-winning My Miss Storm Cat (hip #1082) and Madame Thor (hip #985), a winning daughter of Deputy Minister from the family of top sprinter Very Subtle, were auctioned for $550,000 each.

Well-bred yearlings by outstanding sires Dynaformer and Unbridled's Song, who stood for $150,000 in 2008, and Giant's Causeway and Mr. Greeley, whose 2008 fee was $125,000, also commanded top prices during the sales' early days.

Selling for $950,000 was a Giant's Causeway colt (hip #96) out of stakes winner Spunoutacontrol, by Wild Again. This is the family of European champion Johannesburg.

A Dynaformer filly (hip #118) out of the nice race mare Bank Audit, a multiple graded winner by Wild Rush who earned $567,934, sold for $900,000 and this miss was one of fillies to top the auction.

A daughter of Mr. Greeley who is a half sister to group I winner Elusive City sold for $675,000 (hip #201) and another of his sale fillies, this one out of the the terrific English classic winner Sleepytime, was auctioned for $625,000 (hip #196).

Buyers seemed to favor progeny from young racing mares and in fact, 24 of the 28 $500,000-plus yearlings were produced from mares that were either winners, stakes-placed winners, or stakes winners. Four yearlings were produced from unraced mares, but all had excellent pedigrees to make it into the sale's early sessions. It is interesting to note that no yearlings out of unplaced mares made it onto this select list.

The mares' ages when these yearlings were born ranged from 4 to the 21-year-old Shopping, whose filly (hip #90) by Street Cry sold for $600,000, but the average for the 28 was 10.6 years old.

And while it was not unexpected to see buyers pay a premium price for a well-conformed yearling by a popular leading sire, several yearlings by stallions whose 2008 stud fee would be considered reasonably-priced also sold well.

Among these were offspring by successful sire Malibu Moon, who stood for a bargain $40,000 in 2008. Three of his yearlings sold for $500,000 or more including a filly (hip #658) out of the graded-placed Erhu (by Tactical Cat) for $700,000, and a $650,000 colt (hip #78) out of the La Prevoyante Handicap (gr. IIT)-winning Red Ransom mare New Economy.

Stormy Atlantic, who stood for $45,000 in 2008, was the sire of a $500,000 yearling colt. This youngster (hip #228), out of the winning French mare Vassar and from the family of group I winners Henrythenavigator and Beethoven, was a smart pinhook, first sold for $200,000 at Keeneland's January sale as a short yearling.

Buyers were willing to spend $500,000 and up for the progeny of only a few young sires represented early in the sale: Bernardini, who stood for $100,000 in 2008; First Samurai, whose stud fee that year was $40,000; and Ghostzapper, who commanded a $150,000 2008 stud fee. Buyers feel these three sires have the potential for success and their offspring look the part. Bernardini and First Samurai's first foals are 2-year-olds this year and each has sired a 2010 graded or group stakes winner. Ghostzapper is also having a great year with the 3-year-old colt Stately Victor, winner of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) in April, among his first crop of five 2010 stakes winners.

Selling for $800,000 was a Bernardini colt (hip #86) out of Private Status (by Alydar). This yearling by one of A.P. Indy's most promising sons is a half brother to three stakes winners, including millionaire and grade I winner Secret Status and grade III winner Alumni Hall, both by A.P. Indy.

A Bernardini colt (hip #467) out of Capote's Crown (by Capote) sold for $550,000. This yearling's dam is a stakes-winning half sister to champion sprinter Smoke Glacken and multiple graded stakes winner Smokey Glacken.

A filly (hip #8) by Giant's Causeway's son First Samurai also sold for $550,000. Her dam, Aldebaran Light, produced 2010 Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Eskendereya (by Giant's Causeway) and group I winner Balmont.

Fourteen stallions sired the 28 sales yearlings. Their advertised 2008 stud fees ranged from a high of $300,000 (A.P. Indy and Distorted Humor) to $40,000 (Malibu Moon and First Samurai).

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