Sign up to the TDN AusNZ daily edition

Receive the latest breeding and racing news, in-depth features, Op-Ed articles by leading industry figures, race results and more!

Mills and Price in Keeneland action as Pharoah colt tops opening session

16 min read
Australian buyers Sheamus Mills and Mick Price were in the thick of the action on the opening day of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, while a trio of million-dollar yearlings highlighted a day of steady trade in Kentucky.

At A Glance:

A total of 95 yearlings sold during the session for US$38,172,000 (AU$51.91 million) at a clearance rate of 60.9 per cent.

The median of US$325,000 (AU$442,000) was slightly down on the first session in 2020.

The average price was US$401,811 (AU$546,463) up on last year, when it stood at US$373,211 (AU$507,567) after the first session.

A filly by American Pharoah (USA) topped the opening session when selling to agent Alan Quartucci for US$1.4 million (AU$1.904 million).

A colt by Into Mischief (USA) sold to Winchell Thoroughbreds for US$1.35 million (AU$1.84 million) while a filly by Uncle Mo (USA) was secured by Courtlandt Farm for US$1.1 million (AU$1.496 million).

Sheamus Mills went to US$200,000 (AU$272,000) to secure a Violence (USA) filly out of Taste Of Heaven (Encosta De Lago), the half-sister to Champion stallion Redoute's Choice.

Mick Price Racing continued its affinity for the progeny of War Front (USA), paying US$275,000 (AU$374,000) for a sister to Group 1 winners Brave Anna (USA) and Hit A Bomb (USA).

Sheamus steps up for Redoute's relation

Sheamus Mills has been no stranger to Keeneland over the years and while bidding from half a world away is a different experience, with a bit of help from a trusted judge, he secured the filly by Violence (USA) out of one of the best families in the Australian Studbook, Hip 190 from Glen Hill Farm, for US$200,000 (AU$272,000).

The filly's dam, Taste Of Heaven (Encosta De Lago) is the final foal from blue hen Shantha's Choice (Canny Lad), making her a sister to Group 1 winner and sire Manhattan Rain and Listed winner Echoes Of Heaven, a three-quarter sister to Swettenham Stud stallion Rubick and a half-sister to Champion stallion Redoute's Choice and Group 1 winner Platinum Scissors.

Hip 190 - Violence x Taste Of Heaven (filly)

The filly was offered on behalf of her breeders LNJ Foxwoods and Craig Bernick. Taste Of Heaven, who was sold for $1.6 million to Mitchell Bloodstock (FBAA) through the Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale in May, has produced the G3 Maple Leaf S. winner Heavenly Curlin (USA) (Curlin {USA}), who is sold for US$625,000 (AU$850,000) to Justin Casse at this Sale three yeas ago.

It wasn't until a couple of days ago that Mills, who keeps a close eye on sales across the world, was convinced he should make a play for a filly whose pedigree gives her considerable residual value in this part of the world.

"Looking through the catalogue, there were six or seven yearlings with an Australian connection this year, which was a bit more than usual. She was one that stood out on pedigree," he told TDN AusNZ.

Sheamus Mills

"I had a mate look at her, got her vetted and everything, and we decided to have a go at her. My contact over there, Jared Hughes, and he has a good eye for what works in Australia and what I like.

"The hard thing I find with photos and videos and the like is just knowing that they aren't just well-shot videos and that can be the case. I would always prefer that someone I know gives me a nod."

Mills has also had experience purchasing the progeny of Violence, the Grade 1-winning son of Medaglia D'Oro (USA), who stands at Hill 'N' Dale Farm, before having purchased Fairway Lady (USA) as a broodmare at Keeneland in 2018.

I had a mate look at her, got her vetted and everything, and we decided to have a go at her." - Sheamus Mills

"I don’t think we made a lot of money when we sold her on the Gold Coast, but I thought she was an absolutely smashing type, and she has since had an outstanding foal, which doesn't surprise me," he said.

"That's what grabbed my attention with her. I'm a big Medaglia D'Oro fan, I think he's done an outstanding job out here. I particularly like his fillies."

Price is right for War Front filly

Mills' filly will head to Australia to the stables of Mick Price, and will be joined by Hip 46, a War Front (USA) filly who was consigned by Four Stars Sales and sold for US$275,000 (AU$374,000).

She is the second War Front yearling that Price has purchased in the United States this year after he secured a colt for US$250,000 (AU$340,00) at the recent Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale.

Price's international buying strategy is being spearheaded by co-trainer Michael Kent Jnr, who is casting the net far and wide for possible stable acquisitions.

This filly boasts a star international pedigree, being out of G3 Ballyogan S, winner Liscanna (Ire) (Sadler's Wells {USA}). That mare has already produced two Group 1 winners by War Front in Brave Anna (USA), who won a G1 Cheveley Park S., and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf S. winner Hit A Bomb (USA). Both of those horses were trained by Aidan O'Brien.

"It works out well because they can partner up now on the way back. It appears Mick has given Michael Kent Jnr a bit of free rein to buy over there." - Sheamus Mills

"I had no idea Mick had bought his one until I bought mine this morning," Mills said. "It works out well because they can partner up now on the way back. It appears Mick has given Michael Kent Jnr a bit of free rein to buy over there.

"I feel the American market is under-utilised. I have had a lot of luck there over the years buying mares and breeding yearlings out of American mares. "

Allen comes out on top for Echo Zulu sister

Northshore Bloodstock's Alan Quartucci, acting on behalf of owner Joe Allen, was the first to sign a seven-figure ticket at the Sale as he went to US$1.4 million (AU$1.904 million) to secure Hip 43, an American Pharoah (USA) half-sister to leading juvenile filly Echo Zulu (USA) (Gun Runner {USA}).

Hip 43 - American Pharoah (USA) x Letgomyecho (USA) (filly)

The May 8 foal was consigned to the Sale by Bill Betz's Betz Thoroughbreds and bred on an apparent foal share by Betz, J. Betz, Burns, CHNNHK, CoCo Equine, Ramsby and Ashford Stud.

“She looks like a real runner,” Quartucci said. “She has a fantastic pedigree that's still going forward every day. The filly who won in Saratoga was amazing. She was the whole package, I think.”

Quartucci said the filly would likely end up in the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

"She (Hip 43) looks like a real runner. She has a fantastic pedigree that's still going forward every day." - Alan Quartucci

A US$300,000 (AU$408,000) purchase here 12 months ago, Echo Zulu was turned over to Steve Asmussen by L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds and won the G1 Spinaway S. on September 5 and looms the likely favourite for the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at this stage.

Hip 43's dam Letgomyecho (USA) (Menifee {USA}) has also produced G1 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial S. winner Echo Town (USA), now a member of Coolmore's stallion roster, and Grade 3 winner J Boys Echo (USA).

“She is a lovely filly,” Betz said of Hip 43 last week. “She has strength, balance, good movement and temperament. She also has pedigree. Obviously, the mother was a Graded stakes winner and produced Graded stakes horses, including Echo Town, who won the Jerkens last year at Saratoga. So, now with Echo Zulu, it's a pretty nice package.”

Allen and Quartucci struck again later in the day for an US$850,000 (AU$1.156 million) Candy Ride (Arg) colt (Hip 181) from the super deep female family of top-level winners Verrazano (USA) and Chic Shirine (USA).

Hip 181 - War Front (USA) x Sweet (colt)

Winchell wins battle for Into Mischief colt

Winchell Thoroughbreds' Ron Winchell went toe-to-toe with the Courtlandt Farm team late in the session to land Hip 177, a son of leading sire Into Mischief (USA), for US$1.35 million (AU$1.836 million). The bay was consigned by his breeder, Greg Goodman's Mt. Brilliant Farm.

Hip 177 - Into Mischief (USA) x Superioritycomplex (Ire) (colt)

The colt is the first out of Superioritycomplex (Ire) (Hard Spun {USA}), while his third dam is G1 Yorkshire Oaks heroine Hellenic (USA) (Darshaan {USA}), who in turn produced the great Islington (Ire) (Sadler's Wells {USA}).

“Into Mischief is great,” said Goodman. “We bought the mare in Europe, in England, at Tattersalls a few years ago. We just love the family–we also bought her sister (Abingdon (Street Cry {Ire})) at the same time because it was a dispersal.”

As for Hip 177, Goodman said, “He has always been outstanding. He's always done everything right. A calm horse, smart, we're really happy with him and we're really happy Mr. Winchell got him and that he's going to a good home.”

Winchell also picked up a US$700,000 (AU$952,000) Into Mischief colt (Hip 116) earlier in the session and a US$150,000 (AU$204,000) son of American Pharoah (Hip 183) a few hips after signing for 177.

“(Hip 177's) probably an Into Mischief who doesn't look like an Into Mischief, and I've had Into Mischiefs that look like Into Mischiefs and I can't seem to find the winner's circle with them, so I figured I would go a different direction,” Winchell quipped. “I knew he may be expensive, but you always hope for a little less.”

Uncle Mo filly heads to Courtlandt

Courtlandt Farm's Don Adam and his farm manager Ernie Retamoza were determined to take a home Hip 89, a filly by Uncle Mo (USA), and they fought off an equally resolute Donato Lanni to take the dark bay home for US$1.1 million (AU$1.496 million).

“She's an April foal, but you can see that she's still a little high behind and see she's gonna develop still,” said Retamoza. “A real athletic, type filly, young mare, fits our program to a T. Not sure where we'll send her, but we'll get her home and break her. She acts like she's gonna be the right type of filly that we're looking for. Had to stretch, obviously, to get her, but Mr. Adam looked at her this morning and loved her, we all loved her, and we felt like she was a filly worth stretching for.”

“She's (Hip 89) an April foal, but you can see that she's still a little high behind and see she's gonna develop still.” - Ernie Ratamoza

Consigned by Paramount Sales, Hip 89 was bred by Dr. Aaron Sones and is out of Nikki's Choice (USA) (Forestry {USA}), which means she hails from the family of Canadian champion Charlie Barley (USA) (Affirmed {USA}).

“She was a beauty,” said Paramount's Pat Costello. “She didn't put a foot wrong from the day she was here and we could see with the way the vetting was going, everybody was on her. She deserved to bring the kind of money she brought because she's just stunning. She came from a client of ours and she was always nice, very much so. We were delighted with the price. It was a little bit more than we thought she would bring.”

Sones experienced the biggest success of his breeding career.

Hip 89 - Uncle Mo (USA) x Nikki's Choice (USA) (filly)

“We always knew she was special, but you can never expect that,” said Sones, who founded and sold Physicians Management Group and currently serves as Director of Jackson Hole Trust. “I love Uncle Mo and knew this cross would be successful as it is the same cross as [champion] Nyquist. I'm thrilled.”

Quality Road colt to Coolmore

A colt by Quality Road (USA) attracted a final bid of US$950,000 (AU$1.292 million) from Coolmore's M.V. Magnier during Monday's first session. The bay yearling (Hip 64) is out of multiple Graded-placed Milam (USA) (Street Sense {USA}), a half-sister to champion Rushing Fall (USA) (More Than Ready {USA}).

M.V. Magnier

“We liked the horse, he's very athletic,” said Magnier. “Quality Road is doing very well. And this is a very nice horse. We plan to leave him in the U.S.”

The yearling was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of his breeder, WinStar Farm. WinStar purchased Milam for US$175,000 (AU$238,000) at the 2016 Keeneland November Sale.

"Quality Road is doing very well. And this (Hip 64) is a very nice horse. We plan to leave him in the U.S.” - M.V. Magnier

“He's done well his whole life and we are very proud of him and that Coolmore got him,” said WinStar's Elliott Walden. “We wish them nothing but the best with him.”

Walden said he saw a lot to be optimistic about heading into the two-week September Sale.

“I feel really good. I have a lot of confidence,” Walden said. “There are six racetracks running with maiden races over US$100,000 AU$136,363. It's crazy. I trained 15 years ago now and we were running for US$30,000, so it's just amazing. I think the purses have caught up with the expenses. It gives a person a chance to make money on the racetrack instead of just building equity in the horse reflow.”

“I think it should translate all the way through the Sale. Looking around here on day one, I've never seen so many people in there sitting down. So I feel very encouraged about it.”

Magnier also signed for a colt by War Front (Hip 29) for US$400,000 (AU$544,000).

Mori justifies the trip

Hideyuki Mori struck for three colts by Justify (USA) during the opening session.

The Japanese trainer warmed up by purchasing a son of the Triple Crown winner who is a half-brother to champion Classic Empire (USA) (Pioneerof The Nile {USA}) (Hip 133) for US$625,000 (AU$850,000) from the Bluewater Sales consignment.

Hip 133 - Justify (USA) x Sambuca Classica (USA) (colt)

He then came back to acquire a half-brother to multiple Graded stakes winner Pretty N Cool (USA) (Scat Daddy {USA}) (Hip 161) for US$950,000 (AU$1.292 million) from Baccari Bloodstock. Mori wrapped up his day one by buying with a son of Justify out of Grade 1 winner Streaming (USA) (Smart Strike {USA}) (Hip 170) who was consigned by Hill 'N' Dale Sales Agency.

“I have seen a lot of the Justifys and I really like them,” Mori said through an interpreter. “They have a beautiful line and they move very well. Based on their action and physical form, I think they will probably perform quite well on the Japanese turf.”

Consignor Chris Baccari is another fan of Justify. Baccari purchased Hip 161 for US$435,000 (AU$593,180) at last year's Keeneland November Sale.

"Based on their action and physical form, I think they (the Justifys) will probably perform quite well on the Japanese turf." - Hideyuki Mori

“I went out in search of the very best Justify I could possibly find, privately or at public auction,” Baccari said. “And I felt he was it. He is a great strong physical and I am a believer in the horse and I took a swing.”

Justify had 10 yearlings sell on the opening day for a total of US$4.322 million (AU$5.88 million) and an average of US$432,300 (AU$587,928).

Avengers strike

The ownership group nicknamed The Avengers was quite active as expected, acquiring four colts to be trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.

One of their first big purchases of the day was an US$850,000 (AU$1.156 million) son of Into Mischief, a stallion who has already been quite good to the group headed by SF Bloodstock, Starlight Racing and Madaket Stables with champion Authentic (USA). Hip 53 was consigned by Taylor Made Sales on behalf of breeder Town & Country Farms.

“He will go to Bob Baffert,” said SF's Tom Ryan. “We are excited about him and I can't say enough about the horse. He looks like a nice two-turn colt. We will put him into the program and hopefully we will be talking about him this time next year.”

Hip 114 - Into Mischief (USA) x Princess La Quinta (USA) (colt)

Donato Lanni also struck on the Avengers' behalf for Hip 8, a US$650,000 (AU$884,000) Quality Road (USA) colt out of Inspired (USA) (Unbridled's Song {USA}); a US$400,000 (AU$544,000) Into Mischief colt (Hip 114); and a US$325,000 (AU$442,000) son of Spendthrift's super sire (Hip 155).

A strong day's trade

Keeneland's new vice president of sales Tony Lacy was happy with the day's trading.

“The numbers may have stacked very comparably to last year, but I think there was a lot more confidence and the money was spread out over more horses. I think it's a healthier market in many ways. The energy on the grounds was very strong,” Lacy said.

"The numbers may have stacked very comparably to last year, I think it's a healthier market in many ways. The energy on the grounds was very strong.” - Tony Lacy

“I think a lot of people got shut out today. I know there was one group of buyers, we actually sent them a bottle of bourbon because they were underbidders on 15 or 16 horses. That in itself is a very strong sign.

"When you have some higher RNA's that OK because these are people who want to race, they like their horses and that's not a sign of weakness, that's actually a sign of strength. So from a trading environment, I think it was excellent.”

Among the buy-backs was a colt by Quality Road out of Justwhistledixie (USA) (Dixie Union {USA}) consigned by Clearsky Farms who RNA'd for US$1.9 million (AU$1.58 million).

Tony Lacy

There were seven horses who failed to sell Monday who have been added to Keeneland's new RNA Reoffer program which takes place at the end of Tuesday's second session of the auction.

“That might change,” Lacy said of the number of yearlings entered into the initiative. “We had two that were entered earlier and they got sold privately. And that's exactly the way it's supposed to work. And some of these may be sold privately before the end of the session tomorrow.

"That is a mechanism to allow free trade. And if something is not done by tomorrow evening, it allows them to run back through. It's been well received by the people who are using it. I think there was a little bit of uncertainty about what it really was, but now we are at the stage of the day where you may have had one or two people who thought the market didn't treat them the way they thought it would. It allows them to come back and hopefully have a better reception tomorrow.”

The seven yearlings currently scheduled to be reoffered Tuesday evening are: Hip 6, Hip 70, Hip 72, Hip 111, Hip 179, Hip 195, and Hip 197.

Keeneland September Yearling Sale
Sheamus Mills
Taste Of Heaven
Mick Price
War Front
American Pharoah
Uncle Mo
Into Mischief