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Keeneland September Short List: Book I, Part I

The Keeneland September Sale has returned to Lexington and it has brought buyers from around the world. It’s going to be two weeks of selling, HIP viewing, and walking more miles than I ever wanted to walk in my life. The very first book in the sale -often considered to be the “boutique” offers from the best farms in the country- is particularly strong this year. There are six in total, offering something for everyone on any budget. I’ve searched the almost 569 horses scheduled to go through the ring in the first three days, selected the most interesting ones to me, and then viewed them in person before creating my short list.

HIP 225- War Front x Ana Luisa (BRZ)

This colt is my top selection from the entire first book.

His most striking feature is his overall presence: he stands there like he knows he’s special. An experienced horsewoman who saw him with me even commented as such, and she’s been in this business for some time. I’m strongly inclined to believe her.

The picture doesn’t do him any justice. It’s poorly set up but I had 64 yearlings to see that day. I just wanted something to put into my records as reference for later in his career but be sure I’ll be finding a better one promptly. He’s leaning forward over his hooves in this shot, so keep that in the back of your mind as you read my comments.

That being said, this is a tall yearling. We guesstimated him to stand at 16hh already. Clearly, he will need time to grow, but I liked how he walked and his reach. He moved with purpose, didn’t fight the handler, and wasn’t frazzled by anything around him. When it comes to Thoroughbreds sometimes, a good mind can be the difference between a career and never making it.

Likely because of the difference in height between his rear and front ends, he’s a little upright in the front but I would be willing to gamble on that becoming less of a problem as he grows into his frame. He’s an early April foal, so it’s not unheard of to think he’ll be a much better older horse as opposed to someone ready for the first Saturday in May.

From a pedigree stand point, I’ve always liked foreign bred mares on the female side; all the better that his dam showed promise as a competitor in South America. As a racer, Ana Luisa (BRZ) tipped the scales at almost 1,200lbs. It’s probably where her son got his size from because it wasn’t from War Front, who tops 16hh as a grown stallion. She is a young mare by Elusive Quality, and only has two other foals to her credit. What really made this family interesting was the third dam, Charm Us, who’s a half to Einstein (BRZ). She’s produced no less than four stakes winners and performers, starting a string of success in every generation since her. Charm Us is also the dam of Our Charm, who produced three black-type winners. Einstein (BRZ) had a fantastic career in the states after being imported north and even stood at Adena Springs for a time before they donated him to Old Friends. It’s a racing family, for sure.

War Front is having a banner year on the dirt with War of Will winning the Preakness and Omaha Beach winning a string of preps on his way to Derby favoritism before being forced to scratch. There is also the contingent of talented European runners turned sires like Air Force Blue, Declaration of War, Lancaster Bomber, and U S Navy Flag, to name a few. He’s largely someone I always assumed would throw better turf horses but he’s proven to be pretty versatile when it comes to high class runners, so I’m not too worried about War Front being on the top. The class is always there as a back up if nothing else.

Every dam in this pedigree won or produced black-type in Brazil and his sire is a force of nature, so it wouldn’t be strange to see HIP 225 privately purchased by South American connections. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see him racing in Europe on their long, undulating courses with his build.

He RNA’d at $725,000 and no word yet on any offers. This will be updated once something changes.

HIP 36- Honor Code x Profit

This guy made my short list after I saw him walk. He put his feet out in front and really covered a lot of ground. It was cat-like and forward, very attractive to watch, too.

As was -and always will be- the problem for most yearlings, his conformation as a developed horse took some imagination. He’s got room to grow into himself, and that’s something I always look for in a young horse. He had the strength I wanted to see, especially given that his sire’s offspring are slow to get going, and lacking now did not bode well for the future when the weight and muscle comes in. From a sentimental stand-point, he had kind, calm eyes that saw right into your soul. I was smitten, admittedly.

Interestingly, he’s bred on a similar cross to California Chrome, being out of a Not for Love mare and by a son of the legendary A.P. Indy. Granted, Honor Code brings A.P. Indy in the second generation while Chrome’s connection to him is as a great grandson through Lucky Pulpit and Pulpit.

Profit, HIP 36’s dam, is a half to a couple very accomplished horses in Hoppertunity and Executiveprivilege. She was no slouch herself, winning seven times and hitting the board in a stakes race. Profit’s had four other foals, and while only one is a winner, the gelding has earned north of $119,000 in his career.

HIP 36 sold to Starlight Racing of Justify and Shanghai Bobby fame for $265,000 on Monday.

HIP 68- Curlin x Scarlet Tango

This colt reminded me a lot of Counterstrike, the 2YO bought by Pocket Aces Racing at the 2019 Timonium sale. There’s a lot of Curlin in this horse and he is pretty well developed at this stage in the year; no surprise given his birthday: 01/28/18.

His pedigree page is loaded with black-type starting from the top with Scarlet Tango and working down through her offspring: multiple Gr. I winner Tara’s Tango, Gr. I winner Visionaire, multiple stakes winner and Gr. I placed Scarlet Strike, and Gr. III winner Madison’s Luna. Scarlet Tango has had 12 named foals and nine of them are winners; four are Gr. I winners or placed in Gr. I events. That is incredible. She wasn’t a bad racehorse herself with four victories to her name and finishing her career just shy of $100,000. This was a situation where -if anyone was going to make it to the races- it would be this colt. The dam’s family has shown the ability to get to the track in the afternoons.

The second dam, Silver Tango, was an extremely good mare as well with 17 wins to her credit. She also became a stakes producer with her most prominent offspring being geldings, but males nonetheless.

Curlin owns the September sale this year, and Stonestreet’s support of him is showing. So far, he commands five yearlings to sell over a million, including the top priced colt of Book 1. Four Stonestreet breds, including said top priced colt who hammered down at $4,100,000 to Godolphin, all sold for seven figures. Two from that group were by Curlin. For those who sold in the high six digit range (not necessarily a Stonestreet bred), three were Curlins. It’s not a surprise he’s doing well, and he throws hardy horses with a good head. Good Magic, Stellar Wind, Exaggerator, Keen Ice, and Palace Malice are only a handful such examples.

Mike Ryan purchased HIP 68 for $800,000 on behalf of e5 racing.

HIP 94- Frosted x Snow Top Mountain — RNA at $235,000

HIP 133- American Pharoah x Swoop and Strike

This filly’s temperament was so much like her famous sire, American Pharoah, who was frequently compared to a giant labrador. She showed calmly, was docile though the entire process, and honestly looked like she’d rather take a nap.

When she did get going, she had a lot of propulsion in her hind end and really reached out in her front. As an early March foal, I would expect her to hit the next growth spurt over the winter and even out her topline before really starting serious racehorse training. She’s not going to be an enormous filly but that only works in her favor.

On paper, she’s by a Triple Crown winner out of a Gr. III stakes placed mare. American Pharoah has 12 juvenile winners to his credit and is the leading freshman sire for 2019. Those winners count a Group I placed runner abroad, a Gr. III winner in Maven, and stakes winners during the Kentucky Downs meet. His offspring are winning on the turf and dirt at the highest levels. It will be interesting how this current class steps forward -or backwards- as 3YOs next year, especially for the Triple Crown prep races.

Swoop and Strike was stakes placed in Canada before being purchased by Sam-son Farm and by far did her best running going long on the grass. She hit the board in races ranging from seven to ten furlongs; her debut victory coming from the short end of that range.

HIP 133 was foaled in Ontario and sold to William Werner for $250,000.