With not all of the demand quelled in the earlier books of the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the Book 5 sessions that wrapped up Sept. 22 in Lexington delivered more strong numbers as the sale entered the record books.
This year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale on Thursday became the highest-grossing auction in Keeneland's history following a session that pushed total sales to $399,940,000. The previous record of $399,791,800 was set during the 2006 September Sale.
With two sessions remaining, that gross for a total of 2,597 yearlings sold through the ring marks an increase of 15.7% over the same period last year when 2,545 horses sold through the ring for $360,579,000. Average price of $158,831 is up 12% from $141,681, while the median of $85,000 is 13.33% higher than the $75,000 median of 2021.
"This milestone was achieved through the persistence, energy, and hard work of a community that includes our breeders, sellers, and buyers, and we are grateful for their passion for the horse, and for their support of Keeneland," said Keeneland president and CEO Shannon Arvin. "It's an exciting time in our sport, and as we've seen at the September Sale, there is a strong desire to own racehorses. This is a moment we celebrate with the entire Thoroughbred industry."
Pat Costello, of consignor Paramount Sales, was thrilled to see that continued interest in the sale's 10th session Thursday.
"It was another excellent day," Costello said. "I think it's all backed up. The earlier buyers got backed up on their purchases so now they're finding yearlings in the later books and everybody else has been as enthusiastic as ever. It's a great market."
Fueled by that interest, Keeneland reported 308 yearlings sold in the ring for $10,335,000 for the session. That delivered an average price of $33,555 and a $25,000 median. Those numbers are well up from last year's 10th session where 305 yearlings sold in the ring for $9,222,000, an average of $30,236, and median of $23,000.
It's not a perfect comparison as last year's 10th session was the second-last in the sale while two more sessions (Book 6) remain this year. While that is worth noting, it's still impressive that this year's 10th session saw a 12.4% increase in gross, a 10.6% spike in average, and 8.7% increase in median.
John Greathouse III said his clients, Al and Arlene London, experienced the jam that Costello referenced before going to $190,000 Thursday to land a Sky Mesa filly out of Speight's Comete—a full sister to multiple grade 2 winner and successful sire Munnings .
"They've been trying to get a yearling at this sale but in the previous books they just didn't have any luck; so far the prices have been pretty strong," Greathouse said of the long-time clients of his family's Glencrest Farm.
Keeneland vice president of sales Tony Lacy said its been great to see the momentum carry deep into this year's sale.
"This is the goal we all work so hard to achieve, and we appreciate our sellers and buyers who believed in us and the changes we made to the September Sale format," Lacy said. "Book 1's tremendous success created momentum that carried forward through the sale and continues into the upcoming final days. With two sessions still to go, we've got many nice horses yet to be sold."
A year ago Greathouse went to $145,000 to land Tap in Formation for the Londons, a son of Tapiture who won his maiden special weight debut in August at Ellis Park. That purchase would prove to be the 2021 Keeneland September 10th session topper but would have ranked fourth today.
"The prices are obviously still strong if you're paying $190,000 for one in Book 5. We went to $145,000 on Tap in Formation and he was the corresponding session topper last year. So, it's been a great sale," Greathouse said. "Keeneland's done a really good job of putting this thing together. They've got buyers here, people hungry to buy horses."
About three-quarters of the way through Thursday's session, Internet bidder Mick Wallace, agent for St. Elias Stables, secured a son of Girvin for $290,000. The price for the dark bay or brown colt consigned by Brookdale Sales topped both the Sept. 22 session as well as Book 5, which was offered Wednesday and Thursday.
"That was a very good price," said Freddy Seitz of Brookdale. "It just says this is a really hot market and it's really good if you got a nice one."
Bred in Kentucky by Brookdale Farm, Seitz said the colt (offered as Hip 3504) progressed nicely going into the sale.
"He's always been a nice horse, a really nice, correct, good-moving horse," Seitz said. "So it's just been a matter of kind of staying out of his way and letting him grow up. Our crew did a great job with him and they had him looking really sharp. So he's one of the easy ones."
The colt is out of the winning, stakes-placed Into Mischief mare Into Summer. The second dam, Summertime, by Siberian Summer, is a full sister to grade 2 winner Summer Wind Dancer.
Girvin's initial crop of 2-year-olds are on the track, led by Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) winner Damon's Mound and Astoria Stakes winner Devious Dame. A grade 1-winning son of Tale of Ekati , Girvin currently ranks eighth on the freshman sire list.
The final Book of the sale will be offered Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24. Both of those sessions begin at 10 a.m. While there's just two days left in the sale, plenty of enthusiasm remains. Like many, Greathouse points to a 2022 racing season that will award record purses this year as a positive trend fueling deep demand.
"I think the increasing purse structure has really helped," Greathouse said. "It's good to see a nice healthy market and—as a breeder—it's great to see breeders getting rewarded for raising a nice horse."