Mixed fortunes for 2018 Keeneland millionaire yearlings

In 2018, thebreedingshed analysed the 27 yearlings who fetched a million dollars or more at the Keeneland September Sale (click here for link). Exactly three years later, it seems a good time to check on what those seven-figure yearlings, who changed hands for a total of $36,525,000, have achieved since.

Collectively, they have raced 135 times in the USA, Britain, Ireland, France and the UAE which makes an average of only five starts apiece – only three have run ten times or more to date. Those 135 runs have yielded 26 wins in total – essentially a win each – though, of course, that’s not how those successes have been shared out. It’s a sobering statistic that only 13 of the 27 million-dollar-plus yearlings have won a race since, while four of them have not raced at all.

Nor did any of the 27 come close to winning back what they had cost in the ring – the combined earnings of those who have raced in the USA is $1,254,600.

Three of the millionaire graduates of the 2018 September Sale have contributed the lion’s share of that total. The first is the Tapit filly Matera, a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map, who was a $1.4m purchase by Don Alberto Stable. Matera won a couple of listed contests over the summer at Indiana Grand and Ellis Park and finished fourth in the Grade 3 Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs on her latest start.

Another filly to do well this year is Spice Is Good, a daughter of Curlin out of the Humana Distaff Stakes winner Dame Dorothy. She had been bought for $1.05m and races for Robert and Lawana Low. Her biggest win came at Pimlico in May when she won the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff Match Series Stakes.

The most successful graduate, though, was the Pioneerof The Nile colt Thousand Words who, at ‘just’ a million dollars, was also one of the least expensive of the 27. Out of the Grade 2 winner Pomeroys Pistol, Thousand Words won four of his nine starts and $327,500 for his owners Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm. His biggest success came in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity at two, and he also won the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita and the listed Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar at three. However, Thousand Words was denied a shot at the Kentucky Derby when rearing over leaving the paddock just 20 minutes before the race and was scratched on veterinary advice from a race his Bob Baffert stablemate Authentic (a $350,000 purchase at Keeneland) went on to win. Thousand Words began his stud career at Spendthrift, alongside Authentic, earlier this year, at a fee of $7,500.

On the other hand, there were scant returns on some considerable investments made by the major European-based owners at Keeneland in 2018. The most successful seven-figure purchase to race in Europe has been Tenbury Wells who won a novice at Chelmsford and a handicap at Ascot in July 2020 for John Gosden and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. One of five by Medaglia d’Oro to sell for $1m or more (Tenbury Wells fetched $1.6m), he’s out of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Dayatthespa.

None of Godolphin’s five purchases for $1m or more (totalling $7.35m) managed to win a race, while two of those, Confiadoial Act (a colt from the first crop of American Pharoah and who was the sale’s second most expensive purchase at $2.2m) and Birdwatcher (a daughter of Uncle Mo), failed to run at all. Birdwatcher, who is out of a half-sister to champion turf mare Lady Eli, changed hands again for 160,000 guineas at Tattersalls in July.

As well as Medaglia d’Oro, on a high after his son Talismanic won the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf, the other popular sire with the leading European operations was War Front who was responsible for the July Cup winner US Navy Flag just months before the 2018 September Sale. However, the only one of his four European-campaigned seven-figure purchases  to be successful was $1.2m Shadwell purchase Al Qaqaa who won a novice at Newmarket in 2020 and was placed in the UAE earlier this year; he’s a grandson of All My Loving who was third in the Oaks and Irish Oaks.

War Front was also responsible for the colt who topped the 2018 September Sale. Named St James’s Square after being bought for $2.4m by M. V. Magnier on behalf of his sire’s biggest supporters in Europe, Coolmore, he is out of the Hollywood Starlet Stakes winner Streaming and from the family of the Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags To Ricoes.

However, St James’s Square made just one start for Aidan O’Brien, finishing in rear in a maiden at Naas as at two-year-old. He has had three runs over hurdles for Ballydoyle vet John Halley this year (beaten more than 30 lengths on the first two occasions, fell on the other one) and made a return to the flat at Clonmel earlier this month when beating one home in a maiden.

Streaming’s current yearling, a colt by Justify, found a Japanese buyer when selling for $650,000 at the latest September Yearling Sale where the likes of Godolphin and Shadwell, the latter in the process of downsizing, were notable by their absence.

As in 2018, yearlings by Quality Road, American Pharoah, Tapit, Curlin, Uncle Mo, Into Mischief and War Front all sold for seven-figure sums at this year’s Keeneland September Sale, but it was a colt from the first crop of Pegasus World Cup and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Ligero who topped the sale at $1.7m, with another 14 yearlings selling for $1m or more.

2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale topper – a colt by City of Ligero

Photos courtesy of Keeneland