In a briskly successful first session of the Keeneland September yearling sale, the gross price rose 35 percent to $44.6 million, with an average price of $297,613. The top three prices at the opening session — $1 million and $1.45 million for two fillies and $900,000 for the top-priced colt — were paid for yearlings by Claiborne Farm stallion War Front (by Danzig).
The 12-year-old stallion, who looks so much like his sire that it’s a little spooky, enjoyed a fuller racing career than that great sire.
Whereas Danzig was unbeaten in three starts in fast time but no stakes, War Front raced three seasons and was first or second in nine of his 13 starts. The horse’s most important victory came in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga, with seconds in the Vosburgh, Forego, Tom Fool, Mr. Prospector, and Deputy Minister.
So War Front was a sprinter who didn’t win a Grade 1 stakes, the Vanderbilt was a G2 at the time he won it, and took a place at Claiborne because owner-breeder Joseph Allen and a group of syndicate members believed in the horse and supported him through his early seasons with useful mares.
As a result of that support and his own innate qualities, War Front has climbed the ladder of stallion success. From being an interesting stallion prospect, the brawny bay has become one of the most respected stallions in the world, and his offspring are highly sought at the sales.
The stallion’s early yearlings looked the part, and buyers began picking them up early for good prices, which allowed breeders to continue to support him through the hard times of the bloodstock depression. Then when War Front’s first crops included major winners like The Factor (Malibu), Data Link (G1), Declaration of War (Juddmonte International and Queen Anne Stakes), and Summer Soiree (Del Mar Oaks), the breeders with foals and yearlings on the ground made a lot of money in times when they needed it.
And major breeders began flocking to the horse.
With first foals of 2008, War Front has risen to an advertised stud fee of $150,000 live foal, if you can find one. Nominations to the horse are tightly held by a syndicate. The syndicate is comprised of breeders who use their seasons. Getting one is about as easy as sneaking a gold bar out of Fort Knox.
That is, however, the traditional nature of a syndicate. And one of the virtues and privileges of being a member has traditionally been access. Yes, the right to breed to one of the best and most successful stallions in the world.
The mega-books approach to stallion management has diluted the concept of syndication out of all recognition for those of us with memories that extend past the last generation. But Claiborne Farm does have a long memory, both among the individuals responsible for its success and as a corporate body that has been a leader in bloodstock breeding in Kentucky for more than a century.
Claiborne Farm has long been a stick in the mud when it comes to newfangled ideas. And proud to be.
So now they have yet another world-class stallion.
And the world comes beating a path to their door in search of seasons to War Front or yearlings by the horse. Claiborne, as consignor, sold the $900,000 colt (Hip 106) and a $525,000 colt (Hip 109); Lane’s End, as consignor, sold the $1 million filly (Hip 99) and a $600,000 colt (Hip 182).
But Timber Town (Wayne and Cathy Sweezey), selling for major buyer and now breeder Mandy Pope (Whisper Hill Farm), put the ball out of the park with the session-topping yearling at $1.45 million. The filly is the first foal of the group-placed Galileo mare Betterbetterbetter, an Irish-bred half-sister to classic winner Yesterday and G1 winner Quarter Moon, and Betterbetterbetter was sold for $5.2 million carrying this filly at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale in 2013.
Betterbetterbetter did her job and produced a good-sized and robust foal on Jan. 16 last year who grew into a very appealing yearling. The session-topper responded well to the sales prep and presentation at the September sale by Timber Town, and her hammer price indicates how inspectors found her at the barn.
As a sales yearling and racing prospect for buyer Shadwell Farm, the War Front filly is a credit to all who knew her and helped her along the way.