One of the major draws for Keeneland September Yearling Sale buyers is the quest for athletic individuals that can perform successfully on the biggest stages such as Del Mar, the iconic oceanside California track that hosts a boutique summer meet.
Among September Sale graduates who had some of their best performances “where the turf meets the surf” over the years have been champions Accelerate, Beholder, Nyquist, Unique Bella and Zenyatta, as well as Grade 1 winners Cistron, Collusion Illusion, Game On Dude and Lord Nelson.
Beholder’s Historic Pacific Classic Win
Few performances in Del Mar’s storied history match Beholder’s 8 1/4-length triumph over a stellar field of males in the 2015 TVG Pacific Classic (G1) after she unleashed a quick turn of foot en route to becoming the first of her sex to win the prestigious race. The daughter of Henny Hughes bred by Clarkland Farm was purchased by B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm for $180,000 at the 2011 September Sale and went on to win 18 of 26 starts, including Del Mar’s Clement L. Hirsch (G1), and earn $6.1 million. Trained by Richard Mandella, Beholder earned four Eclipse Awards, including two as champion older mare.
Hall of Famer Excelled at Del Mar
During a career that earned her induction into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, Jerry and Ann Moss’ Zenyatta was perfect at Del Mar, winning three consecutive editions of the Clement L. Hirsch (G1 twice, G2 once). Bred by Maverick Productions Ltd., the daughter of Street Cry (IRE) was purchased for a bargain $60,000 from the Winter Quarter Farm consignment at the 2005 September Sale. Trained by John Shirreffs, Zenyatta became the first filly or mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) in 2009. A fan favorite, Zenyatta was retired after her only loss in a 20-race career when second in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic and was voted Horse of the Year.
Sadler Succeeds at Del Mar
The all-time second-leading trainer at Del Mar by number of wins and stakes wins, John Sadler has had great success with September Sale graduates. Leading the conditioner’s contingent is Accelerate, the son of Lookin At Lucky whose four consecutive Grade 1 wins in 2018 included the TVG Pacific Classic, earning him an Eclipse Award as champion older dirt male. Consigned by Bluewater Sales to the 2014 September Sale, the horse bred by Mike Abraham sold to agent David Ingordo under the L.E.B. name for $380,000 on behalf of Hronis Racing. Cistron, acquired by Hronis for $180,000 when offered at the September Sale by Lane’s End, agent for breeder St. George Farm LLC, is a son of The Factor who took home top honors in Del Mar’s Bing Crosby (G1).
Taking the Del Mar Route to Eclipse Honors
Reddam Racing’s Nyquist took the Del Mar route to an Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male in 2015, winning the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Best Pal (G2) during an undefeated season that concluded with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland. The son of Uncle Mo, who went on to classic success in the Kentucky Derby (G1), was purchased by Sutton Place Stables for $230,000 from Dromoland, agent for breeder Summerhill Farm, at the 2014 September Sale.
A Unique Champion
A royally bred daughter of leading sire Tapit, Unique Bella was purchased by Don Alberto Stable from the consignment of Eaton Sales, agent for breeder Brushwood Stable, for $400,000 at the 2015 September Sale. Unique Bella finished first or second in 11 of 12 career starts, including the 2018 Clement L. Hirsch (G1), and earned more than $1.2 million. The 2017 champion female sprinter, Unique Bella also earned an Eclipse Award as 2018 champion older dirt female.
Upsetting the Status Quo
When the field broke from the Del Mar starting gate for the 2017 TVG Pacific Classic (G1), champion Arrogate was installed the 3-5 favorite. But Speedway Stable’s Collected did not follow the script and gamely held off a late challenge from his highly regarded stablemate and fellow September Sale graduate Arrogate before going on to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), also at Del Mar. The son of City Zip, bred by Runnymede Farm and Peter J. Callahan, was purchased by SVG Thoroughbreds for $150,000 from the Runnymede Farm offerings at the 2014 September Sale. He was subsequently purchased by Speedway for $170,000 at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Third Time’s a Charm
On his third attempt Game On Dude successfully completed the task in the Pacific Classic (G1), winning by 8 1/2 lengths, largest in race history. Bred by Adena Springs, Game On Dude raced for the partnership of Joe Torre’s Diamond Pride, Lanni Family Trust, Mercedes Stable and Bernie Schiappa after going through the 2008 September Sale ring when offered by Hidden Brook. His career earnings total nearly $6.5 million.
Horse for the Course
Collusion Illusion lived up to the “horse for the course” maxim when the son of Twirling Candy took advantage of a speed duel for a nose victory in the Bing Crosby (G1) in 2020. The win was the third victory from as many starts at Del Mar for Collusion Illusion, who won his career debut at the track and also won the Best Pal (G2) at age 2. Bred by Donald Dizney, Collusion Illusion was purchased by Don’t Tell My Wife Stables for $50,000 from the Lane’s End consignment to the 2018 September Sale before being resold as a 2-year-old.
Lording over Bing Crosby Field
Lord Nelson blitzed the field in the 2016 Bing Crosby (G1), getting the 6 furlongs in stakes-record time of 1:07.65 for owner Spendthrift Farm to mark the third of four consecutive Grade 1 victories that closed the speedy son of Pulpit’s career. Consigned to the 2013 September Sale by breeder Clearsky Farms, Lord Nelson was purchased by John Fort for $340,000.