By Sarah Mace
A trio of New York-breds from the Part Dispersal of the Estate of Sarah J. Leigh offered by Craig & Holly Bandoroff’s Denali Stud dominated Monday’s opening session of the five-day Keeneland January sale, generating the three top sales of the day. All three went to longtime breeder and owner Virginia Kraft Payson and her Payson Stud.
Leigh, a theatrical agent who died in August 2015, had continued the successful international racing and breeding operation of her father, Gerald Leigh, who died in 2002. Leigh’s highly regarded Eydon Hall Farm in England bred such standouts as 1994 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and European Horse of the Year Barathea, European champion 3-year-old filly Bosra Sham and classic winner Gossamer.
The session’s top-seller, who brought $700,000, was Summer Solo, a five-year-old Arch mare in foal to Ghostzapper (Hip 259). Third in the 2014 Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational, Summer Solo is out of Irish-bred Summer Solstice by Caerleon, a stakes winner in France, and a half-sister to French multiple Group 1 winner Act One. Summer Solo’s siblings include turf stakes winners Adirondack Summer and Summer Breezing.
Immediately following Summer Solo through the auction ring was her two-year-old half-sister, Summer Sweet (Hip 260), offered as a racing or broodmare prospect. A chestnut filly by More than Ready foaled last May, Summer Sweet was hammered down to Payson Stud, Inc. for $550,000. Payson reported that Summer Sweet would be sent to trainer Christophe Clement.
Payson also went to $450,000 for Hip 230, the co-top-selling short yearling of the sale. A dark bay or brown daughter of Arch, foaled on May 9, 2015, the filly is out of the unraced Seeking the Gold mare Seeking Atlantis. Leigh purchased Seeking Atlantis, a Kentucky-bred mare, from the Edward P. Evans Dispersal at Keeneland in November 2011 for $375,000. She has produced two winners, topped by graded stakes performer Seeking her Glory. Payson said the filly will go to Arthur B. Hancock III’s Stone Farm near Paris, Ky.
“I raced against Gerald Leigh for years, and I really wanted to have one of his families,” Payson said after buying the yearling, her first purchase of the day. “I knew the (filly’s) family and that’s what I liked about her. I have four broodmares, but they’re all the same bloodlines and I needed some diversification.”
Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell said, “Mr. Leigh was a great supporter of Keeneland, and Sarah was, too. It’s a fitting end.” He added, “Although we’re happy the market reacted favorably to the quality of their horses, it’s sad to see the end of these operations.”