02/25/2003 12:00AM

A $1.4 million swan

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MIAMI - A handful of ugly ducklings turned into golden swans at Fasig-Tipton's select 2-year-old sale Tuesday at Calder Race Course, rewarding their consignors with massive profits.

As of 5:30 p.m. Eastern, the one-day auction's top four lots were a $1.4 million Tale of the Cat-Satin Sunrise colt that Demi O'Byrne bought from Robert Scanlon, agent; a $1 million Storm Cat-Sun Blush filly that LeRoy Jolley, agent, bought from Danny Pate's Solitary Oak; a $900,000 Forestry-Starry Ice colt that Aaron and Marie Jones bought from Hoby and Layna Kight; and an $850,000 Kris S.-Key to My Heart colt that Fusao Sekiguchi bought from Maurice Miller III.

None of those horses cost more than $200,000 as yearlings, when their sellers purchased them for resale here.

The biggest of those home runs was for the early sale leader, the $1.4 million Tale of the Cat colt. Scanlon and several partners bought him in Maryland last year for just $100,000. The chestnut colt is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner French Satin.

O'Byrne had more reason than most to like the colt. O'Byrne and his client, Michael Tabor, are close associates of Coolmore Stud, which stands Tale of the Cat. O'Byrne fended off a last-minute $1.35 million bid from Carl Lizza of Flying Zee Stables.

Lizza's bid might have been a case of seller's remorse. Phil Serpe, who trains for Flying Zee, confirmed that Lizza was part of the partnership selling the colt and said Lizza was considering buying him outright.

Scanlon knew he had a strong hand coming into the sale when the colt put up an eighth-mile breeze in 10.00 seconds at Fasig-Tipton's Feb. 16 under-tack show. But Scanlon recalled that 12 months ago, when the Tale of the Cat colt was a yearling, he wasn't quite as impressive. In fact, before the Maryland sale, the colt had failed to sell for $95,000 at Fasig-Tipton's July sale in Kentucky.

"He changed completely," Scanlon said. "He wasn't a bad-looking yearling, don't get me wrong, but physically he changed completely from November until now. He bulked up."

The added bulk helped add profit and resulted in the biggest sale ever for a Scanlon consignment.

The story was similar for partners Rick Embert, Roger Baugh, and Baugh's daughter, Kathleen Schonefeld, who sold the $1 million Storm Cat filly to Jolley. Jolley, an unfamiliar face among the seven-figure buyers at juvenile auctions, declined to name his client and said only that it was a partnership. Such details presumably didn't matter to the selling partnership and their consignor, Danny Pate.

The team bought the Storm Cat filly at last year's Keeneland September sale for the astounding price of $115,000, so low that they figured something must be wrong with her. But they could find nothing, and she matured into a fast filly with plenty of appeal as the Calder auction's only Storm Cat daughter.

"I didn't think I could afford a Storm Cat filly," Pate said. "When Kathleen told me they'd bought a Storm Cat filly for $115,000, I thought, 'Oh, what's wrong with her?' "

Not much, apparently. Embert said the filly toed in a little, a conformational crookedness that he said is fairly common in Storm Cats.

"She was better than most," Embert said. When he saw that her price was hovering at $85,000, he jumped in and could hardly believe he got her when the hammer fell.

"She's always been a sound and precocious filly," Pate said. "She's just been lovely."

The $900,000 Forestry colt cost Hoby and Layna Kight just $150,000 at Keeneland September. He's now the most expensive horse the Kights have ever sold. The colt may have gotten overlooked by bigger yearling buyers because, as Hoby Kight said, "he wasn't a jump-out-at-you kind of horse. I like to buy in those early days at Keeneland September, because everyone there wants the horse, and sometimes you can get a good deal on something that maybe just needs to mature a little."

Miller's $850,000 Kris S. colt matured beautifully, which made all the difference. John Phillips, whose Darby Dan Farm bred the colt, said the horse wasn't the most outstanding foal. But he had faith in him, and the colt indeed bloomed into a $200,000 yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga last year. He kept developing as a 2-year-old.

"His movement was so fluent, it caught my eye," Sekiguchi said through an interpreter.

The pedigree also didn't hurt: the colt is a full brother to Grade 3 winner Love N' Kiss S., and his dam is a full sister to champion sprinter Eillo.

"If he was an ugly duckling, nobody ever told me," said Miller, who sold the colt in partnership with Tom VanMeter. Of course, he isn't one anymore.