09/13/2004 12:00AM

$1M threshold gets topped eight times

The fact this son of A.P. Indy is a ridgling didn't scare bidders. He topped Monday's select session at $3.1 million.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's September yearling sale opened Monday with a bang, reassuring high-end sellers that the market ceiling they saw at Saratoga might be considerably higher in Kentucky.

Eight yearlings brought $1 million or more, including a $3.1 million A.P. Indy ridgling that led Monday's selling and the day's second-highest-priced lot, a $2.8 million Unbridled's Song-Cruising Haven colt that Demi O'Byrne, Coolmore's agent, bought from Paramount Sales, agent.

The session sold 170 lots for $63,185,000, up 4 percent from last season, when 166 sold. Average price climbed 2 percent to $371,676, and median jumped 17 percent to $262,500. Buybacks were 22 percent, down sharply from last year's 30 percent.

The opening session, the first of two select days, got a lift from the Lane's End consignment, which traditionally offers some of the yearling market's best bloodlines. Lane's End, owned by Will and Sarah Farish, decided to sell yearlings exclusively at the Keeneland September sale this year, and the market welcomed those yearlings warmly.

The warmest welcome came from Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, buyer of the $3.1 million session-topper from the Lane's End consignment, an A.P. Indy ridgling out of Grade 2 winner Sahara's Gold. Accompanied his wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, and an entourage that included bloodstock advisor John Ferguson and racing manager Simon Crisford, Maktoum swept up 16 yearlings in the opening session, bidding with the enthusiasm of a man on a shopping spree.

In addition to the session-topper, Maktoum also bought a host of expensive fillies. Those included a $1.7 million Storm Cat-Warm Mood filly from Lane's End, agent; an $850,000 Storm Cat-Nannerl filly from Taylor Made, agent for ClassicStar; a $750,000 A.P. Indy-Princess Atoosa filly from Eaton Sales, agent; and a $700,000 Mr. Greeley-Judaea filly from Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds, agent. Maktoum's colt purchases included a $1.1 million Forestry-Christmas in Aiken colt offered by the Taylor Made agency, and a $700,000 half-brother to 2002 juvenile champion Vindication and current hot 2-year-old Scipion.

But the A.P. Indy ridgling was evidently Maktoum's top pick of the day.

"We really thought he was a $1 million-plus colt," Farish's son, Bill, said after the hammer fell. "Everybody kept telling us he was one of the top colts in the sale, and we thought that before we brought him over here. I think they got a good racehorse."

The fact that the $3.1 million was a ridgling - a colt with one undescended testicle - didn't seem to discount him, especially considering his sire line.

"A.P. Indy is a ridgling, and he does sometimes get colts that are ridglings," Farish said. "People understand that, and A.P. Indy has always been very fertile, so it's not a worry for them."

Maktoum bid like a man with no worries at all, and, indeed, the September yearling sale seems to have become almost a vacation destination for the Darley Stud owner.

"He likes to come to the September sale because it fits well into his schedule," Ferguson explained. "He's a phenomenally busy man who works about 362 days a year, and this is the closest thing he gets to a holiday."

But it is something of a working holiday, too, Ferguson added, pointing out that Maktoum now operates his own Bluegrass stud farm, Darley at Jonabell in Lexington.

Big buyers made their presence felt early. From the first 40 horses through the ring, Stanley Fulton picked up a $750,000 A.P. Indy-Exing colt; Robert Baker and William Mack acquired an $825,000 Giant's Causeway half-brother to Free House; and Ferguson signed several tickets in the $300,000 to $600,000 range for Maktoum. But the bidding got truly serious for Hip No. 39, a Fusaichi Pegasus-Golden Oriole filly, a half-sister to Castle Gandolfo, from Michael Byrne's consignment. The winning bidder at $1.5 million was Stanley and Ira Gumberg's Skara Glen Stables.

Hip No. 39 was the first of eight lots to sell for $1 million or more. Other seven-figure lots included a $1.3 million Storm Cat-Strategic Maneuver filly from Eaton Sales, agent, and a $1.05 million Giant's Causeway-Touch of Greatness filly from Three Chimneys, agent, both bought by bloodstock agent Reynolds Bell. Also, a $1.15 million Giant's Causeway-Statuette colt that O'Byrne bought from Dromoland, agent.

The millionaires' list showed a range of buyers, a good sign that the auction was attracting bids from both American and European-based buyers, and this made regular players optimistic that the relative dearth of $1 million lots at Saratoga - where only five horses reached the seven-figure mark - wouldn't repeat at Keeneland. What did appear to be repeating was the general strength of the bidding below the flashy $1 million mark. Trading was especially lively for horses selling in the $500,000 to $800,000 range, a level that was also buoyant at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga and Kentucky July sale. One buyer, in particular,

was giving that price range a boost: Fulton, whose Fleetwood/N.W. Management appeared as the buyer on 11 receipts for yearlings priced from $350,000 for a Deputy Minister-Sea Breezer colt to $750,000 for the A.P. Indy colt.

Sellers and buyers alike were predicting even stronger action at Tuesday's second session.

"This market hasn't even begun to blossom," said bloodstock agent Headley Bell. "There are even nicer horses to come."

Top-sellers: Day one

136Bay ridglingA.P. Indy - Sahara Gold John Ferguson$3,100,000
241Bay coltUnbridled's Song - Cruising HavenD.L. O'Byrne2,800,000
187Bay fillyStorm Cat - Warm MoodJohn Ferguson1,700,000
39Dark bay/brown fillyFusaichi Pegasus - Golden Oriole Skara Glen Stables1,500,000
162Bay fillyStorm Cat - Strategic ManeuverReynolds Bell Jr., agent1,300,000
160Chestnut coltGiant's Causeway - Statuette D.L. O'Byrne1,150,000
232Bay coltForestry - Christmas in AikenJohn Ferguson1,100,000
180Bay fillyGiant's Causeway - Touch of GreatnessReynolds Bell Jr., agent1,050,000