11/19/2009 1:00AM

$255K filly tops sale session; average down


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Young racing and broodmare prospects continued to command higher prices at Keeneland's two-week November breeding stock sale, but Tuesday's session average and median plunged despite that interest.

The eighth session's top price was $255,000 for another offering from the popular Overbrook Farm consignment handled by Eaton Sales, agent. That was Hip No. 2729, the 3-year-old Empire Maker filly Clear Sailing. The bay filly sold to Larry Richardson and Coteau Grove as a racing or broodmare prospect. A daughter of the Old Trieste mare Steady Course, she is from the Overbrook family that also produced Jump Start.

Tuesday's session sold 241 horses for $4,902,600, down 12 percent from last year's session total for 192 horses. The eighth-day average of $20,343 was 30 percent lower than at last year's equivalent session, and the median plummeted 41 percent. The buy-back rate dropped from last year's, falling from 31 percent in 2008 to 22 percent Tuesday as sellers accepted the realities of the recession.

Through Tuesday's session, the auction so far has grossed $150,359,400 for 1,786 horses. That was down 10 percent from last season's total for 1,589 at the same point. The cumulative average price of $84,188 was 20 percent below last year's, and the $39,000 median represented a loss of 22 percent from last year through the eighth session. Overall, buy-backs remained low at 20 percent, as compared to last year's 31 percent.

Among the other six-figure horses sold Tuesday was 1996's juvenile filly champion, Storm Song. Now 15, the Summer Squall mare was not in foal and brought $100,000 from Aaron Sones. Brookdale Sales, agent, consigned Storm Song.

The 13-day auction was to continue through Nov. 22 with sessions starting daily at 10 a.m.

Keeneland bars bloodstock agent

Lexington bloodstock agent Jim Cullen is the first to be banned from Keeneland under the Thoroughbred industry's code of conduct published in 2007 by the Sales Integrity Task Force.

Keeneland vice president Harvie Wilkinson said Tuesday that Cullen will be banned until at least December 2010 due to improper distribution of sale proceeds.

The ban went into effect about four weeks ago and followed two complaints against the agent within the last eight or nine months, Wilkinson said.

"We investigated them and talked to Jim about it, and he agreed that funds weren't paid out according to the way they were supposed to," Wilkinson said. "He gave us explanations as to why, involving his bank, but the bottom line is that he didn't disburse funds the way they should have been disbursed. He agreed to take his medicine. We didn't have to go to arbitration over it."

Wilkinson said Keeneland does not intend to pursue further action.

Cullen operates Cullen Bloodstock Services and also is a partner in the Oakland Group, a marketing, advertising, and communications company. There was no answer at numbers listed for Cullen at both companies. A message left at a residential listing for Jim Cullen in Lexington was not returned.

Wilkinson said Cullen can reapply for admittance to Keeneland auctions at the end of his ban. In the meantime, Wilkinson said Keeneland is in the process of informing the nation's other Thoroughbred auction houses.

"We've informally let them know," he said. "If we sanction him, the others will automatically sanction him as well."

Ashford Stud drops fees across board

Ashford Stud, Coolmore's Kentucky division, will reduce stud fees for all but one of its stallions in 2010, following a trend among Kentucky farms responding to lower sale returns and breeding activity in 2009.

Giant's Causeway, the most expensive sire at Ashford, will fall from $125,000 last year to $100,000. Others with lower fees next year are Dehere, from $15,000 to $10,000; Fusaichi Pegasus, from $30,000 to $15,000; Grand Slam, from $25,000 to $17,500; Henrythenavigator, from $65,000 to $40,000; Lion Heart, from $20,000 to $12,500; Majestic Warrior, from $20,000 to $15,000; Scat Daddy, from $22,500 to $15,000; Thunder Gulch, from $15,000 to $10,000; and Van Nistelrooy, from $15,000 to $7,500.

Tale of the Cat will keep his 2009 fee, $30,000.