Updated on 09/17/2011 6:55PM

$2M level hit six times

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Unbridled Elaine, top seller at Keeneland's opening session.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When Smarty Jones's dam brought $5 million at Fasig-Tipton's November select sale Sunday night, it sent a tremor of anticipation all the way across town to Keeneland.

The $5 million price for I'll Get Along, who is carrying a full sibling to Smarty Jones, surprised many observers. But when Keeneland opened its 12-day November breeding stock auction on Monday with a $4.4 million session-leader and six mares selling for $2 million or more, it quickly became clear that I'll Get Along's price wasn't an aberration. The market for quality producers and racemares really is that strong.

At 6:15 p.m. Eastern, Keeneland's top price was $4.4 million for 2001 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine, whom Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum bought from the Taylor Made agency. Taylor Made, representing the Betty Devenport estate, sold Unbridled Elaine in foal to Forestry.

Unbridled Elaine was one of six lots to sell for more than $2 million as the auction neared its conclusion. Sheikh Mohammed's agent, John Ferguson, had a lot to do with that. After tapping the brakes at Fasig-Tipton the night before and letting Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds have I'll Get Along for $5 million, Ferguson returned to full speed at Keeneland. In addition to Unbridled Elaine, Ferguson also bought $3.6 million Stellar Jayne, sold as a racing or broodmare prospect, from Spendthrift Farm, agent; an Elusive Quality-Barbara Sue weanling colt for $550,000 from Taylor Made; and a $500,000 Elusive Quality-Silver Tornado weanling colt from Runnymede Farm, agent.

But Ferguson wasn't the only whale in the Keeneland market, and the diversity of high-flying spenders gave Keeneland plenty to cheer about. An anonymous partnership represented by Eaton Sales, agent, bid $4.2 million to acquire Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, in foal to Seeking the Gold, from Three Chimneys, agent. Sheikh Mohammed's brother, Shadwell Estate owner Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, paid $3.6 million for Grade 1 winner Dessert, in foal to Kingmambo, offered by Lane's End, agent. Live Oak Stud spent $2.3 million on Grade 2 winner Cat Fighter, whom the Hill 'n' Dale agency sold as a racing or broodmare prospect. The B.B.A. (Ireland) agency went to $2 million to get Grade 2 winner Better Than Honour, whom Lane's End, agent, sold in foal to Mineshaft. Frank Stronach bought Grade 1 winner Elloluv, sold as a broodmare prospect, from Three Chimneys, agent, for $1.75 million.

That was just the top of a list that included a total of 15 millionaires.

The morning got off to a roaring start when the ninth horse in the ring, graded-stakes producer Profit Column in foal to Storm Cat, rang up $1.6 million. The mare, offered by Claiborne Farm, agent, went to David Plummer of the ClassicStar breeding partnership. That was just a minor taste of things to come. Within two hours, six more mares had soared past the million-dollar mark. Plenty of underbidders were reeling as horse after horse went beyond their bidding limits, but some of the purchasers actually expressed relief that the prices hadn't been higher.

"She has Storm Cat knees, but other than that, she's a beautiful mare," Shadwell representative Rick Nichols said after signing the ticket for Dessert, adding, "We thought she might go for a bit more than that."

Reiley McDonald of Eaton Sales, who bid for the anonymous purchasers of $4.2 million Take Charge Lady, simply shrugged when asked whether the mare's price was in line with his expectations.

"When they get to that range, what's fair?" he said. "Once they get to that level, it's about what it will take to get her."

Not many buyers have deep enough pockets to share that view. One who can, of course, is Sheikh Mohammed, whose agent coasted to Unbridled Elaine's session-topping price of $4.4 million without breaking a sweat.

"Obviously, she's an outstanding mare," Ferguson said after collecting his receipt. "If you want to be racing and breeding horses at the highest level, a mare like that is a huge asset."

Very true, but is it much of a challenge when you can buy any horse you want?

"It's a huge challenge!" Ferguson exclaimed. "Because, at the end of the day, you're trying to breed the very best racehorse, and it's not an exact science. You get no prizes for buying them. It's the results that matter."

The family-owned Taylor Made Sales Agency of Nicholasville, Ky., consignors of Unbridled Elaine, appreciated the afternoon's results very much indeed. The operation, owned by the sons of the late Joe Taylor, surpassed the $1 billion mark in total public auction proceeds when Hip No. 126, Carib Lady, sold to Shadai Farm for $900,000. It took Taylor Made Farm 26 years to reach the mark. The operation started as a small boarding facility for out-of-town mares booked to stallions at Gainesway, where Joe Taylor was a legendary farm manager. It has grown to occupy about 1,600 acres and is active in every branch of the Thoroughbred business, from breeding and foaling mares to selling yearlings to standing stallions.

The $1 billion in income, incidentally, only reflects Taylor Made's public sales and doesn't include income from the farm's private transactions or its stallion roster, which includes the popular Unbridled's Song.

"We've had so many great customers and clients, and we couldn't have done it without them," said Taylor Made founder Duncan Taylor, who also credited the farm's combined regular and seasonal staff, which totals about 200.

The Keeneland November sale was to continue through Nov. 19 with continuous sessions starting daily at 10 a.m.

Bull market

Sunday - Fasig-Tipton

HORSEBUYERPRICE
I'll Get AlongGaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds$5,000,000
In foal to Elusive Quality
ToccetCastleton Lyons3,350,000

Monday - Keeneland

HORSEBUYERPRICE
Unbridled ElaineJohn Ferguson Bloodstock$4,400,000
In foal to Forestry
Take Charge LadyEaton Sales, agent4,200,000
In foal to Seeking the Gold
Stellar JayneJohn Ferguson Bloodstock3,600,000
DessertShadwell Farm3,600,000
In foal to Kingmambo
Cat FighterLive Oak Stud2,300,000
Better Than HonourBBA (Ireland) Ltd.2,000,000
In foal to Mineshaft