07/14/2008 11:00PM

$330K yearling leads Fasig's first day


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Racehorse owner Paul Pompa Jr. has had a great year in 2008, so it was no surprise to find him reinvesting in the yearling market at Fasig-Tipton's July sale in Lexington. Pompa, part-owner of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, picked up the highest-priced yearling at Monday's opening session, a $330,000 colt by first-crop sire Unforgettable Max.

Consigned by Gainesway, agent, the muscular bay offered as Hip No. 145 is out of the unraced Slewpy mare Wife's Objection.

The session, which was interrupted late by a 10-minute power outage, sold 142 yearlings for $13,311,000, down from last year, when 178 horses sold for $15,826,000. Average price was $93,739, up 5 percent from last season, and median was the same as last year at $75,000. Buybacks were up to 44 percent from 33 percent last year.

In February, Pompa sold the Street Cry colt Desert Party for $2.1 million at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum; the colt had cost him $425,000 as a yearling. After paying $190,000 for Big Brown at the 2007 Keeneland April 2-year-old sale, Pompa sold a 75 percent stake in him in a private multimillion-dollar deal. And just two days before the Fasig-Tipton sale, his Fearless Vision - a $250,000 purchase from this auction in 2005 - improved his record with an easy score at Belmont. Even Pompa's 2-year-old buybacks occasionally have been golden for him: In 2007, Backseat Rhythm failed to sell on a $240,000 bid at Barretts, and she has since turned into a Grade 1 performer for Pompa.

Hidden Brook Farm's Jack Brothers represented Pompa in the bidding ring, picking up Hip No. 145 from a partnership led by Gainesway president Antony Beck, general manager Neil Howard, and sales director Brian Graves. The Gainesway group bought the colt for $42,000 as a weanling.

"We're looking for athletes," Brothers said. "If they don't pinhook, they go to the racing stable, so we're trying to find horses that he likes, that he can live with once he goes racing at the track. We really just want to find the best individual, and then Paul makes the decision whether he goes through the sales or not.

"Physically, he fits the model, the prototype for what we look for, top to bottom," Brothers said of Hip No. 145. "He's a great mover and he has all the physical qualities that we look for."

The session-topper's sire, Unforgettable Max, is a full brother to Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, another first-crop sire who stands at Gainesway.

The Gainesway partnership spotted the colt in the back walking ring at Keeneland's 2007 November sale and bought him inexpensively.

"We got him home, and he just turned into a standout," Graves said.

The Unforgettable Max colt's underbidder was John Fort of Peachtree Stable, who bounced back to buy a $300,000 filly from the one and only crop of the deceased 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam. The Bluewater Sales agency sold the filly, a half-sister to graded winner Level Playingfield. Offered as Hip No. 195, she was the top-priced filly.

Fort said the market "seems really down," with the exception of horses selling in the upper market.

"Just sitting around and watching horses sell, I see a lot of $20,000, $30,000, and $40,000 horses," he said, confirming many consignors' impressions that the market was spotty.

But at least one small seller had a great day. That was Rosilyn Polan, who sold three yearlings for a total of $405,000. Polan's top seller was Hip No. 80, a $185,000 chestnut colt by the freshman sire Limehouse and out of the Cox's Ridge winner Scorch. Dogwood Stables, which campaigned Limehouse, bought the colt.

Polan bred all three of the yearlings from a broodmare band of seven at her Sunday Morning Farm in Woodford County, Ky.

Dogwood principal Cot Campbell was one racehorse owner taking advantage of the market's softer spots. By late afternoon, the syndicator had purchased five yearlings for $507,000, with individual prices ranging from $32,000 to $185,000.

As expected, pinhookers also picked up a lot of horses, spending in a wide range, from about $40,000 to about $310,000. The latter price was what Nick de Meric paid for Hip No. 197, a Eurosilver-Chenoa colt sold by Eaton sales, agent. He also bought Hip No. 40, a $250,000 Friends Lake colt out of Grade 2 winner Pat Copelan offered by Airdrie Stud, agent.

Among other high prices during Monday's opener were Hip No. 206, a $290,000 Lion Heart-Coquila Rose colt that Paramount Sales, agent, sold to B. Wayne Hughes; Hip No. 250, a $275,000 Ghostzapper-Fast and Early filly that Taylor Made, agent, sold to McMahon Bloodstock, agent; Hip No. 252, a $270,000 Eddington-Favorite Times colt, and Hip No. 228, a $260,000 Forest Danger-Elaine's Angel colt, both sold by Hill 'n' Dale to Zayat Stables and Ryu Tanabe's MKY Enterprises (Heatherway, agent), respectively; and Hip No. 283, a $260,000 Medaglia d'Oro-I'll Do it My Way colt that the Bluewater agency sold to Starlight Partners.

The auction was to continue through Tuesday, with the final session starting at 10 a.m. at Newtown Paddocks in Lexington.