Updated on 09/16/2011 8:38AM

$4M mare tops strong session

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Starine, winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, sold for $1 million as a broodmare prospect on Tuesday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - ClassicStar partnership president David Plummer, who bought champion Xtra Heat privately for $1.5 million on Monday, has been on a shopping spree. By his own estimation, Plummer has spent about $20 million for about 20 broodmares at the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland November sales. The capstone came Tuesday when he spent $4 million to acquire 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus's full sister Bless, in foal to Storm Cat.

By 5:30 p.m., Bless was the pinnacle of another strong day of selling at Keeneland. The session featured eight million-dollar mares by that point, including recent Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Starine, who brought $1 million from Klaus Jacobs's Newsells Park Stud.

But none was as expensive as Bless, who also attracted the interest of Ashford Stud, which stands Fusaichi Pegasus.

Plummer said he believed the sellers - Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Farm and Arthur Hancock III's Stone Farm - were underbidders for the mare, but his own team had appraised the mare at between $3.5 million and $4.5 million, and, regardless of who was bidding against him, ClassicStar was getting a fair price.

"We're hoping to get a beautiful foal out of her," Plummer said of Bless. "We'll definitely sell the foal if it's a colt, and if it's a filly we'll keep it. Our program is to keep and race our fillies.

"We would have loved to have gotten this mare for $2 million, but we went to $4 million because we'd had her valued there and because she's one of a kind. She'll make a foundation mare for our program."

Sellers benefited from a strong market that started at Monday's opener and kept rolling Tuesday. The biggest beneficiaries of the market's strength at that point were Hancock and the McNairs.

Bless broke a bone in her knee in a paddock accident as a yearling, and that prevented her from racing. But her pedigree got a huge boost when full brother Fusaichi Pegasus won the 2000 Kentucky Derby and went on to be purchased for stud duty at a record value of about $60 million.

"I used to watch her in her paddock when she was young, and she could fly," Hancock said. "She'll make a heck of a broodmare."

Hancock added that he and the McNairs opted to sell Bless because they already have a half-sister to her by Unbridled.

"You know, it's ironic," said Hancock, who is well known for his interest in omens and lucky signs. "She was here at Keeneland in the same stall that Fusaichi Pegasus was in as a yearling, and she brought the same price he did then - $4 million."

Whether by divine omen or simple economic trend, the signs were right for Bless's big price. Before Bless came into the ring, the big sellers had included $2 million Ela Athena, in foal to Giant's Causeway, whom Michael Byrne, agent, sold to Newsells; $2 million Warrior Queen, an English and Irish champion in foal to A.P. Indy, whom Australian Jim Fleming bought from Eaton Sales, agent; and $1.95 million Rose of Tara, in foal to Storm Cat, whom Canadians Bob and Linda Krembil bought from Glennwood Voute, agent, for their Chiefswood Stables.

Starine sells for $1 million

Starine arrived in the Keeneland sale ring Tuesday looking fresh and as fit as a greyhound. When she left the ring less than five minutes later, Starine was also a $1 million broodmare prospect, headed to Newsells Park Stud in England. Newsells Park advisor Robert Acton confirmed Starine would not race again.

Other than confirming that important fact, Newsells Park connections - a professional but generally taciturn lot - were close-mouthed about further plans for their new mare, a potential North American champion.

Acton said his clients had not yet determined a mating plan for the 5-year-old mare, but, as he said, "Her pedigree is useful in that you could cover her with a variety of different stallions."

Starine is by Mendocino, an Allen Paulson-bred son of Theatrical who stands in France and has sired small crops that so far have yielded less than a dozen winners. Her dam, Grisonnante (by Kaldoun), never won. Starine is her only stakes winner.

Alice Chandler, whose Mill Ridge agency consigned Starine, recognized the sale price as "reasonable."

"She's just such a nice, nice filly," Chandler said. "She came straight from Arlington, got to Kentucky Wednesday, went to the sale ground on Thursday, and started showing on Friday. And she never put a foot wrong. Other horses in that situation might have been silly, prancing around with their tails up over their backs, but she was just perfect."

Tuesday's parade of millionaires followed a strong session Monday, when 11 million-plus horses went through the ring, led by champion Fiji, the $3.1 million session-topper that Newgate Stud sold to Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable. Fiji is in foal to Danehill.

Overall, the Monday session rang up a gross of $58,851,500 from 186 lots sold. Average price was $316,406, and median was $170,000. Gross was up 21 percent from last year's opener, when 152 head sold. Average was down 1 percent this year, and median dropped 6 percent. But the 2002 sale, coming as it has after 30 percent declines in this year's select yearling market, understandably has sparked optimism among sellers.