04/15/2002 11:00PM

$850K colt leads way

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - As of 6 p.m. Eastern, an $850,000 Unbridled's Song colt bought by Sunland Park owner Stan Fulton was the top seller at Keeneland's one-day select 2-year-old auction.

The sale leader, a son of the Miswaki mare Whatamiss, was among a handful of horses to approach the $1 million mark, but through the middle of the sale, the auction record of $2 million, set in 1999 for La Salle Street, was still safe. The auction appeared to be following the trend of other select juvenile sales this year, with booming prices at the top of the market offset by a large number of horses who failed to reach their reserve.

Sold by Robert Scanlon, agent, the $850,000 colt - who topped the eighth-mile work tab in 10.00 seconds at the first under-tack show - found a home with Fulton after failing to reach his reserve on a $500,000 bid at last year's Keeneland July sale.

"It was right in the middle of my range," Fulton said of the price.

Fulton, who was advised by Darby Dan Farm agent Tim McMurry and California-based agent Eric Anderson, said the colt probably would spend some time at Darby Dan near Lexington before being shipped to Fulton's new training center, Frontera, in New Mexico. From there, the colt is likely to race in California.

Fulton is a relatively new racehorse owner, even though his business at Sunland has kept him close to the sport.

"I saw the pleasure my friends had owning racehorses, and I thought it looked like fun," he said. He sent Anderson to buy a couple of horses at the Barretts May sale, and when those won, Fulton was ready to become a bigger player in the game. He bought seven yearlings at Del Mar last year, and his purchases Tuesday at Keeneland also included a $350,000 Carson City-Tremolos (Vice Regent) colt. But the Unbridled's Song colt was his pick of the sale.

"We got ourselves a nice one," Fulton said to Anderson as he lit up a cigarette outside the bidding arena. "We sure did."

Anderson explained that Fulton is looking for colts with classic potential, in the hopes that this time next year he will be "about 75 miles to the west of here, instead of here," on the first Saturday in May.

"If I've got a horse I paid $2,000 for I'd want to see him in the Derby," Fulton said with a shrug. "Everybody wants to be there once in their life."

Pulpit filly goes for $750,000

The top filly, and second-highest price, was a $750,000 Pulpit filly out of the Housebuster stakes winner Aces. Consigned on behalf of Claiborne Farm by Kip Elser's Kirkwood Stables, the filly went to John Oxley.

That dark bay filly was one of several high-priced fillies that kept the auctioneers hopping from the moment they turned the microphones on to start the sale.

The auction started on a high note when Hip No. 4, a filly by young sire Touch Gold, racked up a $650,000 bid from Bob and Beverly Lewis, who were advised by their longtime agent John Moynihan.

The bay filly came to the auction with selling agents Tony Bowling and Bobby Dodd, who appeared to turn a nice profit on the filly's last auction price. She last sold as a weanling at Keeneland's 2000 November sale, where she brought $85,000.

Later, Demi O'Byrne bought a $700,000 Grand Slam filly out of Starr County (by Ogygian). The filly had attracted a lot of notice from buyers leading up to the sale, but only a few of those potential bidders could take the price as high as O'Byrne could. The agent, who generally represents Michael Tabor, easily fended off bids in the pavilion from his spot behind the auctioneer's stand.

"When you have people like that, and there are only a few in that range these days, and if you have a really nice horse, then that's what brings in the money," said consignor Niall Brennan, who sold the filly on behalf of a partnership that bought her for $260,000 at Saratoga last year.

Having observed that wealthy bidders at juvenile sales are increasingly few and increasingly selective, Brennan and Co. decided to stock up on quality, not quantity, when buying yearlings to resell.

"We tend to stick with freshman sires, because we can afford them," Brennan said. "An A. P. Indy, a Storm Cat, those yearlings are too expensive for us."

Resellers like Brennan, who spent less to stock their shelves last year, helped keep the ceiling a little lower at Keeneland's juvenile auction. Several buyers, including Fulton, who bought the top seller, noted that even at the top of the market they didn't feel overcharged. It helps, of course, that juveniles are almost ready to race.

"Depending on the foaling date and maturity, you're able to go to the racetrack, like, tomorrow," Bob Lewis said. "The advantage is that you've avoided the expense of training time between the yearling and 2-year-old years. And it gives you some action early in the game."