08/11/2004 12:00AM

A.P. Indy filly tops sale at $1.5 million


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Derry Meeting Farm in Pennsylvania is a familiar name to yearling buyers at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga yearling sale. It is a Tiffany's-style consignment, small but select, that operates with style but not flash. Its owner, Bettina Jenney, is not one of the slick corporate agents striving to gain an edge in the highly competitive business of selling horses.

Jenney and the Derry Meeting agency already have an edge: They are purveyors of some of the best-bred Thoroughbred bloodstock available. On Tuesday night at the Saratoga sale's opening session, one of those Derry Meeting gems brought the evening's top price of $1.5 million from Will Farish, the Lane's End owner and former American ambassador to Great Britain.

The yearling in question was a filly by the immensely successful stallion A.P. Indy, and her catalog page was awash in black type. Bred by George Strawbridge, the filly is a daughter of Seebe, a young Danzig mare whose record included a Group 3 victory in England, a Grade 3 win in the United States, and a runner-up finish in the French 1000 Guineas. The mare has had only one other foal, a 4-year-old Gone West colt named Outward who has not yet won a race, but what she lacks in produce she more than makes up for in bloodlines. Seebe is a daughter of Grade 2 winner Annie Edge, whose other foals include English and French champion Selkirk, Grade 3 winner Rory Creek, graded-placed stakes winners Skillington and Rimrod, and stakes winner Syncline.

"It's very thrilling," said Jenney, who has continued the Derry Meeting operation since the death of her husband, Marshall, in 2000. "She's always been a lovely filly who just developed perfectly and is a beautiful mover."

The A.P. Indy filly was opening night's only million-dollar yearling. A $900,000 Kingmambo-Sweet and Ready filly that Gainesway, agent, sold to Narvick International, agent, was the session's second highest price. The most expensive colt was a $700,000 Giant's Causeway-Overturned colt that Michael Tabor's agent, Demi O'Byrne, bought from Four Star Sales, agent. That last transaction may have been less expensive than the final price appeared. Tabor is a close associate of Coolmore Stud, which stands Giant's Causeway and bred the colt in partnership with Glencrest Farm.

The market was strong but not explosive, and the session overall posted moderate declines from last season's equivalent evening. The 2004 opener sold 50 yearlings for a total of $14,225,000, down 14 percent from last year, when 54 lots brought $16,547,000. Average slipped 7 percent, from $306,426 to $284,500, and median fell slightly from $250,000 to $240,000. Buybacks rose from last year's extraordinarily low 17 percent to 23 percent.

"I'm very positive about the market overall, but people have to remain realistic," said Fasig-Tipton COO Boyd Browning. "I think we'll continue to see a strong marketplace, but I would be hesitant to predict a continuation of the dramatic increases we saw in 2003 overall. I don't think the market's going to continue to grow 25 or 30 percent at all levels at all markets. You reach a point where there's maturity in the market and it levels off. I think this is a healthy, strong market, but not one that is spiraling out of control."

Familiar combination strikes again

The A.P. Indy-Seebe filly's $1.5 million sale harkened spectators back to the days when horse sales were as much about deals among sporting friends as they were about business. The filly's breeder, George Strawbridge, is a longtime client of Derry Meeting and a close friend of Farish, who stands A.P. Indy at Lane's End.

The deep roots of the Jenney-Strawbridge-Farish association are evident in the session-topper's pedigree.

Marshall Jenney and Farish bred the great stallion Danzig, Seebe's sire, in partnership, and Jenney consigned the yearling Danzig at the Saratoga sale. Selkirk, a homebred champion for Strawbridge and one of Seebe's brothers, was foaled at Derry Meeting. Strawbridge regularly breeds mares to Lane's End stallions with great results in the auction ring, including the $1.5 million A.P. Indy filly this year and a $3 million Kingmambo-Seattle Way colt (also consigned by Derry Meeting) in 2001.

It wasn't surprising that the combination struck gold again.

"She's as lucky as she can be that she's going to Ambassador Farish," Jenney said of the A.P. Indy filly, "because she'll have the best training, and when she retires she'll go to the best stallions. So she'll have a very good life."

The 2004 sale was Bettina Jenney's fourth without her husband, who died in November 2000 at age 60.

"We're very proud when we have good produce," she said. "We've had very good luck up here, and I've enjoyed coming to Saratoga for so many years. I actually don't understand why I never had that moment of thinking I might give it up, but I never did. I've gone on, and I have the most wonderful advice and support and an amazing crew at the farm who really know what they're doing. I think I was probably a little naive when I started, but it's really worked out well. It's a wonderful life, the horses and the racing and sales world. I'm just not able to think of giving it up and going to the country club and playing golf. That would be really boring."