11/15/2007 1:00AM

Auction houses ban steroid use before sales

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, following through on their proposal earlier this year, have banned anabolic steroid use in auction horses within 45 days of sale, effective as of January 2008.

The ban, announced Thursday, will apply to weanlings and yearlings offered at 2008 sales conducted by both companies. Under the new policy, buyers of weanlings and yearlings can request that those animals be blood-tested at the time of purchase. If a horse tests positive for steroids, the buyer has the right to rescind his purchase within 24 hours of his notification of the positive test.

Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, both based in Lexington, are the first major auction houses in the United States to develop a policy banning exogenous anabolic steroids. The federally controlled substances can be used for therapeutic reasons, such as to increase appetite and muscle in horses recovering from illness. But they also can be used to build muscle for more cosmetic reasons, an occurrence that buyers seeking reform in the auction world have decried.

Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland's policy to ban the substances within 45 days of auction also was included in recent recommendations by the Sales Integrity Task Force.

"This is not a competitive issue; this is an integrity issue," Keeneland chief executive officer Nick Nicholson and Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson said in a joint statement. "By establishing a policy and developing testing procedures that are practical and fair to all involved, we safeguard the credibility of the entire Thoroughbred industry."

Under the policy, the buyer will pay the $500 cost of blood-testing for steroids, but that charge will shift to the seller if the test is positive. The auction house conducting the sale will coordinate testing with a designated veterinarian and will report the results back to the buyer and consignor.

Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton announced in January that they would work together to create a joint policy. Their decision coincided with calls for steroid restrictions at racetracks. Last December, the national medication reform group the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium called on banning anabolic steroids as performance-enhancing substances. In April, the Association of Racing Commissioners International approved a model rule to regulate anabolic steroids use for the first time. Iowa, Virginia, and Indiana all restrict their use at racetracks, and in October New York opened a public comment period on a proposed rule to ban all but four anabolic steroids at tracks.

Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland developed their joint policy with the aid of a committee that included sale company representatives, veterinarians, steroid and drug-testing authorities, and representatives from the Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association.

Keeneland sale rebounds

Keeneland's November mixed sale rebounded in its 11th session, posting gains across the board one day after seeing declines in gross, average, and median. Thursday's 11th session sold 259 horses for $4,622,200, up 21 percent from the total on last year's equivalent day, when 226 horses sold. The $17,846 average climbed 5 percent from last season, and the $14,000 median was up 40 percent from last year.

The day's topper was the $130,000 broodmare prospect Whole Emblem. Taylor Made, agent, sold the 3-year-old Our Emblem mare to Big D Stables.

Through Thursday, the auction had sold 2,666 horses for a sale-record $332,692,100, as compared to 2,635 for $308,580,000 last year at the same point. The 11-day average was $124,791, up 7 percent, and the $50,000 median was the same as last year's.

The Wednesday session sold 266 horses for $6,295,500, a drop of less than 1 percent from the 2006 figure for the equivalent session, when 240 horses were sold. The 2007 average of $23,667 was off by 10 percent, and the median of $17,500 was down 13 percent from last year.

Wednesday's session-topper was the $180,000 broodmare Thunder Bayou, a 4-year-old Thunder Gulch mare offered in foal to Broken Vow. Andre and Trish Regard's Occidental Thoroughbreds bought Thunder Bayou for a partnership based at their Bourbon County, Ky., farm. Hartwell Farm, agent, sold the mare.

The Keeneland November sale, which this year cataloged a record 5,415 horses, continues through Monday. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m. in Keeneland's sale pavilion in Lexington.

Catienus back in Bluegrass

Catienus, New York's leading sire and the nation's leading third-crop sire, has returned to the Bluegrass for 2008. Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Catienus was New York's leading sire in 2006 and 2007 while standing at Doc and Suzie O'Cain's Highcliff Farm in Delanson. But the Ramseys will stand the 13-year-old Storm Cat horse in 2008 at their own Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., for a fee of $10,000.

"He is here and is available for inspection," Ramsey Farm manager Mark Partridge said.

Catienus stood for $7,500 in 2007.

Catienus's best representatives this year are Precious Kitten, who took the Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap and the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap; Cannonball, a stakes winner who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf; and six other stakes winners.

The Ramseys initially planned to move Catienus to Kentucky in 2006 but changed their minds. Catienus started his career in Kentucky from 2001-03 and stood at Highcliff in New York from 2004-07.