04/01/2005 1:00AM

Australia's great potential untapped


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Among first-time visitors to the record-breaking Australian Easter yearling sale in Sydney this year was bloodstock agent Joe Brocklebank, one of a number of American-based buyers lured to the auction by AusHorse's marketing campaign targeting the United States.

A group of 57 regular Australian consignors and sales companies, including William Inglis and Son, which conducts the Easter yearling sale, are funding AusHorse in an attempt to keep Australian breeding, sales, and racing on foreign minds.

American names were largely absent from the three-day sale's results sheet. But if Brocklebank is any example, the AusHorse effort might be paying off, at least by winning over foreign investors' hearts and minds, if not always their wallets. In a weeklong trip down under, Brocklebank attended both the yearling sale and some of Australia's major racing. The Easter auction coincides with the Australian Jockey Club's Autumn Carnival meet at Royal Randwick, featuring the Australian Derby, which was won by Timber Country's son Eremein.

"It's a remarkable place," said Brocklebank, who is based in New York and Florida. "I wish we could bottle the enthusiasm for the racing and the sales and bring it home. It's contagious. I was impressed that there were so many young people at the races. We need to figure out that formula in America.

"The catalog is quite strong, and the horses reflect the catalog, physically," he added of the Easter sale horses. "It seems a pretty reasonable place to raise a horse. They all look like big, strong yearlings, especially the colts."

Brocklebank was so taken with the Australian racing that he hoped to find a yearling to eventually campaign there.

"I was looking for a filly or two that could have been reasonable to consider leaving here to race and then bring to America later on, fillies by Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant's Causeway, or Danehill," he said.

But Brocklebank found himself shut out of a market that was stronger than he expected.

"All the yearlings brought plenty of money," he said. "They're not giving them away, I can tell you, and there are no soft spots in the market."

The market appeared quite hard for buyers - the buyback rate was a relatively low 21 percent - especially those seeking colts by Redoute's Choice. The young Arrowfield Stud sire's yearlings averaged about $473,000, and he accounted for six of the sale's eight yearlings sold for Aus$1 million or more. That included the record sale-topper, an Aus$2.5 million three-quarter brother to Australian heroine Makybe Diva. Woodlands Stud of Australia purchased the colt from the Arrowfield agency.

That colt helped Inglis post records for gross and median. For the sale company, that was good news, but for buyers like Brocklebank it meant going home empty-handed, for now.

"It's like the best-kept secret down here," he said. "I would like to come back."

Redoute's Choice's fee skyrockets

Arrowfield wasted no time in taking advantage of Redoute's Choice's popularity at auction. The Australian farm announced its 2005 stud fees on Friday, and Redoute's Choice got a dramatic - but expected - sharp raise.

Redoute's Choice, a 9-year-old Danehill horse, will stand the 2005 Southern Hemisphere season for Aus$220,000, or slightly less than $170,000. That's up from a 2004 fee of Aus$44,000.

Redoute's Choice is the sire of nine group winners, among them the 2005 Australian Group 1 winners Stratum, Fashions Afield, and Undoubtedly.

Owner-breeder Congleton dies

Kentucky owner and breeder Robert Congleton, 80, who bred multiple Grade 1 winner Fit to Fight in partnership with Robert Courtney, died of heart failure on March 29.

Congleton, a World War II veteran, started his career in his family's lumber business and later co-founded Congleton-Hacker, a general contracting company.

He and Courtney purchased Fit to Fight's dam, the One Count mare Hasty Queen II, for just $11,000 at the 1972 Keeneland January all-ages sale. The mare developed into the Broodmare of the Year for 1984, the year that Fit to Fight swept New York's Handicap Triple, by winning the Metropolitan, Suburban, and Brooklyn handicaps. Courtney and Congleton sold Fit to Fight to Paul Mellon's Rokeby Stables for $175,000 at the 1980 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale.

Fit to Fight was one of four stakes winners Hasty Queen II produced for Courtney and Congleton; the others were Michael Navonod, Hasty Tam, and Playful Queen, the last of whom Courtney and Congleton also campaigned.

* Commanche Run, winner of the 1984 St. Leger and two other Group 1 races in England and Ireland, died last weekend at Astley Grange Stud in Leicestershire, England. The 24-year-old Commanche Run died of heart failure. He did not cover any mares in 2005.

* The Jockey Club announced Friday that it has hired Shannon Luce as staff writer in its communications department. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, she has a degree in animal science with an equine emphasis and will work in The Jockey Club's Lexington office.