01/09/2009 12:00AM

Azeri star of slimmer Keeneland sale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's January all-ages sale, which runs from Monday through next Saturday, opens amidst deep economic concerns. Last week's Ocala Breeders' Sales Company winter mixed sale, which suffered declines between 40 and 60 percent, confirmed what Thoroughbred auction officials and their patrons already knew: The steep market slides that started with last year's Keeneland September sale will continue into the new year as the global economy weakens and the Thoroughbred industry undergoes a sharp correction.

In light of those situations, Keeneland January's slimmed-down catalog is a good thing. The auction's three books contain 2,379 horses. That's 554 fewer than last year, prompting Keeneland to trim the sale from eight sessions to six.

Keeneland's assistant sales director, Tom Thornbury, acknowledges that the faltering economy makes for very few signs of encouragement. He has found one: an increase in catalog requests from international buyers.

"You can find some bright spots, but certainly there's been no dramatic change in the economic situation worldwide to give you a great deal of optimism," he said. "Our expectations may be lower than usual, but that also represents a buying opportunity, and an international buying opportunity. One man's ceiling is another man's floor, and a couple of years from now we'll be looking at some of these horses and saying, 'What a great buy.' "

The Keeneland January sale will offer glamour in the form of Azeri. The 2002 Horse of the Year will go on the auction block at Monday's opening session as Hip No. 301. She carries a foal by another Horse of the Year, 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, and is in the Hill 'n' Dale consignment.

Azeri is the headliner, but there are other classy offerings.

Jeff Nielsen's Everest Stable is reducing its bloodstock, putting Grade 1 winner and $2 million earner Island Fashion on the market as Hip No. 90. A 9-year-old Petionville mare, Island Fashion is also cataloged in foal to Ghostzapper. Two full sisters, 8-year-old Flash of Fashion and an unnamed 2-year-old racing prospect, also sell. Everest also offers White Angelica, dam of Grade 1 performer Oro Blanco, in foal to Petionville; Night Patrol's dam, Downtown Blues, in foal to Ghostzapper, and Night Patrol's juvenile half-brother by Ghostzapper; and a 2-year-old half-brother to Grade 1 performer She Sings. All sell through Crestwood Farm's agency.

Historic Domino Stud also is winnowing its horses, and its consignment with Bluewater Sales features Sir Cherokee's dam, La Cucina, carrying an Empire Maker foal.

In November, the strongest market was for racing prospects and horses in training. If that trend continues, the January catalog has some racing-age stock that could attract attention. These include Grade 1-placed Never Retreat. Grade 3 winner Talkin About Love, whose earnings top $500,000, also sells as a racing or broodmare prospect at age 5. The 6-year-old Wake Up Maggie is Group 1-placed with more than $600,000 to her credit, and Annabill, also 6, has earned more than $560,000 in her stakes-winning career so far. The 4-year-olds Rose of Killarney, Laragh's half-sister, and On Fuego, half-sister to In the Gold, also are among the racing/broodmare prospects.

Among the 3-year-old racing/broodmare prospects with Grade 1 connections are Fortune in Faith, half-sister to Vivid Angel, and Gold Dust Woman, a half-sister to Kiss a Native.

Among colts, there are 4-year-old Icabad Crane, third in the 2008 Preakness, and a 2-year-old Mineshaft half-brother to Grade 1 winner Captain Squire.

But the bulk of the catalog are broodmares, and their ranks also provide graded stakes performers, interesting pedigrees, and runners with fat earnings. Three-time Canadian champion and millionaire Financingavailable, age 8, is carrying her first foal, by Smart Strike. Boldy's Reflection, dam of Grade 1 winner Set Play, is carrying a First Samurai foal. Grade 3 winner My List, who made more than $560,000, sells as a broodmare prospect at age 5. And Chilean champion Senora Claudia sells in foal to War Chant.

Yearlings also show off some Grade 1 relations. Among those are a Strong Hope half-brother to Unbridled Belle, a full sister to Cry and Catch Me, a full brother to Canadian champion Le Cinquieme Essai, and a Sky Mesa half-sister to Brass Hat.

The sale starts daily at 10 a.m. Eastern in Keeneland's sale pavilion.

Redoute's Choice colt sells for $864,000

An $864,000 Redoute's Choice-Kapchat colt topped Day 3 of Australia's Magic Millions Conrad Jupiters yearling sale Friday. The colt, whose price was about $1.2 million Australian, is a three-quarter brother to Group 1-placed and Group 3 winner Kaphero.

Devitt and Gordon Investments of Australia made the purchase from Widden Stud.

Despite that bright spot, the 2009 auction still was running behind last year's figures when the Friday session ended. Through Friday, it had sold 420 yearlings for about $40,736,520, an average of approximately $96,991. Those figures were down 24 percent and 12 percent.

* Pennsylvania stud farms Walmac PA at Regal Heir in Grantville and Northview PA in Peach Bottom will host open houses this month. Walmac/Regal Heir will host a stallion show from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 17, including catered lunch. Northview's will take place Jan. 25 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include light fare and refreshments.