11/09/2006 1:00AM

Bargains nowhere to be found as sale still strong in fourth day


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Day four of Keeneland's two-week November breeding stock sale showed Thursday that the momentum for mares and weanlings wasn't letting up.

On Thursday, breeders who cheered the strong 2006 yearling market as sellers were shaking their heads over the equally strong broodmare market now that they were trying to buy instead of sell stock. At 5:30 p.m., the session's top price was $600,000 for the 3-year-old Mr. Greeley filly Pretty Proud. Frankfort Park Stud purchased Pretty Proud, a racing or broodmare prospect, from the Hidden Brook agency. The filly is a winning full sister to Grade 1 winner Whywhywhy and a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Spellbinder.

Wednesday's third session sold 274 horses for $44,677,000, a 5 percent gain over last year's equivalent session. The average price was almost identical with last year, dipping from $163,080 last year to $163,055. But the median climbed 25 percent, from $120,000 to $150,000. Buy-backs declined from 22 percent to 20 percent this year.

At $550,000, stakes winner Friel's for Real was Wednesday's session-topper. Overbrook Farm purchased her from the Summerfield agency.

Consignors were celebrating the numbers, but those who were also trying to restock their broodmare bands were finding it difficult to reinvest their profits unless they were willing to compromise on pedigree or conformation.

"It's early to tell, but so far we've only bought back two to three mares," said Eaton Sales co-owner Tom Van Meter, who said mares make up about half of Eaton's estimated 250-horse consignment. "It's hard to buy, and we seem to be selling them well. I've been underbidder a lot."

Even stock that failed to sell in the ring seemed to find at least some interest in the after-market as buyers negotiated private sales.

The strong market wasn't limited to mares. The Keeneland November catalog offered a record number of weanlings this year, as breeders were eager to catch the current market wave at its height, rather than holding on to their foals to sell as yearlings - when prices might, after all, drop. Buyers responded, especially for handsome or well-bred weanlings.

The lively trade for weanlings left some speculative investors out in the cold. Hoby Kight, a well-known yearling-to-juvenile pinhooker, showed up for the sale just in case he spotted an exceptional bargain that could tempt him. There were no bargains, as far as he could tell, with many top weanlings going to so-called "end-users" - people who would keep them to race.

"I'm only interested in the upper end," he said, "and they're bringing end-user prices. I figure if I can buy something nice that early, I might save a little money. That $250,000 weanling might cost me $500,000 next year. But if I'm not saving any money, I'm not going to do it."