11/05/2007 12:00AM

Bid dispute overshadows $5.75M mare

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Fasig-Tipton started Kentucky's November sales on Sunday with multimillion-dollar prices for Grade 1-winning mares and a dispute with Coolmore Stud over the $4 million sale of Octave to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley organization.

The day's top price was the $5.75 million that Maktoum's representative John Ferguson paid for 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Round Pond. Taylor Made Sales, agent, sold the 5-year-old Awesome Again mare on behalf of Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms.

But it was the dispute over Octave that had people talking even into the following day, after the sales had moved to Keeneland.

Ferguson, representing Maktoum, signed the ticket for $4 million after lively bidding that also involved Coolmore Stud and the Ranjan Stable of Bob Naify and Jan Vanderbos. But Coolmore's team, including principal John Magnier and regular bidding representative Demi O'Byrne, angrily protested the sale, saying they had believed they had made the winning $4 million bid. Fasig-Tipton called representatives from Coolmore and consignor Taylor Made, as well as Octave's selling owners, Jack and Laurie Wolf and Donald Lucarelli, into the sale office to discuss the issue. At one point, O'Byrne also called on Walnut Green consignor Russell Jones as a witness to the Coolmore bid.

"Clearly, they bid the $4 million," Jones said later of Coolmore. "I can't say whether the bid-spotter recognized it. I think there was a serious communication problem.

"I don't like to see an injustice done, and I think sometimes that's what mistakes are," he added. "They lead to an injustice."

Ninety minutes after the hammer fell on Octave's sale, consignor Mark Taylor of Taylor Made confirmed that the sale to Maktoum was final.

Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson said the company's bid-spotters had recognized Ferguson's $4 million and not acknowledged any bid from Coolmore for that amount. Because no bid-spotter had taken Coolmore's bid, Robertson said, the sale to Ferguson had been considered final, and the bidding could not be reopened.

"Until it's acknowledged, it's not a bid," Robertson said. "Our hands are tied."

"The procedure utilized and the process on that particular filly was handled in accordance with the conditions of sale," added Fasig-Tipton chairman D. G. Van Clief Jr.

Coolmore representatives made no public comment about the dispute. Sources close to the Wolfs and Lucarelli said that the partnership had hoped Fasig-Tipton might reopen the bidding, but sale company executives said the bidding could not reopen unless two bid-spotters had recognized bids at the same price.

The dispute marred the first American auction clash this year between Maktoum's team and that of Coolmore, two bitter rivals whose bidding duels in the past have driven prices to record levels. On Monday, at Keeneland, they clashed again when Darley outbid Coolmore for a world-record $10.5 million broodmare, Playful Act.

Mark Taylor, speaking of Octave, said, "John Ferguson bought her for $4omillion, and we think he got a great buy."

Ferguson, who said Fasig-Tipton officials never contacted him about the dispute over Octave, indicated that Maktoum likely would put the Unbridled's Song filly back in training.

The auction sold 107 horses for gross receipts of $52,036,000, down 19 percent from last season, when 170 horses sold, led by ClassicStar's dispersal. The 2007 average price rose 29 percent, reaching $486,318, and the median climbed 3 percent to $180,000. Buybacks rose slightly, from 24 percent to 26 percent.

Round Pond and Octave were two of 12 horses to sell for $1 million or more at the single-session auction.

Ferguson's other seven-figure purchases were a pair of $3 million Grade 1 winners: Indy Five Hundred, in foal to Kingmambo, from consignor Lane's End, agent, and Asi Siempre, whom consigning agent Bluewater Sales offered as a racing or broodmare prospect.

The day's other seven-figure horses went to an array of buyers who proved that the upper market for broodmares remains deep and varied. Halsey Minor, represented by agent Debbie Easter, went to $3.3 million to acquire Dream Rush from Hill 'n' Dale, which acted as agent for West Point Stable and Lewis Lakin. Roy and Gretchen Jackson's Lael Stable, represented by Nicoma Bloodstock, purchased $2.3 million Pussycat Doll from Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent, and $1.2 million Valbenny from Three Chimneys Sales, agent. Overbrook Farm paid $1.9 million for Cotton Blossom, who was offered by Dogwood Stable through the Three Chimneys agency. Michael Moreno and Eric Guillot's Southern Equine Stables picked up Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Maryfield for $1.25 million. Jess Jackson's Stonestreet Holdings paid $1.4 million for Reina Victoriosa, in foal to Ghostzapper, from Vinery's agency. Jane Lyon of Summer Wind Farm bought $1 million Leave Me Alone, in foal to A. P. Indy, from Lane's End, agent. And My MeadowView Stable's 11 purchases were led by $1.1 million Appealing Zophie, consigned by Hill 'n' Dale.

Coolmore's Demi O'Byrne did not sign a ticket, prompting speculation around the ring as to whether the Octave debacle had alienated one of the market's most potent players.

"I sure hope not," Fasig-Tipton president Robertson said. "They're a valuable customer for us, and if the shoe had been on the other foot, we'd have handled it exactly the same way."

Despite the dispute over Octave, Fasig-Tipton officials were pleased overall with their part of the November sales marketplace.

"I thought it was absolutely huge," Robertson said. "There were a lot of wonderful mares here."