09/09/2004 11:00PM

Big money doesn't guarantee stakes glory

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Private jets line the outskirts of Bluegrass Airport. Lexington's posh hotels are at capacity, and restaurants are dusting off their most expensive wines.

That can only mean that some of the world's richest people are in central Kentucky, awaiting the start Monday of Keeneland's annual September yearling sale.

The sale runs through Sept. 27, but the first two days are the selected sessions, where only the finest Thoroughbred yearlings are paraded in front of the bidders at Keeneland's sales pavilion.

As the sale wears on, many of the blueblood buyers will be gone, as those with significantly smaller bankrolls seek to find a diamond in the rough. History shows that these smaller bidders often wind up with the bigger prizes.

While a significantly higher number of top-priced yearlings end up stakes winners, compared to cheaper yearlings, some of racing's immortals - such as Spectacular Bid - have sold for less than $40,000.

Test your knowledge of Keeneland's yearling sales of the past.

1. Of the 10 highest-priced yearlings to date ever sold at auction in the United States, all sold at Keeneland. The average sales price of the 10 was $7.6 million each. The average lifetime earnings on the track of each of the 10 horses was less than $50,000.

The 10 horses had a combined total of 11 wins. Two of the horses never started. Two who did start never won a race. And none, to date, could be called an outstanding sire.

Two of the top-priced yearlings did manage to win minor stakes races.

Name them.

2. Swapson was the highest-priced yearling sold at auction in 1961 and the first yearling to sell to a bidder for more than $100,000. Final sales price for the son of Swaps at the Keeneland July sale was $130,000.

Three of the highest-priced yearlings sold at auction each year since Swapson have gone on to win one or more of the Triple Crown races in America.

Name them.

3. When wartime restrictions banned all nonessential transportation, the famed Fasig-Tipton sale of yearlings at Saratoga was moved to Keeneland in 1943. Out of this first-ever sale at the Lexington track came 1945 Kentucky Derby winner Hoop Jr., purchased by Fred W. Hooper for $10,200.

In the six decades since that first sale, 16 Kentucky Derby winners have gone through the Keeneland sales ring.

Name the Derby winners who sold for less than the $10,200 that Hooper paid.

4. With the success of the first-ever auction at Keeneland in 1943, Lexington farm owners created the Breeders' Sales Company in 1944 and conducted their own sale. It gradually replaced Saratoga as the No. 1 horse sales venue in the world.

If any questions remained about Breeders' Sales Company's superiority, they were answered a decade after it was formed. The 1954 Triple Crown races were won by three different horses - each of whom was a 1952 Keeneland summer yearling sale graduate.

Name the three horses and their prices at auction.

5. The Fasig-Tipton yearling sale was inaugurated at Saratoga in 1917 and for the next quarter-century had no equal. The highest-priced yearling sold at auction each year from 1917-1942 was at Fasig-Tipton, Saratoga.

Beginning in 1943, and for most of the remainder of the century, the annual yearling sales topper came at Keeneland.

In the history of the two sales companies, one man's name stands out. He was successful in 1917 in negotiating the contract between Kentucky breeders and E. James Tranter, owner of Fasig-Tipton Co., that ushered in the sale at Saratoga.

He was also instrumental in bringing the Fasig-Tipton sale to Keeneland in 1943 and in the formation of the Breeders' Sales Company at Keeneland in 1944.

Name him.

HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS

1. Seattle Dancer, who sold for $13.1 million at the July sale at Keeneland in 1985, is the highest-priced yearling ever sold at auction.

The colt by Nijinsky II out of My Charmer (dam of Seattle Slew) started just five times, winning twice. His victories came in the Windfields Farm Gallinule Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Stakes, both Group 2 events in Ireland.

Seattle Dancer's lifetime earnings were $189,068. His offspring include two champions - one in Italy, the other in Germany. Among his stakes winners in America are Kentucky Oaks winner Pike Place Dancer and Diana Handicap winner Via Borghese.

The other top 10 yearling to become a stakes winner was Van Nistlerooy, who sold at the Keeneland September sale in 2001 for $6.4 million.

He won three races, two of them stakes: the Group 2 Galileo E.B.F. Futurity Stakes and the unrated Flame of Tara Tyro Stakes, both in Ireland. Van Nistlerooy's offspring have yet to race.

2. When the final gavel fell on Majestic Prince at the Keeneland July Sale in 1967, the price was $250,000 - the highest of the year and a world record for a yearling sold at auction.

Majestic Prince won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1969 - his eighth and ninth consecutive wins without a loss. He finished second in the Belmont Stakes.

A.P. Indy was the most expensive yearling of 1990, bringing $2.9 million at the Keeneland July sale. Two years later, he won the Belmont Stakes and was voted Horse of the Year.

Fusaichi Pegasus sold for $4 million at the Keeneland July sale in 1998 - the highest price of the year. He won the 2000 Kentucky Derby.

3. Fred W. Hooper purchased Hip No. 134 for $10,200 at the hastily arranged yearling sale at Keeneland in 1943. It was the first horse he ever bought at auction. Hooper named him Hoop Jr., and two years later the colt won the 71st Kentucky Derby.

Since that first auction, 15 other graduates have gone on to wear the roses the first Saturday in May - three of them selling for less than the price Hooper paid.

The three were Dark Star in the 1953 Derby ($6,500); Dust Commander in 1970 ($6,500); and Canonero II in 1971 ($1,200).

Five other Derby winners sold at Keeneland for $20,000 or less: Determine, Venetian Way, Sunday Silence, Real Quiet, and War Emblem.

4. When the three winners of the Triple Crown races of 1954 were each graduates of the 1952 Keeneland summer yearling sale, no one questioned Breeders' Sales Company's claim to being No. 1 in the world.

Determine (who sold for $12,000) won the Kentucky Derby, Hasty Road ($23,100) captured the Preakness Stakes, and High Gun ($10,200) scored a neck victory in the Belmont Stakes.

The three were among 367 yearlings sold in the summer of 1952. All three sold above the average selling price ($7,438) for the auction.

Breeders' Sales Company merged with the Keeneland Association in 1962.

5. Hal Price Headley led the effort in the winter of 1916-17 to bring together Kentucky breeders to sign a contract for the sale of their yearlings at Saratoga by E. James Tranter's Fasig-Tipton Company.

As president of Keeneland Association from 1935-1951, Headley was instrumental in bringing Fasig-Tipton's sale to his racetrack in 1943 and in forming the Breeders' Sales Company in 1944.

At his farm outside Lexington, Ky, Headley bred 88 stakes winners, including the champion filly and outstanding broodmare Alcibiades.

Today, Keeneland's 4 1/2 furlong course that begins in a chute at the top of the far turn is named the Headley Course.