02/09/2004 12:00AM

Bloodstock agent Collins dead

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - International bloodstock agent Joss Collins, the man who signed the ticket for a record $13.1 million for the yearling Seattle Dancer in 1985, died Sunday in England. He was 56.

Collins was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer 10 days before his death. He attended the Keeneland January all-ages sale last month but became ill upon returning home in England.

Collins began his career working in English racing stables and as a groom aboard international equine transport planes. He joined the British Bloodstock Agency three decades ago and soon became one of its top representatives. His fame peaked in 1985, when he represented a partnership of Robert Sangster, John Magnier, David Schwartz, and Vincent O'Brien. Collins made the winning bid for Seattle Dancer, from consignor Warner Jones at Keeneland's July yearling sale. Collins outbid D. Wayne Lukas for Seattle Dancer, a half-brother to 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

Seattle Dancer, who went on to win a pair of Group 2 events in Ireland, may have been Collins's flashiest purchase, but he wasn't the best runner Collins selected.

He also privately purchased Height of Fashion - the mare who produced champion Nashwan, among others - on behalf of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum.

Collins also bought such champions and major racehorses as Nureyev, Woodman, Caerleon, Indian Lodge, and Mystiko.

Collins left the BBA in August 2001 to form his own agency, Blandford Bloodstock, with Tom Goff. He continued to travel the auction circuit from Australia to Europe to the United States, buying horses at every level of the market. At the Keeneland January sale, he purchased four lots with prices ranging from $7,000 to $150,000; at the November sale, his 21 purchases ranged from the $850,000 mare Amenixa to a $9,000 weanling Matty G-Kalinka colt.

"Everybody is stunned by the brutal speed with which Joss has been cut down by cancer, and our deepest thoughts are with his family," Goff said in a statement to the Racing Post. "Joss was a Churchillian figure. He was a larger-than-life, never-say-die man who was known in every sales ring across the globe. All his many clients and friends are devastated by his loss, because he always seemed indestructible."