11/05/2007 1:00AM

Broodmare sells for record $10.5M

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - The long-awaited battle between John Magnier's Coolmore Stud and Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley organization produced a world-record $10.5 million broodmare price for Swettenham Stud's Playful Act on Monday at Keeneland's November auction.

The price easily outpaced the previous world-record broodmare price of $9.4 million for Magical Romance, in foal to Pivotal, at the 2006 Tattersalls December sale in Newmarket, England.

Maktoum's representative John Ferguson won a lengthy and tense bidding duel for the 5-year-old Sadler's Wells mare. Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent, sold the mare, a former champion 2-year-old in England. Playful Act was bred by the late Robert Sangster's Swettenham Stud.

Ferguson, stationed behind the bidding ring, outgunned Magnier, who stayed in the pavilion, in just the second duel this year between the market's two biggest players. Their previous clash took place Sunday at Fasig-Tipton's November sale, when Coolmore disputed Ferguson's $4 million purchase of Grade 1 winner Octave. Coolmore asserted that it had placed a $4 million bid, but Fasig-Tipton officials determined that the Irish team's bid-spotter had not seen or acknowledged the bid and said that the filly's sale to Ferguson was final. Prior to the Fasig-Tipton auction, perennial rivals Coolmore and Maktoum had avoided bidding against each other this season at American auctions, contributing to a drop in select yearling prices this summer and fall.

After Coolmore folded on his $10.5 million bid, a beaming Ferguson signed the ticket and said that the fight for Playful Act had been more than a professional matter for his boss - it had also had a personal element.

Having enumerated Playful Act's attributes as reason enough to buy her, Ferguson added: "Most importantly, Sheikh Mohammed was determined to have this mare as much for Robert Sangster and Swettenham Stud and everything Robert achieved. He felt very strongly.

"On behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, I would like to express what a great man Robert Sangster was. He was a great friend of Sheikh Mohammed, and I think that was part of the reason that Sheikh Mohammed was so determined to have her."

Playful Act had been bred to Kingmambo but aborted the foal at 160 days, an incident that Ferguson said did not worry him.

"It's something mares do, and there's no reason to think she won't carry to full term in the future," he said.

The sale marked a poignant changing of the guard for Sangster's sons, Ben and Adam, who were on hand to oversee the sale of bloodstock that harked back nearly 40 years to their father's first involvement in Thoroughbred breeding and racing. Sangster died in 2004 at age 67, and his sons are now restructuring the Swettenham Stud he founded.

Keeneland was the scene of many triumphs for Sangster, who is perhaps best remembered among auction-goers as the man who bought Seattle Dancer at the 1985 July sale for a then world-record of $13.1 million. With Coolmore principal John Magnier and trainer Vincent O'Brien, Sangster was a major player in the 1980s and often found himself bidding opposite Maktoum. Sangster's green, blue, and white silks were carried by 27 European classic winners and more than 100 Group 1 winners, including Epsom Derby winners The Minstrel in 1977 and Golden Fleece in 1982.

"I was delighted and surprised, I must say," Ben Sangster said after the sale. "But when those two get into battle, you never know what might happen. I have mixed feelings. She was a wonderful race filly who raced in the green and blue colors. It's sad to see her go, but at the same time, life moves on and things change.

"Dad would have loved it, absolutely loved it. He was a horse trader."

Playful Act's dramatic sale created a new standard for broodmare sales but was in keeping with the general trend of high prices for high-quality broodmares, especially young ones, and for broodmare prospects.

Fasig-Tipton's November mixed sale on Sunday hinted at things to come when Maktoum purchased 2006 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Round Pond for $5.75 million from Fox Hill Farms (Taylor Made, agent). As at Fasig-Tipton, Keeneland's opening day Monday saw ebullient bidding for pedigreed mares with promising broodmare careers, and the top prospects were pursued by a broad base of upper-market buyers, both domestic and foreign.

Shadwell bought the Grade 1 winner Spun Sugar, in foal to A.P. Indy, from Adena Springs (Hidden Brook, agent) for $4.5 million, the second-highest price of the session as of 6:45 p.m.

Barnes & Noble chief executive officer Leonard Riggio of My MeadowView Stable paid $3.2 million for Kamarinskaya, a 4-year-old Group 3 winner by Storm Cat that Lane's End's agency consigned in foal to Kingmambo. Riggio, represented by Lincoln Collins of the Kern Lillingston agency, also paid $1.9 million for the Sadler's Wells mare Winds of March, also in foal to Kingmambo and a member of the Lane's End consignment.

In addition to his record buy, Maktoum also bought the $2.7 million broodmare Evil, dam of Grade 2 winner Tiz Wonderful, in foal to Bernardini (Taylor Made, agent) and a pair of $2.3 million mares. They were Melhor Ainda, whom Lane's End, agent, offered in foal to the late champion Maria's Mon, and Rosa Parks, consigned by Eydon Hall (Three Chimneys, agent) in foal to Kingmambo.

Reynold Bell Thoroughbred Services, agent, also paid $2.3 million for Swettenham's Sand Springs, in foal to Kingmambo.

French-based Andreas Putsch, represented by agent Cecil Seaman, spent $2.1 million for Hip No. 37, the Grade 1-winning mare Amorama in foal to 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. Adena Springs sold the mare through Hidden Brook, agent.

Satish and Anne Sanan's Padua Stables paid $2 million for the Deputy Minister mare Lovely Regina, a half-sister to Bernardini in foal to his sire A.P. Indy, from Lane's End.

There was one disappointment among the sale's headlining mares when 2006 older mare champion Fleet Indian failed to reach her reserve on a final price of $3.9 million. The 6-year-old Indian Charlie mare originally had been scheduled to sell at the 2006 Keeneland November auction, but she was scratched after suffering a serious injury to her left foreleg in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She made her appearance for owner Paul Saylor on Monday, a year late but back in health and in foal to Storm Cat. Her failure to sell set off a flurry of activity as Taylor Made began fielding private offers. As of 6:15 p.m., there was no word yet on a deal.

The Keeneland November auction was to continue through Nov. 19, with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m. in the Keeneland sale pavilion.