11/04/2002 1:00AM

Brushwood Stable pays $3.1M for champion turf mare Fiji


LEXINGTON, Ky. - A pair of champions made most of the news at the November selected mixed sales in Lexington on Sunday and Monday.

Monday afternoon at Keeneland, 1988 champion grass mare Fiji made headlines when Brushwood Stable's Betty Moran bid $3.1 million for her. That sale, almost certainly the session-topping price at the first of Keeneland's 10 sessions, more than made up for spectators' disappointment when 2001 champion 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat failed to reach her reserve on a $1.7 million bid Sunday night at Fasig-Tipton's November auction.

Fiji, in foal to Danehill, sold as part of Newgate Stud's dispersal, precipitated by the death last year of the operation's owner, Fahd Salman.

Keeneland's strong market for mares undoubtedly benefited Fiji, but a champion of her quality, sold in foal to one of the world's leading stallions, was guaranteed to generate massive interest in any market, and she did.

Moran, bidding via telephone to Eaton Sales agent Reiley McDonald in the pavilion, had a scary moment when, as McDonald put it, "we had a telephonic communications breakdown." But the pair made contact again at $2.5 million.

"I was out of gas, but she had plenty left," McDonald said of his client's inclination to bid on.

As of 6 p.m. Eastern, only two other mares had broken the $2 million barrier: $2.3 million Flat Fleet Feet, in foal to Storm Cat, who also went to McDonald - as agent for an undisclosed client - from Three Chimneys, agent, and $2.25 million Gourmet Girl, in foal to Fusaichi Pegasus, sold by Taylor Made to Courtlandt Farm.

The sale opened strongly. Kalookan Queen, the Grade 1 stakes winner with more than $800,000 in earnings, brought $1.85 million from Courtlandt Farm. Don Adam's operation, which has branches in Texas and Florida, primarily breeds to race. Taylor Made, agent, sold Kalookan Queen. She was not in foal. Kalookan Queen may retire from racing, but she is nominated to the Grade 1 Frank De Francis Dash on Nov. 16, and her new owners were considering that option Monday.

Other early seven-figure lots included $1.75 million Salty Gal, dam of Grade 1 winner Mongoose and carrying a full sibling to him, sold by Clifton Farm to Live Oak; $1.7 million Grade 1 winner Fabulously Fast, in foal to Giant's Causeway, sold by Three Chimneys to Jacobs; $1.45 million Christmas in Aiken, dam of Harlan's Holiday and in foal to Forestry, sold to Eaton Sales, agent, by Taylor Made, agent; $1.3 million Bright Feather, dam of Albert the Great, in foal to Giant's Causeway, sold by Three Chimneys, agent, to Overbrook Farm; $1.25 million On a Soapbox, in foal to Danzig, sold by Taylor Made, agent, to Klaus Jacobs; and $1.25 million Veil of Avalon, in foal to Giant's Causeway, sold by Dromoland, agent, to Andreas Putsch.

The leading weanling price was $800,000 for a Seattle Slew-Zoe Montana (Seeking the Gold) colt that John Ferguson, agent, bought from Taylor Made, agent

Xtra Heat bought back to race another season

The November selected mixed market opened Sunday night at Fasig-Tipton's one-night auction, where the big story was 2001's champion 3-year-old filly, Xtra Heat. In the end, the sale's top offering failed to reach her reserve on a final bid of $1.7 million, and co-owners John Salzman, Ken Taylor, and Harry Deitchman opted to take her back and race her another season.

Salzman, who also trains the Dixieland Heat filly, said Sunday night that he wasn't sure where Xtra Heat would race next. She had been pointed for the De Francis Dash, but that race may come up to quickly now that Xtra Heat has missed nine days of training.

"There are plenty of races for her, we just have to figure out which way to go," Salzman said.

Salzman said the final bid was "very close" to the reserve price he and his partners set. "But we weren't going to give her away," he added.

The partnership initially decided to put Xtra Heat in the sale ring because they had no interest in breeding Thoroughbreds. But they seemed pleased to have their stable star back, once the hammer fell without cracking the new, unannounced reserve.

"I've never seen so many high-fives from people who just bought a horse back for $1.7 million," one horseman noted after the sale.

Xtra Heat's reserve was the cause of some consternation before the sale. Reserves generally are not announced, but the partnership had made it public well before the auction that they would be looking for something above $2.2 million. By sale night, consigning agent Taylor Made had made it clear to all comers that the sellers had backed off that reserve somewhat.

Even auction announcer Terence Collier felt compelled to say, as Xtra Heat came into the ring, "Whatever you've been reading in the newspapers, they brought her here to sell."

Many other sellers were in the same position as Xtra Heat's connections: leaving the sale with their horses instead of money. The session posted a garish 52 percent buyback rate despite maintaining last year's average and logging gains in gross and median price. Of 75 horses offered, Fasig-Tipton sold 36 lots at the auction for total receipts of $3,499,500, up 2 percent from last year's gross, when 35 head sold. Average dipped slightly, falling from last year's $97,743 to $97,208 this year. Median rose 15 percent to $60,000.

The sale's highest-priced lot was $610,000 Above Perfection, who sold as part of California-based owner David Milch's dispersal. Taylor Made Sales and trainer Darrell Vienna consigned the 4-year-old In Excess filly. David Plummer of Classic Star purchased Above Perfection, a Grade 3 winner and Grade 1-placed runner.