10/10/2002 11:00PM

Buddha will stand for $15K at Hill 'n' Dale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Wood Memorial winner Buddha, retired earlier this month with a torn muscle, will launch his stallion career in 2003 at John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm, Sikura announced Friday.

Buddha's stud fee will be $15,000, and he will stand as the property of Gary and Mary West.

Buddha, a 3-year-old Unbridled's Song colt, retired on Oct. 1 with a torn muscle in his left gluteal area, near the top of his rump. It was the same injury that required him to bow out of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and Grade 1 Travers Stakes this summer.

Trained for most of his career by James Bond, Buddha was an early favorite for the Kentucky Derby this year. He raced only once as a 2-year-old and finished off the board, but at 3 he was undefeated in three starts. His only stakes victory came in a close decision over Medaglia d'Oro in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, solidifying his Derby prospects. But Buddha never made it into the Derby starting gate when he bruised his left front hoof and was withdrawn the day before the race. Brought back to training, Buddha ran into bad luck again in July when a cough forced him to miss the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes.

Upon the horse's retirement, trainer Bond lamented Buddha's "untapped potential," which the colt had shown by winning his first two races this year by a combined margin of nearly 14 lengths.

"This is the best horse I've ever trained," Bond said when Hill 'n' Dale announced Buddha's appointment to its stallion roster.

Buddha is the first stakes winner for his dam, the unraced Storm Cat mare Cahooters. Farfellow Farms bred Buddha in Kentucky. The Wests purchased him for $250,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September sale.

OBS fall numbers mostly down

Ocala Breeders' Sales Company ended the final open session of its fall mixed sale Thursday evening with declines in gross and median, but average price made a slight gain.

The two open sessions sold 343 lots for gross receipts of $1,417,000, down 18 percent from last year, when 87 more horses sold. Median also slid 7 percent to $2,500. But average price for the open sessions, as expected with a smaller catalog, gained 3 percent to reach $3,994.

The buyback rate climbed from 26 percent last year to 31 percent this year, reflecting the difficulty sellers face in the lower end of the market.

Keeneland October starts Tuesday

Keeneland's October yearling sale gets under way Tuesday at 1 p.m. Eastern at the Keeneland sale pavilion. The one-day sale is smaller than it was last year, when it debuted with two sessions.

The sale's first edition produced a $400,000 sale-topper in Spanish Empire, whom Martin Cherry bought. But overall the auction produced disappointing results, selling 338 yearlings for $5,092,900. That resulted in an average price of $15,068 and a median of $5,200. The buyback rate for the opening session hit 43 percent before improving on day two, but ended up at a relatively high 34 percent overall.

Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said the auction house has some reason to believe the October sale's second year could be better. "We can be confident coming out of the second week of our September sale, which showed a lot of strength," he said. "We had a lot of new buyer accounts set up in September, and not all of those people bought horses. We hope they'll return and buy a couple of horses in October. We've also had accounts set up for buyers from Panama and Mexico."