11/07/2002 1:00AM

Buyers still willing to bid high for quality


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland November sale entered its fourth day Thursday, with the $420,000 broodmare Water Music the early session leader. Water Music, in foal to Monarchos, went to Glenn Sikura from the consignment of Anderson Farms, agent for Sam-Son Farm. Water Music is by Danzig out of the Seattle Slew mare Classic Slew.

A $500,000 broodmare, Smokey Mirage, proved that there was still money on the sale grounds when she topped the 10-day auction's third session on Wednesday. Audley Farm bought Smokey Mirage, a stakes-winning Holy Bull mare out of stakes-placed Verbasle (Slewpy). Taylor Made, agent, sold Smokey Mirage in foal to Giant's Causeway.

Taylor Made, agent, also sold the day's top weanling, a $350,000 Seattle Slew colt out of Grade 2 winner Her Temper (Temperence Hill). Paramount, agent, bought the colt, a late May foal. The colt's dam, Her Temper, preceded her son in the sale ring but failed to reach her reserve on a final bid of $120,000.

The November sale's third day traditionally marks the beginning of a softer market, and Wednesday's session did see declines across the board as compared to last year's equivalent selling day. The session sold 245 lots for a total of $23,084,500, down 3 percent from last year, when 230 third-day sales brought $23,767,500. Average price fell 9 percent, dropping from $103,337 to $94,222. And median also slid 9 percent to $70,000.

Despite those declines, Wednesday's buyback rate was 24 percent, down from last year's 27 percent, a sign that sellers were more satisfied, on average, with the prices they were getting for stock this year.

Huge profit for Golightly's sellers

Among the most satisfied sellers at the Keeneland November sale were David Mullins and John Turner, two longtime horsemen who partnered in a highly profitable sale on Monday. Mullins and Turner, friends for nearly 25 years, sold the Take Me Out mare Golightly, in foal to Seeking the Gold, to Newsells Park for $950,000. They bought the mare for just $47,000 in 1998, when she was a yearling.

When Mullins, 45, and Turner, 58, bought Golightly, they figured she would make a good broodmare prospect.

"We didn't know how good," said Turner, who manages Patricia Youngman's Pepper Oaks Farm in California.

As a yearling, Golightly had what Mullins termed "questionable" X-rays on her hind legs that suggested she might not make it to the races, but the pair bought her anyway on the strength of her female family. Golightly's dam, Private Colors, is a full sister to champion Personal Ensign, whose own distinguished produce list includes Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag. And My Flag has now produced this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Storm Flag Flying.

That kind of pedigree improvement boosted Golightly's value as a producer. "Her pedigree just bloomed around her," as Mullins put it. But it also helped that she did indeed make it to the races after all, and even became stakes-placed.

"When she was 2, we were expecting to breed her," Mullins said. "One morning the barn foreman went out to bring her in, and he couldn't find her. She'd jumped the fence into our neighbor's property."

"We knew then she had some talent!" quipped Turner.

The two friends didn't ever intend to sell Golightly, but when Storm Flag Flying became such a good runner before the Breeders' Cup, they saw a priceless opportunity.

"We figured she was worth a whole lot more than we could afford to breed to," Mullins said.

Mullins and Turner looked forward to a possible home run in the auction ring. But five weeks ago, Mullins got a call from California notifying him that Turner had had a severe stroke.

Mullins and his wife considered postponing Golightly's sale until the Keeneland's January auction, when Turner might be able to attend.

"He's had horses for years, but he's never had one so potentially valuable," Mullins said. "I felt so bad he wouldn't be here for his biggest day at a sale."

But Turner was determined. "I'd never missed a November sale since 1973," he said, "and I didn't want to miss this one."

In just five weeks, Turner regained much of the movement in his left side and now is expected to recover completely. He arrived at the auction on time with wife, Carol. Mullins believes Golightly helped speed his friend's recovery.

"Oh, yes, I think so," said Turner. "Coming back here and hearing the Caldwells [Keeneland auctioneers Cris and Scott Caldwell] again, that was like music to me."

And the $950,000 tune they were singing wasn't too bad either.