01/13/2004 1:00AM

Cajun Beat's dam hot item

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The January horses of all ages sale continued Tuesday at Keeneland, building upon the top-end prices of Monday's opening session. As of 5:30 p.m Eastern, five horses had sold for at least a half-million dollars, led by Beckys Shirt ($850,000), the dam of Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat.

A 13-year-old graded-stakes-placed daughter of Cure the Blues, Beckys Shirt, in foal to Woodman, was sold to BBA (Ireland) Ltd. Paul Shanahan of Coolmore Stud was involved in the purchase, and said later that Beckys Shirt will go "to a public corporation that we're just selling stock in."

The sale of Beckys Shirt was a home run for her Italian owners, Marco Bozzi and Giuseppe Riccioni, who sold her for more than 60 times the price they paid for her. During the November breeding stock sale at Keeneland in 2002, with Renato Gameiro of Albatroz Bloodstock acting as their agent, they acquired Beckys Shirt for $14,000.

Gameiro said he bought Beckys Shirt on the basis of the appearance of Cajun Beat when the colt was auctioned as a yearling. Cajun Beat went through the 2001 September yearling sale, where he failed to meet his reserve with a final bid of $95,000.

"When I see a nice foal, I say one day I'll buy the mare," he said. "You have to buy them before they foal a graded winner."

Even on the heels of the recent success of Cajun Beat, John Sikura of Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency said Beckys Shirt brought the higher end of what they hoped to get for her. But as he noted, "She was as current and obvious as a broodmare can be."

Tuesday's second session, at least at the top levels, appeared to match or exceed expectations - as Monday's opening session did. The average sales price of $65,757 on Monday represented a 28-percent rise from 2003's opening day numbers, and gross sales were up even higher. With 322 horses going through the sales ring, 226 sold for $14,861,100, an increase in gross of 39 percent.

The middle and low-end horses on Monday did not see the same increases. The median for the opening session remained level at $30,000 against the same session last year. The buy-back rate on Monday declined slightly to 30 percent from a 34-percent level in 2003.

Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales, said Monday evening that he was pleased with the opening-day numbers. "I thought a couple of mares would break loose and they did," he said. "Big and beautiful is what the buyers want."

They wanted those elite mares Tuesday, as well. Besides Beckys Shirt, other mares selling Tuesday for at least a half-million dollars were Luna Wells ($800,000), who sold in foal to Storm Cat; Dreamscape ($635,000), a stakes-producing full sister to Housebuster; Lilac Lane ($600,000), a stakes-producing half sister to Blushing K. D.; and Girl of Gold ($500,000), a Seeking the Gold mare in foal to Deputy Minister.

The early session leader among yearlings Tuesday was a half-sister to Phone Chatter by Tale of the Cat who sold for $270,000.

The sale continues through Friday.