03/02/2004 12:00AM

Cat Fighter brings $1.35M

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POMONA, Calif. - The Barretts March select juvenile sale, bolstered this year by racing-age stock from The Thoroughbred Corp., got under way Tuesday afternoon with a $1.35 million early session leader in La Canada winner Cat Fighter.

John Sikura, owner of Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington, Ky., signed the ticket for Cat Fighter, a 3-year-old Storm Cat filly out of Grade 2 winner Strategic Maneuver.

The price surprised many in the audience. Pre-sale wisdom predicted that Cat Fighter would bring up to $3 million. Auctioneer Ryan Mahan had to push the bidding to achieve the price, almost hammering the filly down at $950,000.

"I thought she'd bring more money," Sikura said. "I thought she was a $2 million-plus filly."

Sikura said he might bring a partner in on the filly, who will remain in training until the end of 2004, when she will retire to the breeding shed.

Moments earlier, Sikura also bought the other star filly of the 53-horse Thoroughbred Corp. consignment, Grade 3 winner Atlantic Ocean, for $700,000.

The 3-year-old Word of Mouth, an unraced Saint Ballado half-sister to Japanese champion Hishi Amazon, brought $525,000 from buyer R.D. Hubbard. All Thoroughbred Corp. horses were sold through the agency of Kristin Mulhall.

The Thoroughbred Corp. horses were considered leading lights in the 228-horse Barretts March select catalog. The Thoroughbred Corp. entered 53 horses in the Barretts March sale as part of a gradual dispersal of bloodstock owned by the late Ahmed Salman. He died in July 2002 at age 43, two months after winning the 2002 Kentucky Derby with War Emblem.

The Thoroughbred Corp. inevitably is drawing to a close, and its Breeders' Cup Turf winner Johar, a 5-year-old Gone West horse, is being offered on the private market along with European Group 1 winner Elusive City, Thoroughbred Corp. president Richard Mulhall said Tuesday. Salman's heirs may well keep their shares in such stallions as Point Given and Royal Anthem, who are syndicated and stand in Kentucky for $75,000 and $10,000, respectively.

"They already had those interests, and, at this point, I'd think that's what they'll do, but I'm not sure," Mulhall said.

The single-session auction, which grossed $12,228,000 and averaged $142,186 last year, was to continue into Tuesday night.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen