03/05/2004 12:00AM

Cat Fighter gives Never Tell instant prestige

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The final phase of The Thoroughbred Corporation's dispersal of racing stock was held Tuesday at Barretts, with 52 horses selling for $6,453,200. The highlights included the sale of this year's La Canada winner, the 4-year-old filly Cat Fighter, and the emergence of NeverTell Farm, a new buyer of high-end mares and racing prospects.

These two events are intimately linked, as Never Tell Farm will be a partner in the ownership of Cat Fighter. A recent Grade 2 winner, Cat Fighter has won 3 of 7 starts, with two seconds and a third. She brought $1,350,000 on a bid from John Sikura, who purchased the bay filly for himself and Never Tell.

The owners of Never Tell Farm LLC are Richard and Audrey Haisfield. In addition to taking a portion of Cat Fighter, the Haisfields also purchased Atlantic Ocean for $700,000. That sum meant Atlantic Ocean, a daughter of the Storm Cat stallion Stormy Atlantic, brought the second-highest price among The Thoroughbred Corp. lots. In addition, the Haisfields purchased the graded stakes filly Honest Answer for $510,000 out of The Thoroughbred Corp. liquidation, as well as the unraced Memories Made, a 2-year-old colt by Victory Gallop, for $500,000 from the Barretts sale of select juveniles in training, which immediately followed the sale of The Thoroughbred Corp. horses.

The Haisfields, California residents, also are major investors in the Seattle Slew stallion Doneraile Court, who was purchased and relocated to Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm late last year from the Buck Pond Farm of Doug Arnold.

As the prices suggest, the star of the show among The Thoroughbred Corp. horses was Cat Fighter, a handsome daughter of Storm Cat. A $700,000 yearling at the Keeneland July select yearling sale in 2001, Cat Fighter was unplaced in her debut, which was also her only start at 2. She has gone the right way as she matured, however, as shown by her success in the La Canada last month.

As a daughter of Storm Cat and a Grade 2 winner, Cat Fighter had little left to prove in terms of desirability, but in addition, she is out of the top-class juvenile filly Strategic Maneuver, by Cryptoclearance. A winner in 5 of her 6 starts at 2, Strategic Maneuver won the Grade 1 Spinaway and Matron, as well as the Grade 2 Schuylerville and Demoiselle.

Cat Fighter is the mare's only Grade 2 winner to date, but Strategic Maneuver also has produced the Group 3 winner Ishiguru, a son of Danzig who won two stakes, including the Group 3 Flying Five Stakes in Ireland. The most expensive son of Danzig at the sales in 1999, Ishiguru sold to Coolmore for $1,150,000 at the Keeneland July sale, and he went to Ireland for training with Aidan O'Brien. Sent to stud in 2003, Ishiguru shuttles between England, where he stands at Tweenhills Stud, and Australia, where he is at Baerami Thoroughbreds.

With two high-quality stakes winners and the useful horse Essayons among her first five foals, Strategic Maneuver has gone a long way toward reproducing her own ability. A lengthy bay mare with quality and scope, Strategic Maneuver consistently produces runners who have speed and some versatility in distance.

After the end of her racing career, Strategic Maneuver was sold at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 1995 for $800,000. Carrying her first foal on a cover to Danzig, Strategic Maneuver sold to the well-known owner and breeder Betty Moran, who purchased the mare in the name of Brushwood Stable. Strategic Maneuver is one of more than two dozen broodmares owned by Brushwood, and the farm has a 2-year-old colt by Danzig out of Strategic Maneuver currently in training. He is named Foreign Policy. Brushwood also will retain the mare's yearling, who is a full sister to Cat Fighter. Due to the late foaling date (May 23) of the Storm Cat filly, Strategic Maneuver was not covered in 2003, but the mare was bred back to Storm Cat on Feb. 27.

In all, Strategic Maneuver is one of three stakes winners from five foals that her dam, the Conquistador Cielo mare Prayer Wheel, produced before selling to Shadai Farm for $460,000 at the Keeneland November sale in 1996. The mare's subsequent named foals all were produced in Japan and include one stakes-placed runner.