04/08/2008 11:00PM

Cool Coal Man added heat to topper


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Cool Coal Man's gray half-brother took a star turn in the auction ring Tuesday night, topping the first session at Keeneland's select 2-year-old sale on a final bid of $700,000.

Jess Jackson's winning bid gave a handsome payoff to the Langfuhr colt's sellers, a partnership headed by consignor Niall Brennan and partner Mike Ryan that picked the colt out of Keeneland's 2007 September yearling sale, where he sold for $135,000.

Tuesday's session, the first in a new format of two evening sessions, sold 34 horses for $7,127,000 for an average price of $209,618 and a $165,000 median. There were no comparable statistics for last year, when the sale was conducted in a single day-long session. The 2007 auction sold a total of 82 horses for $16,637,000, resulting in a $202,890 average and a $155,000 median.

Brennan's consignment led all sellers with eight sold for $2,710,000. His other big sales included a $575,000 Cozzene-Fluttery Danseur colt that B. Wayne Hughes purchased. Hughes, the night's leading buyer, also bought a $675,000 Aldebaran-Propriety colt from the Kirkwood Stables agency.

Jackson sat chilly when bidding opened on the Langfuhr colt, who sold early as Hip No. 7. There was a long pause at $625,000, but Jackson swooped in late and made his first bid at $635,000. He outlasted a determined WinStar Stable camp that gave in when Jackson answered their $685,000 offer with his winning $700,000 bid.

"I waited until things cooled down a little bit," Jackson said of his late opening salvo. "Some of that might have been the reserve, and I'm not interesting in competing with the reserve."

The Langfuhr colt was an obvious candidate to top Tuesday's session on the strength of his pedigree and his scintillating eighth-mile work in record-equaling time of 9.60 seconds at the breeze show a day earlier.

Jackson said the colt's fast work was impressive but not a key factor in his decision to bid for him.

"His breeding was what I was more interested in," he said. "Langfuhr's got a lot of good blood. His speed, showing precociousness early, was interesting. But we're more interested in his long-term potential. We think he could be something special."

Jackson said the colt eventually will go to trainer Steve Asmussen, who also trains Jackson's 2007 Horse of the Year and 2008 Dubai World Cup winner Curlin.

Seven months ago, the Langfuhr colt looked like a big gamble for Brennan and Ryan. As pinhookers buying to resell, they look for horses that can mature early enough to hit it big at the spring juvenile sales. The gray Langfuhr colt had what appeared to be a big strike against him: his late foaling date of May 22. His half-brother Cool Coal Man had not yet won a race.

On the plus side, Ryan said, the colt didn't look immature, and he had a sire of proven quality whose graded stakes winners last year included champion older male Lawyer Ron. He also was inbred to the great Northern Dancer.

"That's what he was, a larger model of Northern Dancer," Ryan said. "He's a gray Danzig, is what he looked like to me."

Another pinhooker, Murray Smith, must have seen the same attributes, because it was she who actually signed the $135,000 ticket for the Langfuhr colt as a yearling. According to Ryan, he and Brennan were the underbidders.

"We stepped aside, she ended up buying him, and she gave us the ticket on him," Ryan said. "She thought she'd spent enough, and if you ask her that she'll tell you that herself. . . . I was bidding against her. She was on the rail, and she signed the ticket, and then she said, 'Do you guys want him?' I said, 'I'll take him.' "

Smith couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday to discuss the yearling sale, but one thing is certain. The gray yearling's value shot up when Cool Coal Man won the Fountain of Youth to become a bona fide Kentucky Derby contender. The Langfuhr colt's electrifying breeze time on Monday added another fillip, and by the time he entered the ring early Tuesday night, Brennan and Ryan could afford to feel comfortable.

"He sold well past the reserve, I can tell you that," Ryan said.

There were a few other home runs like this one on Tuesday night, the first of two days' selling at the season's last major select auction. But Tuesday's results generally reflected trends established at earlier auctions. Top-end buyers were as highly selective as ever but were more restrained in their spending even for horses they liked a great deal. Sellers, many of whom had paid retail for their stock as yearlings, were often unwilling to sell their stock at what they felt were discounted prices. As a result, the session's buy-back rate was 47 percent, the same as last year, and the session topper's $700,000 price was a far cry from last year's sale-topping (and sale-record) $1.75 million. If his consignors and his buyer are right, that will only make the Langfuhr colt look like a bargain in a year or two.

"I'm delighted Jess Jackson got him," Ryan said of the session topper. "I know he'll go into good hands. It wouldn't shock me if we're advertising him in a year's time. I'm confident he's a graded stakes winner. Very confident."