11/05/2007 1:00AM

Darley buys Round Pond for $5.75 million

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. – Fasig-Tipton started Kentucky’s November sales with multimillion prices for Grade 1-winning mares and a dispute by Coolmore Stud over the $4 million sale of Octave to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley organization.

The day’s top price was the $5.75 million that Maktoum’s representative, John Ferguson, paid for the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Round Pond. Taylor Made Sales, agent, sold the 5-year-old Awesome Again mare on behalf of Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farms.

Ferguson and Taylor Made also were players in the night’s disputed sale of Octave. Ferguson, representing Maktoum, signed the ticket for $4 millon after lively bidding that also involved Coolmore Stud and the Ran-Jan Stable of Bob Naify and Jan Vanderbos. But Coolmore’s team, including principal John Magnier and regular bidding representative Demi O’Byrne, angrily protested the sale, saying they had believed they had made the winning $4 million bid.

Fasig-Tipton called representatives from Coolmore and consignor Taylor Made, as well as Octave’s selling owners Jack and Laurie Wolf and Donald Lucarelli, into the sale office to discuss the issue. At one point, O’Byrne also called on Walnut Green consignor Russell Jones as a witness to the Coolmore bid. But an hour and a half after the hammer fell on Octave’s sale, consignor Mark Taylor of Taylor Made confirmed that the sale to Maktoum was final.

Fasig-Tipton president Walt Robertson said the company’s bid-spotters had recognized Ferguson’s $4 million and not acknowledged any bid from Coolmore for that amount. Because no bid spotter had taken Coolmore’s bid, Robertson said, the sale to Ferguson had been considered final, and the bidding could not be reopened.

“Until it’s acknowledged, it’s not a bid,” Robertson said. “Our hands are tied.”

“The procedure utilized and the process on that particular filly was handled in accordance with the conditions of sale,” said Fasig-Tipton chairman D.G. Van Clief Jr.

Coolmore representatives made no public comment about the dispute. Sources close to the Wolfs and Lucarelli said that the partnership had hoped Fasig-Tipton might reopen the bidding, but sale company officials said that the bidding could not reopen unless two bid-spotters had recognized bids at the same price.

The dispute underscored the only American auction clash so far this year between Maktoum’s team and that of Coolmore, bitter rivals whose bidding duels in the past have driven prices to record levels.

“John Ferguson bought her for $4 million, and we think he got a great buy,” said Taylor, the consignor.

Ferguson said that Fasig-Tipton officials never contacted him about the dispute over Octave. He indicated that Maktoum likely would put the filly, by Unbridled’s Song, back in training.

The auction sold 107 horses for gross receipts of $52,036,000, down 19 percent from last season, when 170 horses, led by ClassicStar’s dispersal, sold. The 2007 average price rose 29 percent, reaching $486,318, and the median climbed 3 percent to $180,000. Buybacks rose slightly, from 24 percent to 26 percent.

Round Pond and Octave were two of 12 horses to sell for $1 million or more at the single-session auction. Ferguson’s other seven-figure purchases were a pair of $3 million Grade 1 winners: Indy Five Hundred, in foal to Kingmambo, from consignor Lane’s End, agent, and Asi Siempre, whom consigning agent Bluewater Sales offered as a racing or broodmare prospect. The day’s other seven-figure horses went to an array of buyers who signaled that the upper market for broodmares remains deep. Halsey Minor, represented by agent Debbie Easter, went to $3.3 million to acquire Dream Rush from Hill ’n’ Dale, which acted as agent for West Point Stable and Lewis Lakin. Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stable, represented by Nicoma Bloodstock, purchased $2.3 million Pussycat Doll from Hill 'n' Dale Sales, agent, and $1.2 million Valbenny from Three Chimneys Sales, agent. Overbrook Farm paid $1.9 million for Cotton Blossom, who was offered by Dogwood Stable through the Three Chimneys agency. Michael Moreno and Eric Guillot’s Southern Equine Stables picked up Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner Maryfield for $1.25 million. Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Holdings paid $1.4 million for Reina Victoriosa, in foal to Ghostzapper, from Vinery’s agency. Jane Lyon of Summer Wind Farm bought $1 million Leave Me Alone, in foal to A. P. Indy, from Lane’s End, agent.

Barnes & Noble CEO Leonard Riggio’s My MeadowView Stable was among the auction’s more active bidders. Represented by trainer Nick Zito, Riggio bought 11 horses for $2,345,000; his most expensive buy was $1.1 million Grade 1 winner Appealing Zophie, consigned by the Hill ’n’ Dale Sales agency.

Not all big prices resulted in sales, though. Ermine, last year’s Kentucky Oaks runner-up, fetched a $1.45 million bid that fell short of her reserve and returned to the Taylor Made agency. The stakes-placed Fasliyev mare Lacadena failed to reach her reserve at $1.4 million. Grade 2 winner Capeside Lady, offered in foal to A. P. Indy, went home after $1.1 million failed to reach her reserve.

Dual Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon, offered as a stallion prospect by agent James Herbener, also went unsold at $1 million. Silver Wagon was one of three stallion prospects who did not sell: Tap Day, Grade 1-placed and a Grade 2 winner, brought just $15,000 and returned to his seller, and Grade 3 winner Liquor Cabinet was unsold at $20,000; Lane’s End, agent, consigned both.

Coolmore’s Demi O’Byrne did not sign a ticket, prompting speculation around the ring as to whether the Octave dispute had alienated one of the market’s most potent players.

“I sure hope not,” said Robertson, the Fasig-Tipton president. “They’re a valuable customer for us, and if the shoe had been on the other foot, we’d have handled it exactly the same way.”

Aside from the dispute over Octave, Fasig-Tipton officials were pleased with their part of the November sales marketplace.

“I thought it was absolutely huge,” Robertson said. “There were a lot of wonderful mares here.”

The Fasig-Tipton sale was followed Monday by the opening of Keeneland’s two-week November auction. That sale has cataloged a record 5,415 horses this year.