09/10/2008 12:00AM

Darley spends $15.6M for 19, including 5 fillies

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley organization led all buyers at the Keeneland September yearling sale's select sessions on Monday and Tuesday, spending $15,655,000 for 19 horses.

There were some noteworthy patterns in his buying, including the fact that he bought five fillies this year. He also seemed especially willing to pay a premium for yearlings by A.P. Indy, a sire that has been lucky for Darley with such runners as Bernardini and Music Note.

The hectic pace of Darley's buying kept Maktoum's chief bloodstock advisor, John Ferguson, on the go, but he did hold an impromptu press conference in the sale pavilion hallway Tuesday. That came just minutes after he purchased a $1 million A. P. Indy-Shadow Cast filly that Ferguson said Sheikh Mohammed described as looking like a Saluki, a breed of sight hound that has its origins in the Middle East.

"Which are things that are very dear to his heart," Ferguson added.

That was one of two A. P. Indy fillies Maktoum paid seven figures for, the other being Monday's session-topper, a $3.1 million daughter of Chimichurri.

"It's no secret that he's the top man," Ferguson said of A. P. Indy, who stands at Lane's End for $300,000. "The great thing about him is that some beautiful mares were bred to him. There are a lot of young stallions coming through the ranks that were bred on $300,000 stud fees, and obviously that inevitably means the absolute cream of the broodmare crop here in Kentucky. Therefore, it's not really surprising that - I keep using the same expression - they tick the boxes."

Ferguson also said that the A. P. Indy yearlings purchased here were likely to remain in the United States, where their sire has had his best success.

Maktoum bought five fillies in the select sessions with an eye to their future breeding careers as much as their racing potential.

"It's never been a secret that stallions need good broodmares," Ferguson said. "There are two different criteria when you're buying yearlings. One is will it be a racehorse, and, ultimately, when you're spending a lot of money, it's will it be a broodmare? It makes sense when you're spending a large sum of money that if the filly is capable of winning a race, you'll want to keep it for your broodmare band."

Maktoum spent slightly less at the 2008 select sessions than he did at last year's ($15,655,000 as compared to $16,230,000 in 2007), but Ferguson said that Darley doesn't keep as close a watch on expenditures as the media does.

"We try and buy the horses we think suit the program," he said. "We will value those horses. Now, the advantage we have is that because we buy a number, you can go over your valuation on one knowing you're going to get lucky on another one. So sometimes you can go that extra bid because you're buying three or four horses. We just find horses that we feel suit, and we go out and try to buy those horses. It's not as if we go in saying, 'We're going to buy 20' or 'We're going to buy 30.' . . . Budgets for one sale wouldn't make any sense. You've got to look at these things over a year and make judgments over the course of the year."

Exactly how many horses does Darley own worldwide now? Ferguson wouldn't provide a firm number.

"Well, we added one five minutes ago," he said. "We have about 400 in Australia, we have bordering on 300 mares here, and a similar number in Europe."

A. P. Indy at the top

A. P. Indy led all sires by average price at the select sessions, with 18 yearlings averaging $626,818. He was followed by Storm Cat, who fell from favor last season at this auction but rebounded with big purchases by Maktoum and the Legends Racing group, among others. Storm Cat yearlings averaged $586,666 for 18 sales in the select sessions.

The rest of the top five sires by average with three or more yearlings sold were Kingmambo with seven averaging $500,000; Distorted Humor with 23 averaging $484,565; and Empire Maker with 12 averaging $434,166.

The only freshman sire to hit the list with three or more yearlings sold was Rock Hard Ten, who averaged $405,000 for three horses.

* Three Chimneys will host a sale of yearlings who failed to reach their reserves in Week 1 of the September auction. The RNA sale takes place on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Three Chimneys Farm's Big Sink division near Midway, Ky. The catalog includes bloodstock from Blackburn Farm, Brookdale Farm, Denali Stud, and Middlebrook Farm, as well as Three Chimneys.