01/07/2002 1:00AM

Desert Stormer brings $3.6 million at Keeneland

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Desert Stormer, winner of the 1995 Breeders' Cup Sprint, verified the rule that quality sells high in any market, bringing $3.6 million at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale on Monday, the opening day of the four-day event.

Agent Michael Youngs bought Desert Stormer, a 12-year-old Storm Cat mare who is the dam of graded stakes-winner Sahara Gold (Seeking the Gold) and is in foal to WinStar stallion Kris S.

Youngs signed for Desert Stormer on behalf of Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation after shaking off underbidder Tony Ryan, the owner of Castleton Lyons in Lexington who was seated in the same row as Youngs.

The price was well off the January record of $5 million, which Mackie brought in 2000, but it shored up the Keeneland mare market's ceiling.

"It's a lot of money," Youngs said, "but mares of this quality are very rare, and it depends on whether you really want to stretch for them."

Youngs didn't appeared surprised by the price, saying, "I figured she'd make over $3 million, but I didn't know how competitive it would be beyond that."

It was a good price, but Desert Stormer's seller, Joanne Nor, took little comfort from the money.

A subdued Nor said before the sale that she was selling the mare, a homebred she campaigned to the Breeders' Cup win, because of the financial restructuring related to an eight-year divorce battle with her former husband, Fabio Nor.

"This was the last thing I wanted to do," said Nor, who bought Desert Stormer's dam, Breezy Stories, at the 1979 Keeneland July yearling sale. "She represents about 25 years of working in the business. I raised Desert Stormer, and I'm happy to have been associated with her. She was one of the most intelligent horses I've ever been around.

"She definitely had a lot of Storm Cat traits," Nor said of Desert Stormer's racing career. "She was pretty difficult to deal with, but she channeled that well in training, from a psychological standpoint. But she couldn't be fought with; she had to be finessed."

Nor said that she still has one of the mare's Mr. Prospector fillies, a 2-year-old that Nor withdrew from the January auction, as well as half-ownership of a 2001 full sister to Sahara Gold. "I'm hoping they'll follow in some of her footsteps," she said.

Desert Stormer, sold by the Taylor Made agency, will head from the sale grounds to be boarded at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.

Desert Stormer wasn't the only million-dollar sale Monday. The other seven-figure lots also came from Taylor Made.

Hip 13, the stakes-winner Roll Over Baby, brought $1 million from S. David Plummer. A 13-year-old Rollin On Over mare and dam of stakes-winner Majorbigtimesheet, Roll Over Baby is carrying a full brother to her latest sensation, the 3-year-old Unbridled's Song colt Werblin, a winner of his first two starts. Roll Over Baby's yearling full brother to Werblin, Hip No. 14, also went through the ring and brought $1.1 million from agent Buzz Chace, representing Aaron and Marie Jones.

Roll Over Baby will join S. David Plummer's broodmare band, which currently numbers about 50 and is spread over several Kentucky farms. Plummer, a Utah resident, is stepping up in the game, according to his son and partner Spencer Plummer.

"We think this is a good time for us to get involved at a higher level," Spencer said. "People think this is the Sport of Kings and it's only for the wealthy, but we've found that if we use good genetic principles in our breeding program and sound financial principles in at the sales - meaning that we don't overpay - we can make some money at the sales."

The Plummers breed both to race and to sell, and they also offer many of their mares for lease for clients wanting to get involved in breeding.

As 6 p.m., Monday's other noteworthy sellers were: $800,000 for Grade 1 winner Rings a Chime, in foal to Saint Ballado, whom Stonerside Stables bought from Taylor Made, agent; $450,000 for Batroyale, a graded stakes-winner in foal to Kingmambo that Chiefswood Stable signed for from the Denali consignment; and $425,000 for graded winner Evil's Pic, in foal to Deputy Minister, bought by Plummer from Taylor Made.