09/11/2007 11:00PM

Distorted Humor colt brings $1M

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Wednesday was the first open session at Keeneland's 14-day September yearling auction, but it felt very like the two select days that preceded it. The session leader at 6 p.m. Eastern was a $1 million colt by hot young sire Distorted Humor, one of numerous horses to soar past the $500,000 mark.

The men signing the sales receipt are well familiar with the kind of success Distorted Humor has been having. Ken Troutt co-owns WinStar Farm, which stands Distorted Humor, and former trainer Elliott Walden is the operation's vice president. Troutt and his partner in the farm, Bill Casner, bought the then-unproven stallion as part of a package when they purchased the former Prestonwood property in 2000. Distorted Humor got off the mark fast when his son Funny Cide won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and became a champion. Since then, it has gotten easy to sell Distorted Humor stock but awfully hard to buy it, as Walden acknowledged.

"We tried on a couple of others, but this is the first one we've gotten," Walden said.

The $1 million colt is out of the stakes-placed Saint Ballado mare Santa Croce and came from the Winter Quarter Farm agency. He is the first registered foal for his dam.

Troutt and Walden bought the colt for a new partnership called Maverick Racing, which includes Troutt and Casner and a couple of their friends from Texas, according to Walden. The stable intends to race their acquisition, but the purchase didn't hurt Distorted Humor's yearling sale average, either, so it had a happy side effect for WinStar.

"Distorted Humor, we're obviously fond of him, and we're going to support him any way we can," Walden said.

The Wednesday session was notable for its wide array of high-level buyers. That was a welcome sign of market depth for Keeneland's middle-market consignors.

Keeneland officials had expected bidders with European interests to feature prominently in the first week of the sale, especially given the favorable exchange rate they could enjoy, with the British pound worth about $2 and the euro worth about $1.39.

Overseas-based buyers did indeed come to the fore on Wednesday. Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Estate Co., an active buyer during the two select sessions, remained a potent market force on Wednesday. The operation bought an $800,000 Mr. Greeley-Matsue colt from Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm agency, as well as a $675,000 Medaglia d'Oro-Queen's Lady colt from the Hill 'n' Dale agency; a $600,000 Mr. Greeley-Indemnify colt sold by Three Chimneys, agent; and others.

Shadwell representative Rick Nichols said the $800,000 Mr. Greeley colt would head for Europe.

"His mama ran in Europe, and Mr. Greeley has done very well in Europe, so we'll see what happens," he said.

Another big spender on Wednesday was the Asian Bloodstock Services agency of Dr. Naoya and Marie Yoshida. Early in the session, they picked up a $700,000 Smart Strike colt for an undisclosed client. Consigned by Robert Courtney's Crestfield Farm, the chestnut colt is out of the Wild Again winner Flashy.

"He was the best Smart Strike in the sale," she said. "We purchased a Smart Strike last year, and he has been doing very well as a 2-year-old in training in the U.S. Looking at Curlin and all these wonderful Smart Strikes, we think Smart Strike is the No. 1 underrated stallion in the world."

Yoshida said she thought the $700,000 price tag made the colt "a very good buy."

The yearling's price made his dam's price look like a bargain, too. Courtney's son, Robert Jr., and friend Ricky Stivers partnered to buy the mare for $420,000 at the 2005 Keeneland November sale. She was carrying the Smart Strike colt at the time.

The Yoshidas later purchased a $675,000 Malibu Moon colt out of the Group 3 winner Quad's Melody, by Spinning World. James Herbener Jr. sold that colt.

Other buyers of high-priced horses included Jess Jackson, buyer of a $530,000 Silver Deputy-Multiply filly from Gracefield; Tom Gentry, agent, who signed for a $500,000 Mr. Greeley-Hardly Fair colt offered by Eaton Sales, agent; B. Wayne Hughes, whose purchases included a $500,000 Hennessy-Jewel of the East colt, also consigned by Eaton Sales for Preston Farm; Jerry and Ann Moss, who also paid $500,000 for a More Than Ready-Kinlin filly sold by Dark Hollow Farm, agent; and Rick Pitino's Ol' Memorial Stable, which bought a $500,000 More Than Ready-Quiet City colt from the Dromoland agency.

The sale was to continue through Sept. 25 with a dark day on Friday. Sessions begin each day at 10 a.m.