01/11/2007 1:00AM

Downthedustyroad sells for $1.5 million


LEXINGTON, Ky. - One of Ahmed Zayat's young racemares stole the show at Keeneland again on Thursday when Grade 1 winner Downthedustyroad brought $1.5 million from Fleetwood Bloodstock.

The session-topping price was unusual this late in the eight-day Keeneland January all-ages sale, which by its fourth session had settled into a far lower average price bracket.

The Thursday session sold 247 horses for $9,203,500, resulting in an average price of $37,261 and a $16,000 median. Those figures were up substantially from last year's equivalent session, when 236 horses sold. The 2007 gross gained 45 percent, and the average and median rose 38 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Zayat has opted to sell some of his successful fillies, cashing in on a market that is rewarding youth with profit. At the auction's opening day on Monday, Zayat sold another Grade 1 winner, 3-year-old Point Ashley, for the auction's top price of $1.8 million. His consigning agent, John Sikura of Hill 'n' Dale Farm, bought the filly himself and later announced he would breed her to Storm Cat. Point Ashley is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as 2006's champion juvenile filly.

Downthedustyroad sold through a different agent, Eaton Sales. When she was first nominated to the auction, Downthedustyroad was a

3-year-old stakes-placed runner. But her stock improved vastly after the catalog was already printed. By the time she arrived at the sale in early January, she was a 4-year-old Gradeo1 winner, having won the La Brea Stakes in her most recent start on Dec. 30. That was all the more appealing considering that Zayat was offering her as a racing or broodmare prospect, with the possibility of more racing, and winning, to come.

It appears that the new owner, an undisclosed client of the Fleetwood Bloodstock agency, will give in to the temptation to race Downthedustyroad, a daughter of Storm and a Half.

"Hopefully, she'll go back to back," Fleetwood's Tim McMurry said to Zayat's representative, Sobhy Sonbol, after signing the ticket.

McMurry said his client, a woman based on the West Coast, would likely race Downthedustyroad this year before sending her to the breeding shed.

"She'll probably go back to California," McMurry said of the filly, who previously had been trained there by Bob Baffert.

McMurry acknowledged that Arkansas-bred Downthedustyroad's pedigree was not as much of a draw as her impressive race record. Her sire, a son of Storm Cat, was unraced, and his leading runner prior to Downthedustyroad was a restricted stakes winner with earnings of just under $110,000. Her dam, the Crafty Prospector mare Fair Majesty, was also unraced but had produced two stakes winners and five winners from six runners.

"You're buying a racehorse," McMurry said, "and you hope she runs on. With that pedigree, it's a little concern. But this is a performance-based business, and she's performed."

Downthedustyroad has won 4 of her 10 starts, finished second three times and third twice. Her earnings stand at $282,050.

Though prices generally were tailing off and buyers complained that the catalog had lost luster, there was still money available for standout horses. Earlier in the session, Eldon Farm's 4-year-old winner A P Easy brought $500,000 as the session's second-highest price. The British Bloodstock Agency (Ireland) purchased A P Easy, who is a daughter of A. P. Indy and the Easy Goer stakes-winner Sheepscot. A P Easy is a half-sister to the Grade 2 winner Navesink River. Gainesway, agent, consigned the filly as a broodmare prospect.

At the third session on Wednesday, the auction grossed $9,709,800 on the sale of 225 horses, up from last year's $9,283,800 for 247 horses. Average and median price also rose. The $38,078 edged last year's $37,586, and the $23,000 median was up from $20,000 last year.

Wednesday's session-topper was the graded winner Bettarun Fast, who sold as a broodmare prospect for $350,000. The 4-year-old Kelly Kip filly went to Southern Equine Stables. A Grade 3 winner in 2006, Bettarun Fast sold through the Hill 'n' Dale agency.

The auction was to continue through Monday.