12/13/2004 1:00AM

First-timers boost Hong Kong sale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A juvenile King's Best gelding set a price record Sunday at the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Hong Kong International Sale.

The New Zealand-bred gelding went for six million Hong Kong dollars, or about $771,694, breaking the HK$4.8 million record set at last year's auction.

The King's Best gelding is out of Georgiana, a New Zealand-bred Nassipour mare. Georgiana is the dam of Australian stakes-placed runner Vega Sicilia, by Rodrigo de Triano, and 2004 New Zealand Oaks runner-up Filante Etoile, by Soviet Star.

After a bidding battle joined by the partnership of Hiu Fung Choi and Eric Li, the hammer fell in favor of new buyer Shun So. The 19-horse auction, held in a new sale ring at Hong Kong's Sha Tin racecourse, was open only to owners registered by the exclusive Hong Kong Jockey Club, which rigorously controls racehorse ownership on the island.

Shun So, whom the Hong Kong Jockey Club said was making his first purchase, selected the King's Best gelding on the advice of local trainer Paul O'Sullivan.

"I have spoken to him several times and certainly recommended this horse," O'Sullivan said. "I would love to train him, but that decision is, of course, up to the owner."

Hiu Fung Choi, also a first-time buyer, went on to purchase the session's second-most-expensive lot, a HK$4.2 million Danehill gelding, which cost about $540,207 in American currency. That gelding is out of the Seattle Slew mare Super Seleccion and is a full brother to Hong Kong winner Harvey Mudd.

After 3 of 22 cataloged horses were withdrawn, the auction sold 19 head for a total of about $5,529,124 (U.S.), up 4 percent from last year's total for 25 lots. The 2004 average price soared 36 percent from last year to about $291,007, and the median climbed 25 percent to about $257,169.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club's executive director, Winfried Engelbracht-Bresges, said the club was "very pleased" with the sale results.

"I think we can say that an average of over HK$2.2 million is outstanding and an indicator that the economy is on the up," he said. "We were hoping for an average of about HK$1.7 million. But it's not just about the numbers. Profit here is not the priority. We need to bring the right horses to Hong Kong, and we're selling them to our members, so we certainly want satisfied customers."

Juddmonte garners breeding award

The British Thoroughbred Breeders Association has named Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms, one of the world's most successful homebreeding operations, as Britain's top flat breeder for the third year in the row.

Juddmonte earned the Queen's Silver Cup on the strength of performances by such runners as Group 1 winners Powerscourt and Quiff. The cup is presented to the leading breeder by British and Irish purses earned by British-based horses.

Others honored by the breeders' association for 2004 included Pivotal, a stallion at Cheveley Park who was leading sire both by progeny earnings and by number of winners, and Alflora, who stands at Shade Oak Stud and was the leading National Hunt stallion by earnings and by steeplechase winners. Alouette, dam of 2004 Group 1 winner Albanova, was named flat broodmare of the year, and Laurel Diver was honored as National Hunt broodmare of the year. Shade Oak won the Queen Mother's National Hunt Achievement Award.

Thinking big for General Jumbo

General Jumbo's new connections have a Kentucky Derby campaign in mind for him. General Jumbo, a 2-year-old son of Dansili, has been pointed to the Hollywood Futurity since Jack Smith and Tom Conway bought him privately in England earlier this month from a partnership headed by trainer Brian Meehan.

Meehan will saddle General Jumbo for the Hollywood Futurity on Saturday, but after that the colt will head for trainer Niall O'Callaghan's barn in New Orleans.

"We really think this horse has got a chance at the classics," said Smith. "We were looking for a horse who could go the distance. There are a lot of good sprinters here, but we wanted a pedigree that could go a classic distance."

Smith said General Jumbo will race in Conway's colors and that Smith would act as managing partner.

General Jumbo is out of the unraced Busted mare Aunt Jemima, whose other foals include the 1993 Cheste Stakes runner-up, Azhar, and five other winners from seven starters.