11/08/2007 1:00AM

Fleet Indian sells in private deal

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Champion Fleet Indian, last seen leaving the Keeneland November auction as a $3.9 million buy-back Monday, has a new home after Frank and Jane Lyon's Summer Wind Farm in Georgetown, Ky., struck a private deal with Fleet Indian's owner Paul Saylor.

The Lyons beat out two other interested parties to make the purchase Monday night for a price that consigning agent Mark Taylor of Taylor Made wouldn't disclose, but he said it was near the mare's undisclosed auction reserve.

"They were the first ones to come back with the right offer," Taylor said of the Lyons. "It was just under what the original reserve was."

The deal will send Fleet Indian to the Lyons' commercial breeding program and ends a saga for Saylor. He originally planned to send his 2006 older mare champion to the Keeneland November sale last year after the Breeders' Cup. That plan was violently upended when Fleet Indian broke down in the running of the Breeders' Cup Distaff. A year later, with the mare fully recovered and in foal to Storm Cat, Saylor had high hopes for her chances to hit a home run at the 2007 auction.

With the private deal, Fleet Indian did realize a huge return on Saylor's original purchase price of $290,000. But Saylor acknowledged that, initially, he was disappointed that she didn't bring a far higher bid in the auction ring.

"Any time you lull yourself unto a sense of security in this business, something will come up and hit you in the eye," he said. "I was surprised she didn't go beyond her reserve."

The problem, Saylor said, was that neither of the two major market buyers, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum and Coolmore Stud, put in a bid for the mare. And, in a factor that surprised Saylor, Fleet Indian's covering sire didn't appear to have the appeal he once did. Storm Cat yearlings, once the hottest commodities in the market, proved less popular in 2007 than expected. At the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale, their average was $577,813, with a $260,000 median for 29 sales. That was down from a $1,310,278 average and $500,000 median at the 2006 September sale, where 29 yearlings also sold. Storm Cat's fee for 2008 was cut to $300,000 from $500,000 this year.

"Things change in this business," Saylor said. "I'm surprised that turned so quickly. But I know one of the two major players [at Keeneland November] was under orders not to buy any mares in foal to Storm Cat."

In the end, though, Saylor said he's pleased with the outcome for Fleet Indian.

"It's good for the horse," he said of the sale to Summer Wind, adding, "We just got hit by a market aberration. I hope her Storm Cat colt wins everything."

Countess Gold sells for $850,000

An $850,000 broodmare set off some early fireworks Thursday at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale's fourth session. The mare was Countess Gold, dam of Group 1-placed and Group 2 winner Strike the Deal, who sold in foal to Eurosilver.

That was the session's highest price at 6 p.m.

The 7-year-old mare went to Frankfort Park Farm, a three-person partnership managed by Irishman Brendan Gallagher. Frankfort Park Farm operates two farms, one in County Kildare, Ireland, and the other at the former Old Frankfort Stud near Lexington.

"We saw Strike the Deal sell at the breeze-up sale this year," Gallagher said, referring to the Tattersalls Craven 2-year-olds in training auction in England, where Strike the Deal sold for $295,029. "We thought he was a good-looking horse. She's a young mare, and so we hope she keeps throwing foals that look like that."

Gallagher said the Frankfort Park Farm team is mulling its options for Countess Gold, including possibly covering her in Kentucky and then shipping her overseas. The long-term plan is to breed commercially from her, he said.

Frankfort Park, represented by Gallagher's Emerald Bloodstock agency, has so far bought nine mares. At Fasig-Tipton's Nov. 4 mixed sale, they paid $230,000 for the 3-year-old Giant's Causeway filly The One. Through late afternoon Thursday at Keeneland, their seven purchases included the $600,000 Galileo mare Russian Lullaby, in foal to Elusive Quality, and a $550,000 weanling Hennessy filly out of Polar Bird, by Thatching.

"I just hope we're as lucky as we are motivated," Gallagher said jokingly.

Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud agency sold Countess Gold on behalf of Five-D Thoroughbreds.

Wednesday's third session ended with mixed results, but the three-day cumulative returns were up from last year's at the same point.

Topped by the $800,000 filly Stylish Wildcat, the session grossed $42,638,000 for 258 horses. That was down 5 percent from last year's third day, which sold 274 horses. Median also dropped 13 percent to $130,000, but average price climbed 1 percent to $165,264.

But the cumulative figures reflected buyers' and sellers' general view that the sale was a strong one in its early days. Through Wednesday, the auction had sold 638 horses, or 4 percent more than last year, for total receipts of $221,137,000, an increase of 14 percent from last year at the same point. The average price was up 10 percent at $165,264, and median was level with last year at $190,000.

Florent Couturier, owner of Haras de Bois Carrouges near Normandy, purchased Stylish Wildcat, a 4-year-old Forest Wildcat filly who won the Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland last month. Couturier said he would probably put the filly back in training in the United States.

Bluewater Sales, agent, sold the Wednesday session-topper.

Istan sold in private deal

Mr. and Mrs. Brereton C. Jones, Jr.'s Airdrie Stud has purchased recent Ack Ack Stakes winner Istan in a private deal with Darpat S.L. Stables but will keep the 5-year-old Gone West colt in training with Bill Mott before retiring him at the end of the year. Istan, who won the Nov. 3 Ack Ack at Churchill by almost nine lengths, still could run in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 24, according to a release that Airdrie issued Thursday. He will enter stud in 2008 at the Midway, Ky., farm.

* Drew Nardiello's Chesapeake Farm has named James Conkling as farm manager. Conkling most recently has been farm manager at Muirfield East in Maryland.