02/28/2003 12:00AM

Guess who showed up from Japan?


MIAMI - Fusao Sekiguchi resurfaced with a splash in the auction world Tuesday when he and his entourage strode into the Calder paddock to view Fasig-Tipton's select 2-year-old offerings.

Sekiguchi liked only one horse enough to buy it. That was a Kris S. colt out of Mr. Prospector's daughter Key to My Heart that Sekiguchi acquired from Maurice Miller III and Tom Van Meter for $850,000, the sale's third-highest price.

Sekiguchi, the Japanese businessman who memorably paid $4 million for the yearling Fusaichi Pegasus and then won the 2000 Kentucky Derby with him, hasn't been spotted in person at any North American yearling sales in the last couple of years. And he has never attended a select 2-year-old auction here, he said, but the needs of his Japanese-based stable required it this season.

"This year, I am a little short on quality horses in training, especially 2-year-olds for this racing season in Japan," Sekiguchi said through an interpreter, as his daughter, Yukari, signed the receipt for the Kris S. colt. "I want something I know can debut very soon there and be ready in time for the spring classics."

But which spring classics, the Japanese or the American? Sekiguchi smiled at that question and admitted that, while his stable remains primarily a Japanese concern, Fusaichi Pegasus's Derby win has whetted his appetite for another American classic victory.

"Oh, yes, the Kentucky Derby, too," he said. "My first intention is to purchase horses here for racing in Japan. However, the ambience still makes the Derby a major attraction to me, so that will always be a goal for me to pursue."

The flamboyant, ponytailed Sekiguchi brought his own ambience to Calder. He arrived in the Calder paddock in a dark blue suit, red patterned silk tie, and a white cashmere scarf draped around his neck, undeterred by the stifling South Florida humidity and temperatures in the mid-80's. As he considered the horses strolling around him, Sekiguchi clamped an empty cigarette holder between his teeth, chewing it persistently as he headed for the bidding ring to do his business.

The racing world well remembers the spectacle at the 2000 Derby, when Sekiguchi approached the winner's circle with fully costumed geishas - shaded by enormous Japanese parasols - in tow. The fact that his Derby-winning trainer, Neil Drysdale, accompanied Sekiguchi to the auction prompted many to speculate that the team hoped to repeat the scene in 2004 with the Kris S. colt in the Churchill winner's circle. But that appears unlikely: Drysdale said that the colt will head for Japan.

"It might not be with this specific horse," Sekiguchi said of his Derby ambitions, "but it will be an ongoing project for me. I do still have on the back burner my foals from Fusaichi Pegasus's first crop who are coming along to fulfill my dream."

Morgan's persistence pays off

New York-based bloodstock agent Brian Morgan had reason to celebrate when Demi O'Byrne, agent for Michael Tabor, bought Fasig-Tipton Calder's $1.4 million sale topper.

Morgan bought the Tale of the Cat-Satin Sunrise colt for $100,000 last year at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's October yearling sale at Timonium. He knew immediately the youngster was something special.

"He was the best horse in the sale," Morgan said Thursday. "I was a little surprised to see one of that caliber at the sale."

Morgan wanted to bid, but he didn't have a client lined up for the horse. So he called his friend, New York trainer Carlos Martin, who suggested that Morgan try Flying Zee Stable owner Carl Lizza. Martin reached Lizza by phone just before the colt went in the auction ring, and the pair agreed to bid to $90,000.

"Somebody had just hit him for $95,000, and I was trying to get Carl to hit him one more time, because I didn't want to let this horse go," Morgan said. Lizza, traveling in his limousine at the time, was about to answer yea or nay when the phone died.

"I took it upon myself to bid one more time at $100,000," Morgan said.

It turned out to be a bargain. Morgan suggested Lizza send the colt to Bobby Scanlon in Ocala, Fla.

"When the colt was in Florida at Bobby's, it was 50-50 whether Carl and his partners would sell him or race him," Morgan said. "When he got fast on the farm, they decided to sell. When Michael Tabor is on your horse and Demi O'Byrne thinks he's a good horse, you know you can make a touchdown."

This is one of several recent touchdowns Morgan has had recently, and it's the second select juvenile sale topper he has had in two years. Last year's $850,000 sale topper at Keeneland, an Unbridled's Song-Whatamiss colt, was another one Morgan picked out as a $300,000 yearling.

o Champion Serena's Song foaled a Storm Cat filly Feb. 23 at Denali Stud in Paris, Ky. Robert and Beverly Lewis bred the filly, who is a full sister to Group 1 stakes-winner Sophisticat. Serena's Song, champion 3-year-old filly in 1995, will return to Storm Cat in 2003.