11/10/2004 1:00AM

Helsinki sells for $3.9M


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland November sale entered its third day Wednesday with buyers still vying energetically for broodmares.

Helsinki, dam of the undefeated English Group 1 winner and likely champion Shamardal, brought $3.9 million late in the afternoon. The winning bidder was Coolmore Stud, with the organization's Christy Grassick signing the ticket. Helsinki, an 11-year-old Machiavellian mare, sold in foal to Cherokee Run and was part of the Taylor Made consignment.

Helsinki's 2004 Unbridled's Song filly, also consigned by Taylor Made, followed her dam into the ring and became the sale's highest-priced weanling at $1.15 million. John Sikura, owner of Hill 'n' Dale Farms, bought the filly.

Helsinki's price might have been enough to top the sale in other years, but it was a far cry from the $4.8 million that Santa Catarina brought Tuesday from an anonymous partnership represented by agent Reiley McDonald.

Young breeding stock and broodmare prospects made up the hottest part of the market during Keeneland's first two days, traditionally the most expensive days of the sale. Bidding was so aggressive for them, in fact, that the wealth appeared to be spreading into day three as underbidders sought to fill their orders later in the sale.

The first two sessions ended Tuesday evening with 33 horses bringing $1 million or more, including the sale-topping broodmare, Santa Catarina, who sold in foal to A.P. Indy. Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud sold the mare on behalf of Bob and Beverly Lewis.

The first two sessions sold 424 lots for gross income of $162,463,500. That resulted in an average price of $383,169 and a $200,000 median. Breeding stock sales are often heavily packed with dispersals, a factor that makes year-to-year comparisons difficult due to the variability of the bloodstock on offer. For reference, this year's first two sessions grossed 16 percent more than last year's, when 366 lots sold for $140,093,000, including 23 seven-figure horses. The two-day average was up slightly over last year's cumulative figure of $382,768, and the 2004 two-day median figure increased 5 percent over last year's $190,000.

This year's buyback rate was significantly better than last year's, decreasing from 27 percent in 2003 to just 19 percent this year.

The top-selling weanling in the first two sessions was a $700,000 Gone West-Dance Swiftly filly that Maurice Miller III, agent, bought from the Taylor Made agency.

Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell called the 2004 auction's number of million-dollar lots "phenomenal" and speculated that upper-level buyers were feeling flush with discretionary income.

"Our pre-sale optimism was warranted," he said. "We knew we had a lot of nice mares, and we thank our consignors for bringing them here."

Russell also noted that the sale results showed plenty of activity from new farm owners in Kentucky, a sign that new money was at play in the select portion of the broodmare market.

Among the new farm owners purchasing mares were Richard and Audrey Haisfield's NeverTell Farm, recently relocated from California, and Jess Jackson. Jackson, owner of the Kendall-Jackson Winery in Santa Rosa, Calif., has recently purchased an undisclosed existing breeding farm in Lexington. The property is widely thought to be Mahmoud Fustok's Buckram Oak north of Lexington, but Jackson declined to answer questions Wednesday.

Knockgriffin Farm adds land

Jim FitzGerald has increased his farm holdings. FitzGerald founded Knockgriffin Farm outside Paris, Ky., in 1994 and has turned it into a highly successful commercial operation. Most recently, Knockgriffin represented client Dan Borislow in his dispersal at the Fasig-Tipton November sale. Among numerous other horses, Toccet was sold for $3.35 million to Castleton Lyons.

Now, FitzGerald has added to his land by purchasing 140 acres just up the road from Knockgriffin. That property, formerly named The Parsonage and then Colonial Hill, brings Knockgriffin's total acreage to about 400, FitzGerald said.

Now that Borislow has dispersed his stock, Knockgriffin has more room and about 15 fewer horses, and FitzGerald said he is seeking a couple of new clients to fill that space.

Seattle Fitz headed to Buck Pond

Doug Arnold's Buck Pond Farm in Versailles, Ky., has added Seattle Fitz to its stallion roster, giving the farm three first-year stallions for the 2005 breeding season. Earlier this year, Buck Pond secured Hero's Tribute and Bold Truth for its stallion barn. Seattle Fitz's fee has not been set.

Arnold privately purchased Seattle Fitz from West Point Thoroughbreds, for whom the 5-year-old Fitzcarraldo colt won the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap and the Grade 3 Aqueduct and William Donald Schaefer handicaps. He earned $594,371 from a career record of 21-6-3-2.