05/13/2005 12:00AM

Hopes are high for May sale


When the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale commences at 11 a.m. on May 23 and 24, the Monday and Tuesday after the Preakness, it will offer its strongest catalog in history - proving the old adage success builds on success.

The most recent May sales graduate to make national news is Afleet Alex, the game third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby and one of the favorites for the Preakness. Afleet Alex was picked out by trainer Tim Ritchey at last year's sale for a bargain $75,000, and has earned more than $1.5 million.

Other May sales graduates to top $1 million in earnings in recent years include champion Xtra Heat, who earned over $2.3 million after trainer John Salzman bought her for $5,000, and Mandy's Gold, who earned $1,081,744 after being sold to Michael E. Gorham for $87,000.

"The catalog has changed over the years," said Paget Bennett, the recently named director of Midlantic sales. "Consignors are confident in bringing horses to this sale now."

Last year's sale broke all Maryland records, as 354 horses sold for a total of $13.2 million, a 35 percent increase over the previous high, set the year before. The average was $37,367. Setting a Maryland public auction record of $450,000 was the Silver Deputy filly Lady H, purchased by Buzz Chace for Charles and Marianne Hesse. She was just one of 23 juveniles to top the $100,000 mark.

"The quality of the horses entered in this year's sale by pinhookers is evident," said Fasig-Tipton Midlantic executive vice president Mason Grasty, noting that 47 of the 2-year-olds cataloged sold for $100,000 or more at previous sales. "We have an impressive bunch of horses and a lot of different consignors."

There are 656 juveniles entered in this year's sale, including those by the nation's leading sires since 2001: A.P. Indy, Elusive Quality, El Prado, and Thunder Gulch. The incomparable Storm Cat is represented, as is the sire of the 2005 Kentucky Derby winner, Holy Bull. Offspring from the second crops of eight of last year's top 10 freshman sires in the nation can be found, including those by the 2004 leader Successful Appeal, as well as current leading second-crop sire Fusaichi Pegasus.

There are three juveniles from the final crop of Saint Ballado. First-crop sires who are represented include current leading freshman sire Five Star Day, as well as El Corredor, Broken Vow, Trippi, Songandaprayer, Black Minnaloushe, and Vision and Verse, all of whom have winners, as well as two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow. The sire with the most juveniles in the sale is Tale of the Cat, with 15. The freshman sire with the most juveniles is Aptitude, who has 12.

The under-tack shows begin at 10 a.m. at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium on Wednesday, May 18, and Thursday, May 19.

Maryland sires well represented at sale

More than 50 Maryland-breds and offspring by a number of Maryland sires will be on display. The leading sire by average at last year's record-breaking sale was Maryland-based Not for Love, who has six listed in this year's catalog, including a Maryland-bred full brother to 2004 Maryland Million Sprint winner My Poker Player. Perennial top juvenile sires and former leading Maryland sires Allen's Prospect and Two Punch have a total of 15 listed in the sale. A colt from the final crop of leading Maryland sire Polish Numbers is also entered.

Lion Hearted, Maryland's top freshman sire in 2004, had the highest average of any first-year sire at last year's sale. The current crop of Maryland freshman sires with juveniles in the sale includes Jazz Club, a graded-stakes-winning son of Dixieland Band who stands at Maryland Stallion Station in Glyndon, and Mojave Moon, a graded-stakes-placed winner by Mr. Prospector who stands at Bonita Farm in Darlington.