09/13/2006 11:00PM

Jackson - not Maktoum - snags $1.3M colt

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Million-dollar horses were still coming through the ring at Keeneland on Thursday as the auction house's September sale closed out its first of two weeks of selling.

Jess Jackson scored a rare bidding victory off Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's team for Hip No. 970, a $1.3 million Pulpit colt out of graded stakes producer Razzi Cat, a Storm Cat mare. Taylor Made's sales agency sold the bay colt, who was the subject of a prolonged bidding war and was the day's highest price at 6 p.m. When Jackson finally prevailed, it marked one of the few times anyone had gone up against the sheikh or his agents for a horse and come out the winner.

"He was annoying," Jackson said in mock irritation as he signed the ticket. Jackson acknowledged that, like many other wealthy buyers who usually define the top of the market, he had been all but shut out at Monday and Tuesday's select sessions, when the wars between Maktoum and Coolmore owner John Magnier pushed yearlings' prices to the multimillion-dollar level. The $11.7 million sale topper, a Kingmambo-Crown of Crimson colt that Maktoum bought from Burleson Farms, agent, was great news for Keeneland. But prices like that made it hard on other buyers who simply couldn't afford the horses they wanted.

"They took most of my good horses on the first day or two," Jackson said. "I salute them for having such good advisers.

"I'm a breeder, too, so I love to have them around," he added of Maktoum and his brother, Sheikh Hamdan, also a prolific buyer. "I hope they'll be buying some of my horses."

Jackson was pleased with his $1.3 million Pulpit colt and even disclosed that he'd been prepared to go to $1.5 million to get him.

"He was probably the best colt in the sale today, and maybe in the last two days," he said. "He has a great pedigree on both sides, and, if he can run, he has the blood to stand."

Earlier in the session, agent Tim Kegel purchased a $1.2 million Distorted Humor colt out of Officiate, a Deputy Minister mare who placed twice at age 3. At the time the catalog went to press, Officiate was the dam of a filly who won well in her first start. But by the time the vendors came to the sale, that filly, the Saint Ballado daughter Mo Cuishle, had added considerable value to the family by winning the Grade 3 Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks. Taylor Made Sales sold the $1.2 million half-brother on behalf of breeders Aaron and Marie Jones.

On Wednesday, a pair of $900,000 lots topped the third session, which was also the first open session after two select days. The first was Hip No. 656, a Petionville-Ticket to Houston filly that Sheikh Mohammed purchased from Pope McLean's Crestwood Farm consignment; she is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Runway Model. The second, Hip No. 787, was an Unbridled's Song-Danzig's Dreamer colt that Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge agency sold to the Madeus Racing Stable partnership.

The Wednesday session grossed $48,275,000 for 265 yearlings, down 4 percent from last year's $50,257,000 total for 282 lots. But average and median both climbed. Average rose 2 percent to $182,170, and median gained 15 percent to hit $150,000.

Through Wednesday, the last day for which final figures were available, the sale had sold a total of 589 lots for $231,135,000, down 3 percent from last year's gross for 654 horses. The three-day cumulative average price of $392,419 was up 8 percent from last season, and the $230,000 median was up 15 percent.

Jackson: Good start, but more reform needed

Jess Jackson doesn't seem to have been put off by the bloodstock industry after filing a lawsuit against several bloodstock agents last year. Jackson wouldn't comment on the status of that suit, saying only, "I'm confident that justice will prevail."

Jackson lobbied strongly - and successfully - for a Kentucky law to protect buyers from fraud in equine transactions. Since that law passed the state's legislature earlier this year, buyers have filed two more lawsuits alleging misdeeds by prominent breeders and agents. Earlier this month, owner James McIngvale filed suit in Texas against agents J.B. and Kevin McKathan and trainer Bob Baffert, and in late July a group of investors sued the commercial breeding entity ClassicStar in Kentucky over mare-lease deals that ClassicStar allegedly sold as tax shelters. McIngvale alleges that his agents received secret kickbacks from sellers when McIngvale purchased their horses, while ClassicStar's investors allege, among other things, that the mare-lease program sold $160 million worth of leases when it owned only $40 million in bloodstock.

The McKathans and Baffert have denied wrongdoing. ClassicStar has so far not offered any public response.

"I think you're seeing the start of a general cleaning up of the industry," Jackson said. "It has to happen if the industry is to be healthy.

"The overall market has had a shock of revelation of misbehavior that everyone has known about but that was tolerated by the culture."

Jackson maintains that short racing fields and a shortage of buyers are partly due to new owners' hesitance to jump into a game they think might be shady. But he also praised recent initiatives like the Sales Integrity Task Force formed in 2004 and the new Kentucky law.

"I think the horse industry has good ethics committees, and it should adopt their rules and enforce them," he said. "The enforcement can be civil, by owners who have been wronged taking action, which is the preferred method. I'm not for government interference, but we need to improve things."