09/13/2002 11:00PM

Keeneland declines slow down

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Thursday's fourth session of the Keeneland September yearling sale rang up a $1.1 million lot and saw a slowdown in market declines.

The session-topper was a $1.1 million Hennessy colt sold by the FitzGerald/Keogh agency. Demi O'Byrne won a three-way bidding war that also included J. B. McKathan and Dr. Robert McMartin bidding for Eugene Melnyk. The colt is out of the unraced Alydar mare Altair.

The seven-figure yearling was the pinnacle of a strong day's selling. By the end of the session, Keeneland had sold 244 yearlings for a total of $22,330,500, down 5 percent from last year's equivalent session. The average price dropped just 2 percent to $91,518. The median fell the most, sliding 10 percent to $65,000. But after declines of more than 20 percent across the board during the 12-day auction's opening pair of select sessions, the open-session lots appeared to be in demand with buyers on a budget.

Through Thursday, the auction had sold 879 lots for $150,044,000, down 24 percent from last year, when 869 yearlings sold. The four-day average was down 25 percent to $170,699, and the overall median was off by 16 percent at $105,000.

The auction took a day off on Friday and was to resume Saturday, with selling continuing through Sept. 21.