09/13/2007 11:00PM

Keeneland gross, average down for week

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - The two-week Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington, Ky., ended its first week Thursday night with mixed results that reflected decreased expenditures by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum and his rivals at Coolmore Stud but showed signs of health for middle-market sellers.

At the end of selling on Thursday, the fourth session, the auction had sold 854 yearlings for $243,290,500, down 11 percent from the same point last year. The average price of $284,883 had dropped 10 percent, but the median rose sharply, 8 percent to reach $200,000 - a key positive.

"The median shows the money has been spread around more," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "That makes consignors happy."

The four-day buyback rate rose, but not steeply, climbing from 26 percent last season to 27 percent.

The session-topper on Thursday was Hip No. 1001, a $750,000 El Prado colt out of Grade 1 winner Favorite Funtime. English bloodstock agent Charlie Gordon-Watson signed for the colt but declined to identify his client, saying only that the horse would be sent to Europe for his racing career. The bay colt was part of a major bloodstock reduction by the Mabee family's California nursery, Golden Eagle Farm. Mill Ridge Sales consigned him on behalf of Golden Eagle.

The Thursday session was the second open session, following two select sessions that saw marked declines as perennial competitors Skeikh Maktoum and John Magnier of Coolmore avoided clashing in the auction ring. Magnier, unchallenged by Maktoum, purchased the sale-leading $3.7 million Unbridled's Song-Secret Status colt from Lane's End, but the price was a far cry from the $11.7 million Maktoum spent to acquire the 2006 sale-topper, Meydan City, after outdueling Magnier.

By Thursday, the open sessions had proved strong enough to offset some of the auction's select-session losses, suggesting that below the Maktoum-Magnier stratosphere the market for Thoroughbred yearlings remained robust.

The Thursday session sold 257 yearlings for $45,078,500, up 8 percent from the equivalent session last year, while average price rose 15 percent to $175,403 and median leaped 25 percent to $150,000. But the buyback rate also jumped, from 25 percent in 2006 to 29 percent this season.

In addition to the session-topping El Prado colt, the day also saw a pair of $700,000 yearlings. They were Hip No. 939, a Dynaformer-Catumbella colt that Centennial Farms bought from Mill Ridge, agent, and Hip No. 1195, a Hennessy-Sacred Promise colt that Coolmore agent Demi O'Byrne purchased from Eaton Sales, agent.

The auction, which features a record catlog of 5,553 horses this year, will be dark on Friday. It reopens on Saturday and continues through Sept. 25 at the Keeneland sale pavilion. Sessions begin each day at 10 a.m.