01/09/2008 12:00AM

Keeneland sale declines on Day 3

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - One day after ringing up substantial gains and three million-dollar mares, Keeneland's January all-ages sale hit the brakes Wednesday. The third of seven sessions posted double-digit declines across the board in the absence of any seven-figure horses.

The session-leading mare, $330,000 Royal Alchemist, provided a reunion of sorts. Buying agent Richard Galpin of Newmarket International was familiar with the 6-year-old stakes winner because he had bought her privately once before. That was in summer 2006, when the owners of English champion David Junior needed a rabbit for the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. Royal Alchemist proved a successful rabbit, setting a strong pace that allowed David Junior to settle early and then sweep home for the Group 1 win.

"The thing I liked most about her was that she was able to lead the best horses in the world as a lead horse and still be brave enough to keep doing it," Galpin recalled. "Sometimes a lead horse will throw it in, but she never did."

David Junior's owners eventually sold Royal Alchemist to Godolphin, and Godolphin sold the Kingsinger mare Wednesday through the Bluewater Sales agency.

Seated with Galpin during the bidding was Royal Alchemist's former exercise rider, Richard Normington, another fan of the bay mare that he called "a Cadillac" to gallop.

Galpin would not disclose his client in the purchase but said Royal Alchemist would be shipped to "one of the loveliest farms in Ireland" to be bred.

Overall, the Wednesday session sold 233 horses for a combined $7,772,400, down 20 percent from Day 3 last year. The average price of $33,358 was off 12 percent, and the $20,000 median was down 13 percent. The buy-back rate rose from 19 percent to 23 percent.

The sale was to continue through Jan. 13, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m. daily.

Courtney sells final horse

Wednesday's session also marked the end of an era when Hip No. 958, a chestnut Maria's Mon filly, went through the ring. That was the last horse consigned by Robert Courtney's Crestfield Farm, a fixture at central Kentucky sales for five decades. Courtney, 86, bought his first mare in 1941.

Before bidding opened on Hip No. 958, a daughter of the Mt. Livermore mare Endless Sea, those in the sale pavilion gave Courtney a hearty round of applause.

After the filly sold for $29,000, Courtney left the pavilion surrounded by family members, including sons Robert Jr., who will continue to sell horses either under the Crestfield banner or his own name, and Tom, who manages the family's Crestfield Trust.

"Hard," was how the senior Courtney described his departure from selling.

"I've done all I can do," he said, his voice cracking with emotion. "I've been at it a long time, but I'm tired, and it's time to go."

Courtney said his wife, Evelyn, was at the family's farm near Lexington, showing it to potential buyers. The couple has purchased a condominium in Lexington for their retirement years.

First Samurai has top average so far

Through the first two days of Keeneland's January sale, freshman First Samurai was tops among covering sires, with three or more mares sold, according to SireAverages.com. The Claiborne Farm stallion was represented by three in-foal mares in the ring on Monday and Tuesday, and they sold for an average of $346,667 and a median of $260,000.

Rounding out the list of top 10 covering sires by average, with three or more mares sold, were Smart Strike, with four sold for a $277,500 average and a $280,000 median; Johannesburg, with three sold for a $273,333 average and a $285,000 median; Empire Maker, with six sold for a $255,833 average and a $180,000 median; Bluegrass Cat, with eight sold for a $218,750 average and a $237,500 median; Street Cry, with five sold for a $217,000 average and a $250,000 median; Speightstown, six sold for a $199,500 average and $117,500 median; Malibu Moon, three sold for a $154,000 average and $115,000 median; Officer, three sold for a $152,333 average and a $92,000 median; and Henny Hughes, five sold for a $145,000 average and a $150,000 median.

If one includes sires with fewer than three sold, First Samurai drops to seventh, and Ghostzapper, with one mare sold for $2.7 million, rises to the top. The top 10 covering sires with one or more sold rounds out with second-ranked Storm Cat, one sold for $1.9 million; Distorted Humor, one sold for $1.5 million; Bernardini, one sold for $525,000; Unbridled's Song, one sold for $475,000; Giant's Causeway, one sold for $350,000; First Samurai; Smart Strike; Johannesburg; and Empire Maker.

Albert the Great moves to Pennsylvania

Three Chimneys announced Wednesday that Grade 1 winner Albert the Great has relocated to Pin Oak Lane Farm in New Freedom, Pa., for 2008.

Albert the Great, sire of Grade 1 winner Nobiz Like Shobiz, will stand for $4,000.

Albert the Great is an 11-year-old Go for Gin horse who won the 2000 Jockey Club Gold Cup and four other graded stakes for earnings of more than $3 million. He is currently Kentucky's 10th-ranked third-crop sire.

Sunriver sold to syndicate

In other stallion news, Aaron and Marie Jones have sold their Grade 1-winning Saint Ballado colt Sunriver to a syndicate led by Jeffrey Tucker. He will stand at Empire Stud in Hudson, N.Y., in 2008 for a $15,000 fee.

Sunriver is a full brother to champion Ashado. The 5-year-old retires from racing with a lifetime record of 6 wins from 17 starts and earnings of $816,414. His three stakes victories include the 2007 Hollywood Turf Cup, and he placed in three other Grade 1 events during his career.