07/17/2002 12:00AM

Keeneland sale rebounds on Tuesday


LEXINGTON, Ky. - After a difficult opening session Monday that saw precipitous declines across the board, the Keeneland July select yearling sale rebounded in its final session Tuesday night but still suffered massive declines overall.

Topped by a $3.1 million Storm Cat-Tacha (Mr. Prospector) colt that Coolmore purchased form Taylor Made, agent, and a $2.8 million Storm Cat--Amelia Bearheart filly Eugene Melnyk bought from Doninga, agent, the second session sold seven seven-figure lots and grossed $26,645,000 for 46 horses sold; average price was $579,239. Those figures were up dramatically from the Monday's opener, which sold 41 lots for $15,740,000 and an average price of $383,902. But it was not enough to save the sale's totals from sharp declines.

All told, the 2002 auction sold 87 lots for gross receipts of $42,385,000, down 33 percent from last year, when 89 yearlings sold for $63,212,000. Average sank 31 percent to $487,184 from last year's record of $710,247, and median dropped 30 percent to $300,000. The overall buyback rate for the 2002 auction was a high 40 percent as buyers dismissed horse after horse in the auction ring.

The sale throughout was plagued by withdrawals as consignors, scared by the lack of pre-sale vetting that indicate serious buyer interest, opted not to run unpopular horses through the ring. Among the withdrawals on Tuesday were six Lane's End horses, the farm's entire Tuesday contingent. Keeneland received written notice from Lane's End's Bill Farish Tuesday afternoon that the farm would withdraw its remaining lots; Farish was not available for comment regarding the decision.

Lane's End sold Monday night's only million-dollar horses, a $2 million Belong to Me--Tomisue's Delight filly that John Ferguson bought and a $1,350,000 Gone West--Primedex filly bought by Bob and Beverly Lewis and Overbrook Farm.

Lane's End had returned to the July sale after two years of dominating the Keeneland September auction. The farm was Monday's leading seller with three sold for $3,825,000.

"We thought tonight would be stronger," said Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell. "We're relieved we were right, but overall I'd characterize the sale as a disappointment and a surprise."