01/13/2006 1:00AM

Keeneland sale on record pace


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's seven-day January all-ages sale is hurtling toward a record conclusion and picked up more steam at the top of the market Friday, its fifth day of selling.

As of 5 p.m., the day's top seller was the $600,000 broodmare prospect Secret Forest, purchased by Robert Courtney Sr. The Taylor Made agency sold the 5-year-old Forestry mare, who was 3 of 12 in her career with earnings of $134,905. She is out of the Upper Nile mare Half Secret and is thus a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Top Secret, graded performer Tate, stakes winner West's Secret, and Bigger Half, the dam of three stakes performers, including Grade 3 winner Megascape.

Taylor Made also sold a $575,000 racing or broodmare prospect, Divine Lady, at the session. Blackjack Stables bought Divine Lady, a 5-year-old Kris S. mare who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Bandini and hails from the family of sire Stormy Atlantic.

With such hot prices for broodmare prospects and young producers driving the top of the market, the Keeneland January auction appears likely to set sale records this season. It already has a sale-record gross in hand. Through Wednesday, gross sales stood at $62,641,400, easily surpassing last year's six-day revenue total of $53,418,000.

"There's a huge premium for broodmare prospects," said Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell. "I think that shows there's a lot of confidence in the future of our industry. People aren't just looking at the current conditions; they're buying for what they think conditions will be two, three, and four years down the road.

"I think the dynamic of the January sale has changed," Russell said. "Before, it was an afterthought of the November sale, but now it's found its own niche."

It has found that niche with significant help from the Emerging Markets Program, a local initiative carried out by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Chauncey Morris and local sales company officials. The program has recruited buyers from overseas, most notably from Asia and South America, to purchase horses at various market levels. Morris and Keeneland's assistant sales director, Tom Thornbury, have traveled to promote the sales, and they are seeing their efforts pay off now on a January buyers' list that is increasingly international.

"Before, this was a local, domestic sale," Russell said. "But now it's international. It's just like the November sale never ended."

The sale was to continue through Sunday at the Keeneland sale pavilion. Sessions begin at 10 a.m.

Bill would end horse sales tax

Auctions like Keeneland January could benefit from a proposal put forward this week in the state legislature by Representatives Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) and Royce Adams (D-Dry Ridge). The bill calls for the elimination of a 6-percent tax on horse sales, including claims at the racetrack.

This proposal would not affect the current 6-percent tax on stud fees, which funds Kentucky's new breeder awards program.

Russell generally welcomed the idea, saying, "I think it should stimulate participation in the market. Less tax is good for this market."

David Switzer, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, also applauded the proposal but noted that its chances for passage were "uphill" in Kentucky's current economic climate. State legislators are under pressure to overhaul Kentucky's Medicaid program and provide funds for prisons, state employees' health insurance, and the higher education system. The state's post-secondary education system alone has said it needs $193 million to carry out legislature-mandated reforms by the target year of 2020.

"But we've found that if you keep these bills out in front of the legislature, eventually the climate gets to where the legislature will be able to pass them," said Switzer.

The KTA/KTOB successfully lobbied several years ago to eliminate a tax on water used for equine activities. Now a new bill, HB 263, which is also sponsored by Westrom and Adams, calls for dropping the sales and use tax on watering systems, feed, seed, straw and bedding, horse dewormer, fly spray, and similar products regularly used on horse farms.

CBA elects board of directors

The membership of the new Consignors and Commercial Breeders Association has elected the organization's first board of directors. The 13-member board consists of seven members from the nation's top 20 consignors by annual gross sales, three from smaller consignors outside of the top 20 by gross, and three commercial breeders.

Elected to the board were Rick Abbott (Charlton Bloodstock), Kerry Cauthen (Four Star Sales), Mike Cline (Lane's End), Pat Costello (Paramount Sals), Robbie Lyons (Hartwell Farm), Ben McElroy (Vinery), Peter O'Callaghan (Woods Edge Farm), Dermot Ryan (Ashford Stud), Joe Seitz (Brookdale Farm), Mark Taylor (Taylor Made Farm), Tom Van Meter (Eaton Sales), Rob Whiteley (Liberation Farm), and Bayne Welker (Mill Ridge Farm).