09/11/2005 11:00PM

Keeneland sale takes off with a bang


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The epic two-week Keeneland September yearling sale took off with a bang on Monday, starting its long run with a $3.5 million session-topper, a record 21 yearlings selling for $1 million or more, and gains across the board.

Three Maktoum brothers-Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Maktoum, and Sheikh Hamdan-were the most active buyers, spending in excess of $20 million to stock their racing stables. Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum bought three yearlings for $3 million or more, including the session-topping Storm Cat colt out of champion Serena's Song, which Bob and Beverly Lewis consigned through Denali Stud's agency. Sheikh Mohammed also purchased a $3.4 million A. P. Indy colt out of Grade 2 winner Sahara Gold that Stonerside (Lane's End, agent) offered; and a $3 million Storm Cat colt out of champion Ajina that Taylor Made, agent, consigned.

The opening session sold 188 lots for a total of $88,712,000, up 40 percent from last year's opener, when 170 yearlings sold. The opening-day average climbed 27 percent, from last year's $371,676 to $471,872. Median increased 14 percent, rising from $262,500 to $300,000. And the buyback rate remained moderate at 25 percent.

The sale, which offers a record catalog of 5,110 yearlings this season, was to continue through Sept. 26. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m., except on the Sept. 16 dark day, at Keeneland's sale pavilion in Lexington.