Updated on 09/15/2011 12:36PM

Last time around for Mr. P's

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Perhaps the most notable aspect of the 2001 Keeneland July selected yearling sale, which runs Monday and Tuesday in Lexington, is the debut of the final crop of yearlings from the late and legendary Mr. Prospector.

This will be the smallest sale in the July auction's 57-year history, with 144 yearlings, and seven of those are by the renowned Mr. P, who died in 1999 at 29. Mr. Prospector covered 47 mares that year, and some of the resulting foals will pass through the world's best auction houses this summer. In addition to the seven at Keeneland July, a single Mr. Prospector colt is cataloged for Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga auction next month (Hip No. 215, out of the Storm Bird mare Stone Flower). And, although the catalog is not out yet, Keeneland's burgeoning September market is likely to feature some others.

These rare commodities sell first at the Keeneland July auction, where the stallion has had much success. Last year's sale-topper, and the auction's second-highest price ever for a filly, was a $3.6 million Mr. Prospector-Molly Girl filly. That year, seven Mr. Prospector yearlings averaged $1,477,143 at the July sale. In fact, the stallion has been the highest-averaging sire six times at Keeneland July.

This year, the Mr. Prospectors are Hip No. 25, a colt out of stakes-winner Sunlit Silence; Hip No. 37, a filly out of the Nureyev mare Agami; Hip No. 46, a filly out of Grade 1 winner Classy Mirage; Hip No. 85, a half-brother to Grade 1 performers Tap to Music and Northern Afleet; Hip No. 108, a half-brother to multiple graded stakes-winner Rob 'n Gin; Hip No. 130, a filly out of Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Desert Stormer; and Hip No. 144, a colt out of stakes-placed Geisha Girl.

Their cachet is especially welcome this year, when the sale's pedigrees are relatively weak and a slower economy has raised the specter of a possible downturn.

Last year, 130 lots sold for $80,732,000, up 5 percent, and the average price passed the $600,000 mark for the first time, topping out at $621,015 (up 7 percent). Can the sale can pull it off again? Some buyers have expressed disappointment in the mares represented this year, complaining there are fewer Grade 1 winners and Grade 1 producers than they would like to see at the auction. But there is plenty of traditional sire power, including six Storm Cats, a pair of Danzigs, five Seeking the Golds, nine Unbridleds, seven Deputy Ministers, and 11 A.P. Indys.

The 2001 catalog initially had 164 yearlings, but 20 of those were declared out as of Friday, and the total fell to 144. That is well below the previous record low of 208 cataloged last year and reflects a five-year trend. In 1997, some 260 horses filled the book, but that number has dropped steadily ever since. One reason for the trend is the growing popularity of Keeneland's September sale, which attracts a large crowd of buyers and allows extra time for sale yearlings to develop.

Many sellers and buyers already are anticipating the fall auction, which last year provided the yearling sale season's highest prices, headed by a $6.8 million Storm Cat-Hum Along colt. That lot came from Will Farish's Lane's End consignment, whose defection from the July sale for the first time last year - and his subsequent success in September - may have inspired more consignors to wait for fall.

Farish's initial September offering last year sold 46 yearlings in two days for $45,697,000, crushing the late Warner Jones Jr.'s July 1985 consignor record of $19,470,000.

Still, the July market remains a boutique auction, and people with the wherewithal to spend millions of dollars on a racing prospect may be less concerned with economic dips than middle-market buyers.

Catalog pages are available at