02/17/2006 12:00AM

Lewis a major player at sales

Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bob Lewis was as well known in America's sale pavilions as he was in its racetrack clubhouses. Usually accompanied by advisors D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, and John Moynihan, Lewis and his wife, Beverly, regularly attended yearling and 2-year-old auctions from California to New York. They were annually among top buyers by total expenditures. But the Lewises weren't only buyers. When their champion filly Serena's Song retired and became a broodmare, the Lewises also became very successful sellers.

Lewis bid just $150,000 to acquire Serena's Song at his first auction, the 1993 Keeneland July yearling sale. Selling four of her offspring as yearlings, he grossed $10.7 million. Those yearlings were Serena's Tune, Sophisticat, Harlington, and an unnamed Storm Cat colt. The Storm Cat colt was the most expensive of the four, selling to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum for $3.5 million at last year's Keeneland September sale. They also sold Gone to the Moon, a daughter of their stakes winner Miraloma, for $2.8 million at the 1999 Keeneland July sale.

The Lewises' biggest score as sellers came in 2004, the year they decided to sell 18 broodmares at Keeneland November. The highlight was $4.8 million Santa Catarina, sold in foal to A.P. Indy to an anonymous partnership.

The seller was Craig Bandoroff, whose Denali Stud, along with Taylor Made, was a regular boarding farm and consigning agent for the Lewises.

"We've been blessed with a lot of good clients who have given us a lot of nice horses," said Bandoroff. "But Mr. Lewis gave them to us in quantity. The impact he had on us was huge. He gave us a lot of top-of-the-market horses. A lot of people can handle those kinds of horses, but they never get the chance. He gave us the chance."

The Lewises spent relatively little for some of their most successful runners. Silver Charm cost $100,000 as a juvenile; sprint champion Orientate cost $250,000 as a yearling; and Miraloma was a $335,000 yearling. All of those returned handsome profits to the Lewises. Some of the Lewises' more recent purchases were considerably more expensive, but they also paid off with success. Lewis bid $575,000 for Belmont Stakes winner Commendable, $1.25 million for Grade 1 winner Consolidator, and $950,000 for Santa Catarina as yearlings. Last year, Lewis paid $2.7 million for a Mr. Greeley-Silvery Swan yearling filly, $1.9 million for juvenile What a Song, and $1 million for a Forest Camp-Taegu yearling colt.

The competitive auction world seemed to exhilarate Lewis, and he admitted he found it hard to stay away. Several times he announced he would skip yearling sales, saying he had plenty of stock. Each time he returned, spending lavishly. In 2005, he insisted he would only shop at juvenile sales, only to show up at Keeneland's September sale, where he was the auction's fifth-leading buyer, with 15 yearlings worth $10,585,000 on his account.

"These sales can be infectious," Lewis once said. "You see a magnificent animal, and the trainer is all excited about buying it, and you get caught up in it."