09/19/2005 11:00PM

Little falloff evident in sale's second half

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Hip 384, Storm Cat-Tranquility Lake colt, set the record at the Keeneland September sale.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland September yearling sale rolled through its eighth day of selling Tuesday, so far defying predictions that the market would slip sharply in the auction's second week.

By 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the eighth session had produced a top price of $185,000 for an Orientate colt out of stakes winner Soul Onarazorsedge. Dennis Yokum purchased the colt from Four Star Sales, agent. Yokum represented Mercedes Stables in the purchase.

The two-week sale, which opened Sept. 12 and runs through Sept. 26, produced dramatic gains in its first week. Record prices, including a sale-record $9.7 million Storm Cat-Tranquility Lake colt that Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum bought at the second of two select sessions, contributed enormously to those gains. But few predicted that the lavish expenditures in week one would have much carryover effect in week two, open sessions that often appeal to regional buyers with shallower pockets.

But, at least in the first two days of the second week, prices still were strong and helped push the September sale to a record for gross receipts on Monday, the midpoint for the 14-day auction. By the end of the Monday session, the auction had sold 1,775 yearlings for a record $339,659,000, producing an average price of $191,357 and a $95,000 median. The average and median figures were up 15 and 6 percent, respectively, from last year.

Through Monday, the last session for which final figures were available, 40 yearlings had brought $1 million or more from a range of buyers, including many American-based stables.

All this left many sellers in an unexpectedly optimistic mood. Regional sales - considered the bellwether for Keeneland September's traditionally less-expensive second week - had not fared nearly so well over the summer, prompting pre-sale concern among sellers with late consignments at the auction.

"I fully anticipated an over-supply, particularly in the second half of the sale," said Fred Seitz, owner of Brookdale Farm, a consignor to the September auction. "I don't know that I'm seeing that yet. I hope it stays this strong for everyone."

The general sense among buyers and sellers alike was that the seven-figure bidding wars between Coolmore Stud's principal, John Magnier, and the Maktoum brothers led by Sheikh Mohammed were having a trickle-down effect.

"The Arabs and Coolmore dumping so much money early has made it stronger," said Cecil Seaman, a buying agent. "It's pushed everyone back a day or two in their buying, and the market now is very strong for the majority of horses."

The session-leading Orientate colt was one of 21 yearlings to bring six figures by 4:30 p.m., a sign that even in the middle market, buyers were bidding aggressively for stock. Just where the buyers were getting their confidence in spending for yearlings remained a puzzle for some sellers, but a fortuitous puzzle.

Seitz theorized that contributing factors may have been marketing efforts by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association "and public awareness of the sport that it's fun and a good business, too,"

"People really like putting their money in horses," said buying agent Buzz Chace. "It's a good sign. From the top to the middle to the bottom, it's still tough to buy horses, even today. It just goes right down the line from the select days.

"A lot of buyers have a lot of money to spend now on the third, fourth, and fifth days. That makes it harder for me, because it's tough to buy racehorses. But it's still all good, and I'm tickled to death.

"Now," Chace added, "we've got to raise purses for the people who are spending all this money for horses."