11/07/2003 12:00AM

Long wait worthwhile for Hill 'n' Dale

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's November breeding stock sale entered its fifth session Friday off a strong bull market that appeared to be carrying over into the middle market, just as sellers and sales company officials had hoped.

At 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday, the day's top price was $400,000 for the Gone West broodmare West Is West. Copperhead Stable bought the 5-year-old mare, in foal to Mt. Livermore, from Robert Courtney's Crestfield Farm, agent.

Thursday's session-topper, the broodmare Limelighter in foal to Silver Charm, went for $650,000. Buyer John Sikura, who owns Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington, had to wait to acquire the mare, as she was among the day's last 10 horses to go through the ring. Denali Stud, agent, sold Limelighter. The mare is by Seeking the Gold out of stakes winner Miraloma, who is herself a daughter of the blue hen Stick to Beauty.

Thursday's session posted massive gains from last year's sale, despite selling an almost identical number of horses. The fourth session this year sold 248 lots for $20,863,000, up 31 percent from last year, when 253 sold. The session average jumped 33 percent to $84,125, and median shot up by 44 percent to $65,000.

Online trading company opens Dec. 1

EquineCommerce.com, the online trading company whose establishment was announced in late October, will open trading on Dec. 1. EquineCommerce.com's chief executive officer, Barry Weisbord, provided new details about the company's structure and plans Friday at a press conference in Lexington.

Weisbord said the company will offer a weekly "bid/ask" listing service for the private Thoroughbred sale market and will trade in a wide variety of equine interests, from stallion seasons to in-utero foals to racing stock.

EquineCommerce.com has based its structure on the stock-exchange model and will invite 50 Thoroughbred market participants, either individuals or entities, to join its member-only trading group. Anyone wishing to list or make an offer on a horse through EquineCommerce.com must then do so through one of the members.

Weisbord said 20 invitations already have been sent to Lexington-area bloodstock market participants, but the membership will include individuals and entities from around the world. The company will make its membership public before Dec. 1.

To qualify for membership, an invitee must have a net worth of more than $500,000 and have been "primarily engaged" in the bloodstock sales market, either for himself or as agent, in the last five years. Members will pay a $9,000 annual fee as an advance on all listing fees and trading commissions. In addition, members must put up a one-time $50,000 deposit to be held in escrow and used if the member is found to have obligations or penalties under the company's rules and regulations. Members violating the company's rules will be subject to review and penalties, including possible banning, by an advisory committee made up of other members, Weisbord said.

The company will receive sale posts, called "ask listings," on Monday each week and make them available on its site from 9 a.m. Tuesday until 4 p.m. Wednesday. "Bid listings," or irrevocable offers to purchase, will be submitted on Tuesday and remain in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 4 p.m. Thursday.

Members will pay $40 to list an offering, and the buyer and seller in each successful transaction will pay EquineCommerce.com 1 percent commission. Member agents may also charge commissions. The commission rate is up to the agent but must be disclosed to parties involved in the transaction when the deal is completed.

That transparency, Weisbord said, makes EquineCommerce.com unique in the private Thoroughbred market.

EquineCommerce.com's shareholders are Coolmore America (Ashford Stud), Eaton Sales, the Keeneland Association, Lane's End, Taylor Made Farm, Three Chimneys Farm, Vinery, and Weisbord's publication, the Thoroughbred Daily News.

Fee set for Cactus Ridge

Cactus Ridge, unbeaten in four starts including the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity this year, will stand for $6,500 in 2004, his first year at stud. He will stand at Walmac International in Lexington.

Two-year-old Cactus Ridge was retired in October after injuring his right knee in a workout for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He is a son of Hennessy and the Grade 1-placed Lycius mare Double Park. Cactus Ridge is the first stakes winner for his dam. A homebred campaigned by country music singer Toby Keith, Cactus Ridge won all four of his starts, three of them stakes, and retired with earnings of $187,850.

Idle Hour Farm diversifies

Commercial breeder Idle Hour Farm in Paris, Ky., is now offering 60- to 90-day early training programs for young horses.

"We've always broken some horses and done early-education work," said David Hager, the farm's owner. "There's a niche market for that, breaking horses, teaching them how to change leads, how to grab the bit and go forward with a rider. We always did that for ourselves and for a client or two, but now we're building on that."

Smaller breeding operations can add stability to their seasonal incomes by diversifying, as Hager pointed out. "When the yearlings are gone after the sales, there's a down time while you wait for breeding season to start," Hager said. "This gives us a chance to keep our staff on and keep them busy."

Having a diverse client base can also help. Hager said that Idle Hour has facilities to break 30 to 50 horses a season and already is working with clients from England, Japan, and America.

* The Distinctive Pro mare Distinct Habit was sold to Discovery Bloodstock for $80,000 to top Adena Springs's annual bloodstock auction at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Thursday night. Distinct Habit, dam of stakes winner Mr. Routine, sold in foal to Touch Gold. The single-session offering sold 61 lots for $1,364,900, yielding an average price of $22,375 and a $13,000 median.