07/17/2007 12:00AM

Malibu Moon colt brings $450K

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The father-daughter stable of Mace and Samantha Siegel, outbid on Monday for that day's top-priced yearling, staged a last-second swoop on Tuesday to get the sale-topper at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's July yearling auction.

Their Jay Em Ess Stable paid $450,000 for Hip No. 450, Clarkland Farm's bay Malibu Moon-Royal Veagess colt, who hails from the family of Grade 1 winner Sugar Shake. That was the second and final session's highest price. It was a good bit more than Samantha Siegel had been prepared to pay on Monday, when she was underbidder for the $350,000 Lion Heart colt that topped the session on Danny Dion's bid. This time, Siegel let Jack and Laurie Wolf's Starlight Stable slug it out with pinhooker Maurice Miller III in the pavilion's balcony, then made the winning bid from the ground floor just before the hammer fell.

"I love Malibu Moon, and we've had a little success with him," said Siegel, "and we've had some success buying from Clarkland Farm."

Jay Em Ess raced Malibu Moon's champion son Declan's Moon, and the stable's current Grade 2 winner Arson Squad is a graduate of Clarkland Farm's sales program. Her interest in Hip No. 450 was logical.

"I thought he'd be hard to buy," she said. "Good horses are expensive. But you have to take a shot every once in a while."

Murray Smith, one of the more successful yearling-to-juvenile resellers in the last decade, took a big shot earlier in the day when she purchased a $385,000 Pulpit filly, the highest-priced filly at 6 p.m. Many of Smith's colleagues were keeping a tight rein on their yearling spending at this auction, having endured a dip in the juvenile sales' fortunes this spring. But Smith bought eight yearlings for $1.16 million, led by the Pulpit filly, who is out of Probable Storm, by Tabasco Cat. Consigned by Nursery Place, the filly got a nice pedigree update just before the sale when her half-brother Cajun Conquest won the Seeking the Gold Stakes.

"This filly is something special," Smith said. "I swung big. That's the most I've ever paid for a yearling, especially a filly. But it's the best pedigree I've ever bought."

Smith said her close friend Meg Levy, of Bluewater Sales, had encouraged her to buy a well-bred filly as a resale, or pinhooking, prospect.

"It's the thing the 2-year-old market lacks," Smith said.

Other high prices at the Tuesday session included the sale's only Gone West yearling, a filly that sold for $360,000 to Stonestreet Stables. Millennium Farms Kentucky, agent, consigned the bay daughter of the unraced Allison P., an Unbridled mare. Also selling above $300,000 were Hip No. 361, an Indian Charlie-Lady Doms Tiara colt, who went to Mort and Bobbi Topfer's Castletop Stable from consignor Paramount Sales, agent; Hip No. 456, a More Than Ready-Secretly colt that J.J. Pletcher, agent, bought from Rhineland Farm, agent; and Hip No. 482, a Malibu Moon-Try Your Best filly that Zayat Stables purchased from White Oaks (The Acorn, agent).

The two-day auction sold 354 horses for $36,441,000, up 2 percent from last season, when 307 horses sold. The average price declined 11 percent, dropping from $115,954 to $102,941, and the median also slipped 11 percent, falling from $90,000 to $80,000. The buyback rate increased from 25 percent in 2006 to 32 percent in 2007.

Tuesday's session followed an opening session that saw declines from last year's record-setting auction. Monday's opener sold 177 horses for $15,811,000, down 6 percent from last year, when 154 horses sold. The average price for the session fell 18 percent, from $108,610 to $89,328. Median price, however, stayed the same at $75,000. The buy-back rate was 34 percent, up from 27 percent.

At this year's opener, Fasig-Tipton chief operating officer Boyd Browning hastened to point out, the New Sire Showcase featuring unproven stallions had taken up the entire session. Last year, the opening day had included both a New Sire Showcase and the beginning of the sale's all-sires portion, a factor Browning believed added strength to the 2006 auction.

The New Sire Showcase continued through Hip No. 326 on Tuesday. That portion of the sale grossed $17,575,000 for 196 yearlings, up 25 percent from last year's total for 135 horses. Its average was down 14 percent to $89,668, and the median remained level at $75,000.

"Overall, I feel good, and there's a little sense of relief," Browning said of the opening-day figures. "I don't think we'll see a dramatic increase in the market. There's probably a little more supply in the yearling market this year and demand is probably similar to last year, so it's spreading similar money over more horses. But the good news is that there hasn't been a real shift in the market. There are multiple buyers for your nice horse, and it's still tough to sell a horse that doesn't jump through all the hoops on conformation."

The $450,000 Malibu Moon colt had little trouble jumping through the hoops, his consignors said.

"The colt came out bigger than you would have thought," said Fred Mitchell, who operates Clarkland with his wife, Nancy, and stepdaughter, Martha Buckner. "More of the A.P. Indy line came out in this horse."

Mitchell credited his wife and Buckner with selecting Malibu Moon, then standing for $30,000, for Royal Veagess.

"He is a gorgeous horse, and the mare is gorgeous," Mitchell said. "When you mate two horses like that who are beautiful and without any real flaws, this is what you're hoping to get. Coming to the sale, we thought we had a really nice individual, and that was a big return on the stud fee."

The price may turn out to be a bargain if the Malibu Moon colt runs well for Siegel and her father.

"I wish he hadn't brought the same amount as his hip number," Samantha Siegel joked after the sale, adding, "He was a gotta-have."