Updated on 09/15/2011 2:24PM

Mares continue to bring big prices

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Joseph DiOrio/Horsephotos
Cee's Song brought $2.6 million Tuesday at the Keeneland November sale. The mare, 15, was sold carrying a full sibling to two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A classic bidding duel Tuesday between Coolmore Stud and Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Godolphin operation resulted in a $3.6 million price tag for champion juvenile filly Phone Chatter, now a 10-year-old broodmare in foal to first-year stallion Dixie Union.

Coolmore principal John Magnier, seated inside the Keeneland sale pavilion, won the skirmish and signed the ticket himself, putting seller Herman Sarkowsky and consigning agent Brookdale Farm at the top of the price list.

Gloomy economic predictions in the United States and military action in Afghanistan didn't dampen the sporting appetites at the second session of Keeneland's November breeding stock sale.

The session sold five horses for $2 million or more in trade that built on Monday's strong upper market. The session sold 179 lots for a gross of $57,168,000, an average of $319,374 and a median of $160,000. Buy-backs were a relatively low 27 percent. Through the first two sessions, the auction had sold 331 lots for $105,903,000, an average of $319,949 and a median of $170,000. The two-day buy-back rate was 32 percent.

Phone Chatter (Phone Trick-Passing My Way, by Pass the Glass), is the dam of Grade 2 winner Cat Chat (Storm Cat) and has two other Storm Cats yet to hit the track - a 2000 filly and a 2001 colt - and her new owners at Coolmore have lifetime breeding rights to that stallion.

The combination of class and potential is exactly what most buyers were looking for, and they were willing to pay when they felt they'd found it.

"There's plenty of money here, for the right horse," observed agent Reynolds Bell, Jr., who earlier had purchased $3 million Dancing Mahmoud, the 11-year-old dam of multiple Grade 2 winner Guided Tour and Tuesday's second-most expensive lot, for Jayeff B Stables. The mare sold in foal to Seeking the Gold from the Eaton Sales agency.

The session's third most expensive lot, $2.6 million Cee's Song - the dam of Tiznow - turned out to be more of a "right horse" than many, including her consignor, expected.

A Seattle Song mare out of Lonely Dancer, by the stallion Nice Dancer, Cee's Song produced two first-class stakes winners in $2.8 million earner Budroyale and Tiznow, 2000's Horse of the Year and the only horse to win two Breeders' Cup Classics. But she also is 15, and only one of her five other Cee's Tizzy foals ever found the winner's circle.

Those disadvantages were substantial in this market, but the mare surprised almost everyone with her enormous price.

"I thought she was cheap at $400,000," said one ringside observer, "but I though she was expensive at $1 million, and then she kept going."

Cee's Song sold without reserve to settle the estate of her late owner and breeder, Cecilia Straub-Rubens, who also owned and bred Tiznow. Michael Cooper, Straub-Rubens's partner in the horses, offered the 15-year-old mare with Straub-Rubens's children, Kevin Cochrane and Pamela Ziebarth.

Cee's Tizzy is not a covering sire you would often find in Keeneland November pedigrees, but it was a clear advantage in the case of this mare.

"I never dreamed she'd bring that. If she'd been in foal to Storm Cat, I would have thought she might bring that much," said consignor Craig Bandoroff. "It was a hard situation for me to evaluate, but the beauty of selling with no reserve is that the evaluation is just a mental exercise."

Gerry Dilger, who owns the successful Dromoland Farm in Lexington, signed the ticket after shaking off tenacious bidding by Aaron U. Jones. It was not immediately clear whether Dilger bought the mare himself or was bidding on behalf of another operation. Dilger, characteristically shy of attention, wasn't talking; he dashed out of the pavilion and disappeared into the barn area after collecting his receipt.

Cee's Song bucked a tough trend, defying buyers' traditional rejection of older mares, especially ones with less than fashionable pedigrees.

"We knew she was going to go very well, because we had so much interest in her," Bandoroff said. "It helped that she looks so great for her age. Everyone commented on that. She's 15, but she looks 10. If you have one that's 15 and looks 19, you're in trouble."

Saoirse brings $2.2 million

Among the last of the seven-figure horses to sell Tuesday was Canada's champion older mare Saoirse, who scored a Barry Bonds-style home run when she brought $2.2 million for her sellers, a partnership headed by David and Ginger Mullins of Lexington's Doninga Farm. The small operation has long been on the sellers' list at Keeneland, but never with a horse like Saoirse in a fertile upper market like this, which enabled them to crack seven figures for the first time. The partnership, which includes Bill Steiden and William Butler, purchased Saoirse privately last year.

Ginger and the couple's 6-year-old son, Chase, were seated in the family's usual seats, just across the aisle from the eventual winning bidder, Bertram Mickel, general manager of Live Oak Stud. Mickel beat out Klaus Jacobs of English-based Newsells Park Stud for Saoirse, who sold in foal to Seeking the Gold. Doninga's motto is "Buy Futures," because the farm specializes in buying young mares and putting them in foal - exactly the kind of operation benefiting at the upper level. "We're purposely trying to find nice young mares," David Mullins said. "It's been lucky for us."

After the gavel fell, young Chase Mullins did what Doninga always does for a mare buyer: He gave the buyer a halter with the unborn foal's pedigree on it, a reminder to Live Oak that it, too, had just bought a future chance at the winner's circle.

Asked whether she had expected the price, Ginger Mullins answered just the way a buyer might.

"She was a beautiful mare," she said. "What's the bonus for love? You like her, you love her, and you have to have her. What's the price for that dream?"