Updated on 09/15/2011 1:02PM

Maria's Mon colt tops Day Four

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - A $575,000 Maria's Mon colt was the day's top price Friday as Keeneland's September yearling sale continued the fourth of its 13 sessions with sharp declines in average and gross.

Consignors had feared that the auction's later days would begin to show the effects of current economic uncertainty, and the Friday session brought some of those worries home. As compared to its equivalent session last year, average price on Friday plummeted 11 percent to $93,038, while gross dropped 14 percent to $23,445,500 for 252 yearlings. Last year's fourth session sold 261 lots.

In the only bright note, median rose 8 percent, from $60,000 at last year's fourth session to $65,000 this year.

Friday's session-topper was a son of the Black Tie Affair (Ire) mare Madeira M'dear. Paul Robsham purchased the session-topper from Blackburn Farm (Michael T. Barnett), agent.

On Thursday, the auction's third day but its first non-select session, average price jumped 21 percent to $140,896, while median rose 18 percent to $100,000. The session sold 264 yearlings for total revenue of $37,196,500. Buybacks at the session were 27 percent, well below rates seen at most yearling auctions this summer.

Three $1 million-plus horses went through the ring Thursday, bringing the total number of millionaire yearlings to 18. Thursday's session-topper was a $1.5 million Woodman colt out of Jewell Ridge (Melyno [Ire]). Jewell Ridge also is the dam of Jewel Princess and stakes-winner Topaz Runner. Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent, sold the session-topper, and Coolmore employee Aisling Cross signed the ticket.

The Tuesday session was cancelled after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. The sale resumed on Wednesday, selling a $6.4 million Storm Cat colt to Demi O'Byrne, agent for Michael Tabor and Coolmore Stud's John Magnier. That colt, the probable sale-topper, is out of Halory (Halo) and is a half-brother to four graded stakes-winners: Grade 2 winner Halory Hunter and Grade 3 winters Prory, Key Lory, and Brushed Halory. Lane's End, agent, sold the colt on behalf of Robert and Janice McNair's Stonerside Stables.

The sales activity had returned to normal by Thursday afternoon, but on Friday barn activity was slower, raising concerns among sellers that the continuing airline disruptions had prevented some non-select yearling buyers from reaching the sale grounds.

Survey on MRLS released

Recent surveys of 133 central Kentucky farms affected by mare reproductive loss syndrome suggest an association between several factors, including high concentrations of caterpillars and of cherry trees, and the incidence of MRLS on farms, according to the University of Kentucky, which conducted the surveys. UK researchers have been leading proponents of the theory that caterpillars, which eat cherry leaves, played a critical role in delivering cherry-produced cyanide to pregnant mares, causing them to abort more than 1,000 fetuses this spring. According to a release Friday, surveys also found that a February 2001 breeding date also was associated with a high incidence of MRLS. Two factors - low incidence of caterpillars and feeding of hay to mares in pastures - were associated with a low occurrence of MRLS.

UK's College of Agriculture and several local breeders' and veterinary groups are working to develop recommendations and an emergency management plan for farm managers to predict, forestall, and manage future problems with MRLS.