09/15/2008 11:00PM

Market adjusts with the times

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - One day after the U.S. stock market had its worst tumble since 2001, Keeneland's September yearling market continued Tuesday with signs that Thoroughbred investors were seeking quality, very selectively.

Competition was still fairly vibrant for a handful of yearlings perceived to be the best of the session. At 5:30 p.m., the top price was the $230,000 that Ken and Sarah Ramsey paid for an Empire Maker-Changing World filly that Mr. and Mrs. Samuel H. Rogers Jr.'s White Oaks operation sold through consignor The Acorn. The filly is the first foal for her dam, a Grade 3 winner.

On Monday, when stock markets began their steep slides in Europe and the United States, Day 7 of the two-week auction continued its own trend of declines. The Monday session grossed $18,864,700 for 284 yearlings, a drop of 8 percent from last year's equivalent session, which sold 288 horses. The $66,425 average price was down 7 percent, and the median plummeted 9 percent to $50,000 on Monday.

Through Monday's seventh session, the halfway mark for the auction, the 2008 sale was well down from its 2007 figures. The cumulative gross and average were both off 13 percent from last year, and the median was down 17 percent. The auction's first seven sessions had sold 1,697 yearlings for $281,336,900, as compared with the 2007 total of $324,091,200 for the same number of horses. Monday's seven-day average was $165,785 and seven-day median was $100,000.

Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, was cool-headed in the face of his own market's losses.

"In the market generally, especially in the first week, we have seen a return to reality, a return to sanity," he said. "Horses are bringing what they are worth, and I hope that will open doors to people who have been sitting on the sidelines, who were afraid to get in the market because they thought they would be blown out by some of the major buying forces."

The stock market turmoil immediately might have impeded those buyers operating on thin margin or facing immediate financial uncertainty because of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the perilous state of insurer American International Group, for example. But an oversupply of commercial Thoroughbreds and worries over longer-term economic woes in the United States, Europe, and Japan remained the larger concerns.

"I don't know if it will have a direct effect today or the rest of this sale," Russell said Tuesday afternoon of the international stock slides. "But I think it will have an major effect on the Thoroughbred industry overall. You can't have major investment banks and financial institutions going bust without an effect."

For the time being, though, buyers from regions in relatively good economic shape - such as Scandinavia and Latin America - were still signing tickets for yearlings.

The record 5,555-horse auction was to continue through Sept. 23.

Australian magnate tones it down

Nathan Tinkler, the Australian mining magnate who bid millions for horses in Australia, Japan, and France earlier this year, has adopted a more conservative stance on his buying debut at Keeneland. Tinkler looked likely to make splashy purchases at Monday and Tuesday's select sessions, but instead he kept his bidding hand down until the open sessions.

Represented by Keeneland's Australian representative Vin Cox, Tinkler had purchased six horses by late Tuesday afternoon. Their total cost was $845,000. The most expensive was a $475,000 Smart Strike colt out of the Australian-bred mare Lan Kwai Fong. Peter O'Callaghan's Woods Edge Farm consigned the colt, whose dam is Group 1-placed and a Group 3 winner in Australia, where Tinkler's Patinack Farm is based.

Three new stallions at Spendthrift

B. Wayne Hughes's Spendthrift Farm will introduce three new stallions for the 2009 breeding season: Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, multiple graded stakes winner Notional, and Grade 2 winner Tiz Wonderful.

The farm will announce fees later.

Into Mischief won the 2007 CashCall Futurity, beating a field that included such runners as Colonel John and Monba. He finished second in two other graded events, the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes and the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes. Spendthrift owner B. Wayne Hughes owns the 3-year-old Harlan's Holiday colt and will keep him in training with Richard Mandella through the end of the season before retiring him to the Lexington farm. Into Mischief is a son of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady.

Notional, a 4-year-old son of In Excess and the French Deputy mare Truly Blessed, won the Grade 3 Salvator Mile this year and the Grade 2 San Rafael and Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes last season. He retired this year with a record of 4 wins from 12 starts and $733,240 in earnings.

Tiz Wonderful, by Tiznow and out of the Hennessy mare Evil, took the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes in 2006. Last year, he finished second in the More Than Ready Stakes at Belmont but injured himself galloping back after the race. He was vanned off the track with a ruptured suspensory in his right hind ankle, an injury that ended his career. Tiz Wonderful won 3 of his 5 career starts and earned $254,672.