05/23/2005 12:00AM

Maryland sale starts strongly

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Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's two-day juvenile auction at Timonium, Md., opened at just the right time Monday. The sale got a boost on Saturday when graduate Afleet Alex captured the Preakness Stakes at nearby Pimlico. Afleet Alex cost $75,000 at last year's edition of the auction.

Whether because of Afleet Alex, who is the catalog cover horse this year, or the generally strong juvenile market, the auction's opening session posted some high prices in its early hours.

As of 5:30 p.m., the session-leader was a $240,000 Aptitude half-brother to Grade 1 winner and millionaire Richter Scale. LRK Stables bought the colt, a son of the Bel Bolide mare Devine Pet who sold as Hip No. 206. Niall Brennan, agent, consigned the colt. He was among 13 horses who had sold for six figures by that hour.

Not surprisingly, one man who came back to the well was Afleet Alex's trainer, Tim Ritchey, whose purchases by late afternoon included Hip No. 149, a $210,000 Dixieland Band-Classic Approval colt offered by Bridlewood Farm, agent.