11/15/2005 1:00AM

Mid-market prices still strong


LEXINGTON, Ky. - International buyers, racehorse trainers, and mid-market commercial breeders were helping the Keeneland November sale's prices to remain robust on Tuesday as the auction continued its second week.

Tuesday afternoon's highest prices went for horses from the WinStar Racing program, which Keeneland had arranged to sell on a Churchill dark day in order to draw as many trainers as possible.

"It was important that people be able to come out and look at the horses on the Monday and bid on them on Tuesday," Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell, said.

As of 5 p.m., the ninth session's highest price was $290,000 for Will He Shine, a 3-year-old Silver Deputy-Christmas Star colt from WinStar Racing, agent. Saverio Pugliese was the buyer. Will He Shine was a $650,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2003 and has since won twice and finished second once in three career starts, all this year. He last ran Oct. 30 at Churchill, winning a six-furlong allowance.

Will He Shine is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner and current stallion Cuvee and to the stakes-placed winner Christmas Party.

The WinStar stock had wide appeal and brought the flashiest prices, but even below that price level, buyers were often paying top dollar for the November sale's middle-market bloodstock.

"It's very strong still," Russell said. "Lead anything up there with any quality, especially a foal, and they jump all over it."

One reason for the vibrant market for second-week mares and foals is foreign participation. Russell said that Korean and Indian buyers in particular are scouring the later catalogs for broodmares, as are midlevel commercial breeders.

After Sunday's session posted losses, the auction quickly stepped up again on Monday at the eighth of 12 days' selling. The Monday session, the last for which complete figures were available, sold 276 horses for $8,180,700, up from last season's equivalent session, which sold 252 lots for $7,441,400. Average price also rose slightly, from $29,529 to $29,640, but median dipped from $22,000 last year to $21,000. The cumulative figures covering the first eight days showed stronger returns, with 1,908 horses bringing $274,392,400 (up 4 percent), an average of $143,812 (up 6 percent), and a $60,000 median (up 15 percent).

The auction's leading seller so far, Taylor Made, also broke the consignors' gross sales record that it set last year at this auction. Through Monday, the family-owned consignment had grossed $62,580,200 for 227 horses, distancing its previous mark of $60,997,400 for 360 lots in 2005.