09/25/2007 12:00AM

Middle, lower ranges boost sale

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - An upper-market correction caused Keeneland's two-week September yearling sale to end Tuesday with declines across the board, but sale officials and many sellers were celebrating a market that was stronger this year in the middle and lower ranges.

When the final hammer fell Tuesday afternoon, Keeneland had sold 3,799 horses for $385,018,600 in 15 days. The gross was down 4 percent from last year, when 3,556 horses sold. Average price and median also slipped: average dropped 10 percent, from $112,427 to $101,347, and median fell 7 percent, from $45,000 to $42,000. But the buyback rate stayed essentially the same as last year, rising slightly from 22 percent to 22.5 percent.

The sale-topper was a $3.7 million Unbridled's Song colt out of Grade 1 winner Secret Status that Coolmore agent Demi O'Byrne bought from Lane's End, agent.

Much of the decline was attributable to a drop in the auction's upper-tier prices at the opening two select sessions on Sept. 10-11. Last year, the select sessions fed a series of bidding wars between Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum of Darley Stable and John Magnier of Coolmore, the biggest players in the Thoroughbred market. Their 2006 battles produced a spate of prices above $3 million, most notably the $11.7 million sale-topper, Meydan City, whom Maktoum bought.

But Maktoum and Magnier hardly clashed in 2007, and the select session's ceiling - as at select sales earlier in the summer at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga and Kentucky auctions - dropped accordingly. The select days sold 337 yearlings for $145,377,000, a decline of 21 percent from last year, when slightly fewer horses were sold. Average price fell 24 percent to $431,386, but the median price of $300,000 stayed the same as last year.

The sale fared much better in its 13 open sessions, which stayed bullish right through the sale's end Tuesday. Led by a $50,000 Mancini-Are You Kidding filly that agent P.A. Everard bought from John O'Meara's Milestone Farm, the final session sold 172 yearlings for $1,551,500, yielding an average price of $9,020 and a $5,750 median. The sale being one day longer this year than last, there was no comparative session from 2006. But the strength of the middle and lower market was evident in Monday's session, when the gross nearly doubled, the $10,825 average was up 33 percent, and the $7,000 median was up 52 percent.