11/18/2005 1:00AM

November average up 6 percent


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's November sale benefited from a bullish yearling sale season, ending its 12-day run Friday with gains across the board and records for average and median.

The 12-day auction, headed by Ashado's world-record $9 million sale to Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, grossed $289,602,900 for 2,816 horses. That was well up from last year's $279,680,200 total for 2,873 horses. The 2005 average price rose 6 percent to $102,842, and median climbed from $32,000 to $35,000.

Ashado's price breezed past the previous record price for a mare of $7.1 million, set by Cash Run at Keeneland November in 2003. Maktoum bought Ashado, 2004 champion 3-year-old filly, from Jack and Laurie Wolf, Paul Saylor, and Johns Martin. Taylor Made was the consigning agent.

Strong returns at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga and Keeneland September yearling auctions encouraged breeders to return to Keeneland November in search of mares and weanlings to help stock their future yearling consignments.

Keeneland sales director Geoffrey Russell said the market was driven less by new domestic buyers than by "people already in the industry trading among themselves."

A large group of international buyers who played from the auction's beginning to its end also boosted prices. In addition to the usual major international players such as Maktoum and Irish-based Coolmore Stud, the auction benefited from numerous purchases by Japanese interests as well as from buyers based in Korea, India, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela - many of whom helped shore up prices in the sale's middle and later days.

Russell credited Keeneland's own marketing and its cooperation with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association's emerging markets program, which promotes Kentucky's Thoroughbreds to overseas buyers. Keeneland's September and November sales attracted buyers from 38 countries and 47 of the 50 states, Russell said.

"And I think we're on a strong foundation now," he said of the Thoroughbred marketplace. "These gains are not inflated by people with a fleeting interest in the game. These people are in it for the long haul."

If this horse ever needs retirement . . .

Lori Neagle and Kim Zito are encouraging owners to perform a simple act that could help save their horses' lives down the road: put a sticker on each horse's Jockey Club papers asking future owners to call if the horse ever needs retirement.

Neagle is a co-founder of the ReRun racehorse retraining and adoption group, and Zito is a Thoroughbred owner and wife of Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. The sticker campaign is one way they say owners can put another strand in their horses' safety net. The stickers, which ReRun has printed and will give to owners for free, read, "If this horse is ever in need of retirement, please call . . . ." The owner can fill in his number or that of a retirement organization, anyone who will help at the end of a horse's career.

"I started doing this in 1998," Zito said. "I was just handwriting the message on the foal papers with my first name and phone number. About five days ago, while I was here putting stickers on papers at Keeneland, I got my first phone call about one of my horses. He was on his way to slaughter with some other horses, and the poor girl managing the farm was devastated. But she had access to the horses' papers, and she saw my name because she was desperate to help this horse."

Zito declined to name the horse but said she arranged for him to ship to New Vocations, an equine rescue group in Ohio.

"I don't own a farm," Zito said. "I'm not saying that everyone should take these horses home with them. Just make the phone call to save them, to New Vocations, ReRun, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, or Blue Horse Charities."

Zito and Neagle pointed out that owners often believe horses sold for slaughter are old or infirm, an image the women say is wrong.

"About 75 percent of horses that go for meat are Thoroughbreds off the track, from what the auctions, plant owners, and killer buyers have told us," Zito said. "I've seen young, sound, healthy horses in the meat pen at killer sales."

Interested owners can contact Neagle at (859) 865-1342 or via www.rerun.org. The women remind owners that they also can make their own stickers or simply write or attach contact information directly on the horses' papers.

Wildcat Heir to stand in Florida

Grade 1-winning sprinter Wildcat Heir will enter stud in 2006 in Florida at John Sykes's CloverLeaf Farms II. It marks the first time a stallion standing for Kentucky-based partners WinStar Farm and Taylor Made Farm will stand outside Kentucky. His fee will be $8,000.

WinStar and Taylor Made own Wildcat Heir in partnership with Eb Novak's New Farm, which bred and raced the 5-year-old Forest Wildcat horse.

Trained by Ben Perkins Jr., Wildcat Heir won last year's Grade 1 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash and the Icecapade Stakes. He also won the 2005 Teddy Drone Stakes, a race in which he finished second last year, and was second three years ago in the Grade 2 Sanford. He has a career record of 6-4-0 in 12 starts and $424,460 in earnings.

Wildcat Heir is out of the Pentelicus winner Penniless Heiress and is a full brother to Grade 3 winner Forest Heiress.