11/19/2004 1:00AM

November sale exceeds all expectations


LEXINGTON, Ky. - When the Keeneland November breeding stock sale ended its 12-day run Friday afternoon, it had done some things almost no one thought it would do: improve on the results of last year's Keeneland November sale, set a sale-record for average, and equal the November record for median.

The 2003 sale featured world-record prices for a broodmare, Cash Run ($7.1 million), and for a weanling, a Storm Cat-Spain colt ($2.4 million). The 2004 edition didn't manage that feat, but its bottom-line numbers posted significant gains in a sign that buyers are feeling optimistic about the Thoroughbred industry's future.

In 12 sessions, the 2004 auction sold 2,873 lots for $279,680,200, the third-highest gross in the sale's history and far outpacing last year's total of $236,070,900 for 2,614 horses. The average price this year was $97,348 as compared to last season's $90,310, but median stayed the same as last year at $32,000. It should be noted that comparing breeding stock sales from year to year is difficult, because the catalog quality can vary dramatically due to breeding stock dispersals.

The 2004 auction sold 35 million-dollar lots, led by $4.8 million Santa Catarina. Bob and Beverly Lewis, represented by Denali Stud, sold Santa Catarina, a Grade 2 winner, to an anonymous partnership whose agent was Reiley McDonald. Santa Catarina was in foal to A. P. Indy. The auction's top weanling, the only one to sell for seven figures, was a $1.15 million Unbridled's Song-Helsinki filly. John Sikura signed the ticket for the filly, who is a half-sister to undefeated English champion juvenile Shamardal.

The Keeneland November sale's most impressive features were the high prices paid for young mares and broodmare prospects and the wide range of buyers at the market's top.

"The top end of the market has grown, there's no mistake," said Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell. "To see 35 million-dollar horses spread out over that range of buyers, that's great."

Russell pointed to three new farm owners who contributed substantially to the upswing in $500,000 to $1 million mares. They were Jess Jackson, who is on the verge of purchasing Buckram Oak Farm in Lexington; Richard and Audrey Haisfield of NeverTell Farm in Midway; and B. Wayne Hughes, who recently purchased Spendthrift Farm in Lexington.

Jackson, owner of the Kendall-Jackson Winery, was an especially prolific spender in the auction's early sessions. "Through Wednesday, Jess Jackson was 10 percent of the gross, and that has a huge effect on the market," Russell said.

But the middle market also pleased Keeneland officials. "I thought the middle market held pace with last year, and last year it really took off," Russell said. "This year, we had close-to-record sessions all the way through the sale."

Owners meet with task force

The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association's Sales Integrity Task Force met in Lexington on Thursday, but the results will not be known for a week to 10 days, panel members say. At that point, the panel intends to announce its recommendations.

The group, chaired by Cot Campbell, discussed points related to three major issues raised this summer by Satish Sanan: disclosure of veterinary procedures, disclosure of agents' clients, and the practice of dual agency, in which a single agent represents both a buyer and a seller without disclosing that fact.

Members contacted after the meeting said privately that they felt the task force had made progress on the topics.

Kris, champion miler, dies at 28

Kris, Lord Howard de Walden's two-time English champion miler and champion sire, died at 28 in Newmarket on Thursday, Racing Post reported. The horse died in his paddock at Plantation Stud of what is thought to be heart failure.

Kris, a son of Sharpen Up, was undefeated as a 2-year-old, then developed into Britain's champion miler at 3, when he lost only one of his eight starts in 1979. The loss came in the 2000 Guineas, where he was favored but lost by less than a length to longshot Tap on Wood. Kris came back the following season to successfully defend his championship title with three wins.

Kris earned more accolades at stud as one of Britain's top stallions. His first group of 3-year-olds produced Oh So Sharp, who won the 1000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks, and St. Leger in 1985 to be named champion 3-year-old filly. Kris also is the sire of British or European champions Unite, Kozana, and Common Grounds.

- The Kentucky Equine Education Project's Dec. 3 stallion-season auction, which will benefit the group's lobbying and educational campaign, will feature seasons to top sires A. P. Indy and Storm Cat; Smarty Jones's sire, Elusive Quality; 2003 sprint champion Aldebaran; and 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Speightstown. Also available are seasons to Awesome Again, Distorted Humor, El Prado, Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant's Causeway, Kingmambo, Unbridled's Song, and Vindication.