01/12/2010 1:00AM

Numbers drop at Keeneland opening session

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's January all-ages sale opened on a gloomy note, with sharp declines across the board.

The first of five sessions featured a $325,000 top price for Miss Catalyst, a stakes-winning 4-year-old filly by Mr. Greeley. Twin Creeks Farm purchased the racing or broodmare prospect from the Taylor Made Sales agency.

Gross receipts fell 45 percent compared with the first session at 2009's auction as 178 horses sold for a combined $6,592,600. Last year's opener grossed $11,945,900 for 202 horses from a significantly larger overall catalog. Monday's average price was $37,037, a decrease of 37 percent from last year's opening session, and the $20,000 median fell 26 percent. Buy-backs also increased from 27 percent last year to 30 percent.

There were 111 withdrawals from the opening session, fewer than the 131 at last year's first session, which featured a larger catalog.

Keeneland's sale director, Geoffrey Russell, pointed out that last year's January opener featured the eventual sale-toppers, the $950,000 mares Island Fashion and Almonsoon, and said the lower figures on Monday this year were a reflection both of the economic times and a less stellar opening-day catalog.

Tuesday's second session has a chance to mitigate the Monday losses, with horses like Busanda Stakes winner Age of Humor, Grade 1 winner Spoken Fur, and graded-placed stakes winner (and Gio Ponti's half-sister) Bon Jovi Girl on offer.

Monday's session also saw a pair of mares bring $300,000. Those were Spherical, consigned by the Three Chimneys agency and carrying a Distorted Humor foal, and Glasgow's Gold, offered by the Taylor Made agency in foal to Indian Charlie. Bloodstock agent Norman Owens signed the receipt for Spherical. The 4-year-old Storm Cat-City Band mare is a full sister to stakes-winner Weather Warning and a half-sister to another stakes-winner, Foolishly.

Larry Byer's Ohio-based Byer Patch Farm bought Glasgow's Gold. A 14-year-old by Seeking the Gold, she is the dam of Grade 1 winner Swift Temper and stakes-winner Croisiere.

Gulf Coast Farms bought back 5-year-old Distorted Passion on a $400,000 final bid after offering her as a racing or broodmare prospect. Distorted Passion, by Distorted Humor, is a three-time stakes-winner. She most recently won the Jan. 1 Interborough Handicap.

Gulf Coast partner Jerry Bailey said the stable hasn't yet decided whether to retire the mare or keep her in training.

The auction will continue through Jan. 15. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m.

Gross rises at Magic Millions sale

The Magic Millions Gold Coast yearling sale eked out an increase in gross at its four-day first segment, which ended Saturday in Australia.

The four sessions sold 515 yearlings for about $61,309,260. In the auction currency of Australian dollars, that total was $429,500 higher than last year's gross for 503 yearlings. But the 2010 average price dropped slightly, by $2,233, to approximately $119,047. Buybacks improved slightly, from 20 percent last year to 18 percent.

The 2010 median was about $87,400.

The sale-topper, sold Saturday, was an $925,000 Redoute's Choice colt that BC3 Thoroughbreds and Lindsay Park Stud purchased after outbidding trainer Gai Waterhouse. The colt is a half-brother to Australian champion 2-year-old Hasna.

* Spendthrift will hold an open house 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 11-15. Stallions will be available for viewing, and the farm will offer snacks and warm drinks. Darby Dan Farm also will show stallions from 2-4 p.m. Jan. 11-15; no appointment is necessary.

* Three-time graded winner J Be K has relocated from Gainesway in Kentucky to Vinery Florida in Summerfield, Fla. A 5-year-old Silver Deputy horse, He will stand for $3,000.

* The Craig Family Trust associated with Jenny Craig and her late husband Sidney will hold a major reduction of its bloodstock at the Jan. 25-26 Barretts January sale in Pomona, Calif. The trust will consign 44 horses to the auction, including 25 horses by Candy Ride and six broodmares in foal to him.

* Bert Welker, owner of Silverton Farm in Midway, Ky., and former general manager at Stonewall Stallions, has left his position as bloodstock consultant at Warrendale Sales to reopen his family's consigning agency, Welker Sales. Welker Sales was founded in the mid-1970s by Welker's parents, Bayne and Libby Welker, who retired in 2002. Welker Sales will focus on small consignments at major select sales.P