09/15/2006 12:00AM

Pair of Day 4 millionaires is another first


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Keeneland September sale took a break on Friday after posting a record figure for top price and significant gains in average and median price in its first week.

At Thursday's fourth session, a pair of seven-figure lots fueled double-digit gains for the sale company. The two million-dollar horses were a $1.3 million Pulpit-Razzi Cat colt bought by Jess Jackson and a $1.2 million Distorted Humor-Officiate colt purchased by Tim Kegel, agent. Together, they made history: Until Thursday, the auction's fourth session had never sold a pair of millionaire yearlings.

Through Thursday, the auction had posted a cumulative average price of $316,000, up 6.8 percent from last year, and the $185,000 median was up 8.8 percent. The four days had sold 862 yearlings for $272,909,500, edging out last year's total of $271,815,000 for 917 yearlings and putting the world's largest Thoroughbred auction on a pace to break last year's record for gross sales. That was to be expected, given the fact that the 2006 September catalog comprised a record 5,161 lots. What was less expected was how high the top of the market climbed, as exemplified by the record $11.7 million sale topper, a Kingmambo-Crown of Crimson colt that Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum bought from Burleson Farms, agent.

The opening week of the 14-day auction was marked by dramatic showdowns between Maktoum and Coolmore Stud owner John Magnier, with Maktoum outbidding Magnier more often than not, as he did for the sale topper.

The first two days of the auction, its select portions, sold 324 yearlings for $182,860,000, which was down 2.3 percent from last year's larger session, which sold 372 horses for $187,214,000. But the two-day average and median both soared, with average gaining 12 percent to reach $564,383 and median rising 5 percent to hit $300,000. Between them, Maktoum and his brother, Shadwell owner Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, bought 49 yearlings for a startling total of $71,960,000; interestingly, Sheikh Hamdan's average purchase price for his 24 yearlings was $628,125, a frugal figure compared to Sheikh Mohammed's average expenditure of $2,275,400 for 25 horses.

The select sessions' third-leading buyer provided an indication that today's select market has some breadth. The Maktoum-Magnier clashes provide a lot of gravy, but the meat of the market below that level was also solid. Agent Mike Ryan, who both pinhooks and represents a range of clients, bought 25 yearlings for just over $10,825,000. Coolmore accounted for eight purchases at $8,825,000, and Ahmed Zayat rounded out the top five with seven purchases for $8,110,000.

Wednesday and Thursday also proved robust as buyers like Jess Jackson, shut out by the flamboyant early prices, emerged to make their own purchases. Not every horse sold, but there was a second chance for the ones who failed to reach their reserves. In addition to the usual "after-market" at the sale grounds, in which bidders strike private deals with sellers whose horses failed to reach their reserve prices in the ring, a group of consignors also hastily put together their own "RNA sale" of horses whose reserves were not attained. Airdrie Stud, Blackburn Farm, Brookdale Farm, Darby Dan, Middlebrook Farm, and Three Chimneys Farm were to offer their unsold stock - including a Storm Cat-Words of War filly from Three Chimneys that failed to sell Monday at $675,000 - at Three Chimneys' Big Sink division near Midway, Ky., on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The sale is not an auction but gives buyers and sellers a chance to make private deals.

As of Friday morning, there were 10 horses in the RNA sale. That the number was so small, organizer Case Clay of Three Chimneys acknowledged, indicated that the September market was as good as it looked on paper.

"Collectively, we've all generally had good luck selling yearlings after the fall of the hammer if they haven't gotten their reserves," he said. "That's a good sign for our market."

Some pinhookers spending more freely

Pinhookers - speculators who buy yearlings to break and resell as juveniles - usually are wary of spending much on yearlings. But Hoby Kight fearlessly spent $1 million for a Storm Cat-Moon Safari colt and $500,000 for a Storm Cat-Luna Wells colt.

"That's the kind of horse you have to have anymore," Kight said, pointing out that buyers' increasing selectivity at juvenile sales is forcing pinhookers to chase the highest-quality yearlings they can afford. "Last year, I had the fastest group of horses I'd ever had, but they had pedigree and conformation flaws, and I couldn't compete."

So Kight has upped the ante and is splashing out for expensive horses that have it all, in hopes of turning a profit at the spring juvenile sales.

Kight also said that he and his wife, Layna, a world championship-caliber barrel racer whose sponsors include Taylor Made Farm, are building a new training facility in Texas that will serve as their base of pinhooking operations in the future. The 125-acre Texas property is a former cattle farm near Canton.

"We'll be about an hour and fifteen minutes east of Lone Star and about an hour and 45 minutes from Louisiana Downs," said Kight, who added that they would name the farm Harvest Landing.

* Shaniko, a Grade 2 winner by A.P. Indy, has retired to stud at Millennium Farms near Lexington, the farm announced. The 5-year-old horse retires with a 16-5-4-2 record and $388,380 in earnings; he won the 2005 Kentucky Cup Classic. No fee was announced for Shaniko, a son of Grade 2 winner Sapphire n' Silk.