07/18/2004 11:00PM

Point Given colt tops session

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's July yearling sale made the most of its position as the only summer sale in Lexington on Monday. The first of two sessions enjoyed strong selling early, buoyed in part by new players in the yearling market.

Bob Baffert, agent, signed for the $475,000 session-topper, a Point Given colt out of the Lord at War mare Pretty Eyes, but Baffert declined to identify his client. Gainesway, agent, sold the horse in partnership with an undisclosed number of partners.

"It exceeded our expectations," said Gainesway spokesman Michael Hernon.

The session enjoyed significant gains, selling 169 lots for $16,744, up 19 percent from last year. The average gained 7 percent to reach $99,077, and median shot up 31 percent to $80,000.

Among the new players were Jeffrey and Francesca Cooper, whose names appeared as buyers of a $470,000 Fusaichi Pegasus filly out of the Nijinsky II mare La Barberina.

Bidding for the filly took a couple of odd turns before the sale was settled.

The gentleman who actually signed the ticket for the filly was European bloodstock agent Guy Armengul. He was seated immediately behind Aisling Duignan, a representative of Coolmore Stud, which stands Fusaichi Pegasus. Surrounded by press after the hammer fell, Duignan and Armengul both bolted from the pavilion without comment. When the receipt made its way to the media, it was in fact marked "RNA," for "reserve not attained."

Within a half-hour, however, a new receipt marked "revised" arrived in the press box, listing the Coopers as buyers. The Coopers had been underbidders on the filly, agent Mike Levy said, at $460,000.

"They acted on their own interests," Levy said, explaining that he had told the Coopers he could not represent them in the transaction because the filly was consigned by the Bluewater Sales agency, owned by his wife, Meg Levy. According to Mike Levy, the Coopers decided to bid an additional $10,000 when they discovered the filly was a buyback.

Jeffrey Cooper, an Illinois attorney, and his wife, Francesca, own Circle C Stables. They are new to the select yearling market, although they have bought several juveniles that are now in training with John Kimmel and Christophe Clement. They were among several new buyers making high-priced purchases.

Accompanied by Baffert, California cattle rancher John Connelly and his daughter Sasha Borland paid $450,000 for a Forest Camp colt out of Cope's Light (by Copelan) that Brereton C. Jones's Airdrie Stud consigned. The colt is a half-brother to Grade 3 winners Political Attack and Zillah the Hun, and is from Forest Camp's first crop.

"I thought I'd come here as a learning experience," Connelly said with a laugh. "I didn't come here to buy anything. Can you imagine if I'd come here to be serious?"

A couple of hours earlier, another new pair of buyers, Mr. and Mrs. Mort Topfer, paid $220,000 for a Tiznow colt out of graded winner Zuppardo Ardo. The Topfers bought the colt from the Hill 'n' Dale agency.

The Topfers have been in the Thoroughbred racing game for less than a year, according to their agent, Neal Winick. Mort Topfer developed the business plan for Dell Computers, Winick said, and the couple lives in Austin, Tex.

New money was just one part of a varied marketplace that also saw six-figure purchases by such owners as the Siegel family's Jay Em Ess Stable, D.J. Stable, Buckram Oak, and Dogwood Stable. Pinhookers, fresh off a flush 2004 juvenile sales season, bid aggressively for stock in the $50,000 to $150,000 range, shoring up the middle market for athletic-looking horses they felt confident they can resell at a profit next spring.