11/09/2005 12:00AM

Prices remain high at auction's third session

At $1.15 million, Sweet Talker brought Wednesday's top price as of 6 p.m.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - After strong selling on Monday and Tuesday, Keeneland's November mixed breeding stock market continued to impress buyers with its high prices for broodmares and weanlings alike.

After Ashado's world-record $9 million sale at Monday's opener and Win's Fair Lady's session-topping $2.2 million price on Tuesday, day three on Wednesday appeared tame to casual spectators. But, for buyers hoping to catch a bargain, the competition was stiff.

By 6 p.m., the highest price of the day, as expected, was Sweet Talker. Fresh off her Oct. 15 score in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, the 3-year-old Stormin Fever filly drew a $1.15 million bid from Don Adam's Ocala-based Courtlandt Farm. Adam, chairman and CEO of First American Bank, got involved in racing in 1995 through Lane's End owner Will Farish. The Lane's End agency sold Sweet Talker on behalf of Eliah and Lisa Kahn.

Nothing else came close to Sweet Talker's level, but the result sheets were full of horses that sold above $500,000.

On Tuesday, the second-session gross and average were down compared with last year's equivalent session, but the more accurate reflection of the market came in the cumulative comparisons. Through its first two days, the 2005 auction had sold 372 lots for $157,438,000, down from 424 lots sold last year for $162,463,500, but the $423,220 average was up 11 percent, and the $270,000 median represented a 35 percent gain.

High prices at the 12-session auction's early days haven't surprised most buyers.

"It doesn't matter what sale it is, wherever you are, or what the circumstances are, it's hard to buy good horses," said bloodstock adviser Lincoln Collins, whose clients at the auction include Tracy Farmer. "The September yearling sale was strong, and nice foals and mares were going to be expensive."

And while most of the public's attention has been focused on the gaudy seven-figure prices for mares, some buyers were having a struggle to find weanlings they could afford, too. After yearlings sold expensively at such auctions as Fasig-Tipton Saratoga and Keeneland September, some racehorse owners undoubtedly hoped to avoid the higher yearling prices by purchasing weanlings instead. That hasn't been an easy task, said Collins.

"A lot of people must be hanging onto a lot of their foals to sell next year as yearlings," he said. "Our list hasn't been as long this year. That's made it tougher."

The sale continues through Nov. 18, with sessions starting at 10 a.m.

Despite lawsuit, Jackson still buying

Owner Jess Jackson doesn't appear to have soured on the Thoroughbred business, despite having filed a lawsuit against his former bloodstock agent, Emmanuel de Seroux. On Wednesday, Jackson's Stonestreet Mares was leading Keeneland November sale buyers with 16 purchases totaling $13.4 million. That's an average purchase price of $837,500.

Jackson declined to comment on the lawsuit, filed last month in California. In it, he accuses de Seroux, trainer Bruce Headley, and their associate Brad Martin of defrauding him in public and private transactions involving several mares. Jackson has alleged that the trio bought horses for Jackson at prices less than what they charged him, keeping the difference. At the time the suit was filed, de Seroux, Headley, and Martin declined to comment.

Jackson appears undaunted. His purchases this year, with new agent John Moynihan by his side, have so far included $2.4 million Roar Emotion, $2.1 million Chimichurri, $2 million Ticket to Houston, and $1 million D'Wildcat Speed.

Asked whether he has full confidence in the auction world these days, Jackson said only, "If we clean it up, I will."

Wolfs line up 13 juveniles

Ashado may have left the stable, but Jack and Laurie Wolf of Starlight Stable have a stable full of juveniles to keep them hopeful for the future. The Wolfs owned Ashado with partners Paul Saylor and Johns Martin until they sold her Monday at Keeneland for $9 million, a world record for a mare at auction. Now the Wolfs have put together new partnerships with more friends in a baker's dozen of 2-year-olds.

Starlight Stable's major partners in most of the 13 youngsters are lifetime racing fans Donnie and Barbara Lucarelli, but another couple, Jonathan and Barbara Kurtin, also are involved in some of those. Agent Barry Berkelhammer bought the horses as yearlings last year, at the Fasig-Tipton July and Saratoga sales and at Keeneland September.

"The way yearling prices have escalated, we felt it was time to share the capital risk and overhead risk with people like us who like to race and are on the same page with us," said Jack.

"And who have the same passion," added Laurie. "That's part of it: bringing more people into the game who will enjoy it."

Among the juveniles the Wolfs and their partners are looking forward to racing are Vig, a $510,000 Gone West colt expected to start in a maiden race Saturday at Aqueduct; Calusa, a $260,000 Unbridled's Song filly pointing for Aqueduct; Gauze, a $300,000 Saint Ballado filly who probably also will start at Aqueduct; and Throng, a $160,000 Silver Deputy colt who is a possible starter near the end of Churchill's fall meet.

Fee increase for sire of 'Fog'

Buck Pond has raised Lost Soldier's stud fee from $7,500 to $12,500 for 2006, capitalizing on the outstanding season his leading runner, Lost in the Fog, has had. Also going up is the fee for Wild Wonder, sire of Grade 1 winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Wild Fit, who sold for $3 million Sunday at Fasig-Tipton. Wild Wonder stands his first season at Buck Pond in 2006 after relocating from Spendthrift, where he stood for $5,000. Other Buck Pond fees are Bold Truth, Bull Market, and Evansville Slew, $3,500; Crafty Shaw, Hero's Tribute, and Morluc, $5,000; Colonial Colony and Kissin Kris, $7,500; Seattle Fitz, $8,500; and State City, $10,000.