11/06/2003 12:00AM

Prices still strong on sale's 4th day


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 11-day Keeneland November breeding stock auction continued Thursday after posting bullish gains in its first three sessions.

Through Wednesday's third session, the auction had sold a total of 606 lots for gross receipts of $165,541,000, up 23 percent from last year. The three-day average rose 24 percent to $220,137, and median climbed 23 percent to $135,000.

The cumulative figures undeniably were padded by dramatically high prices at the Monday and Tuesday sessions, which saw Cash Run go for $7.1 million, Windsharp for $6.1 million, and Spain for $5.3 million, among other multimillion-dollar prices. But the strength of Wednesday's market - a day that always sees some drop-off in prices because the biggest sale stars have already gone through the ring - was evident in straight comparisons with last year's third day. The 2003 session grossed $25,448,000 from 240 horses sold, a gain of 10 percent over last year's equivalent session, when 245 sold. This year's average for day three rose 13 percent to $106,033, and median rose 23 percent to $86,000.

By late Thursday afternoon, with middle-market horses coming onto the market, the prices were slightly less heady but still strong. By 5 p.m., the fourth session's highest price was the $400,000 that Mike Byrne paid for a weanling Grand Slam-Sheza Honey colt. The colt is out of a full sister to stakes winner Windy Mindy, the dam of Grade 2 winner and $989,000 earner Rob 'n Gin. Justice Farm was the seller.

Fond memories of Spain

Tony Burton was as happy as anyone that Spain, the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff winner and racing's all-time leading female earner, brought $5.3 million at the Keeneland November sale on Monday. Burton, 44, is the broodmare manager at Three Chimneys Farm, which consigned the mare on behalf of the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp.

Most broodmare managers get to their mares when they retire to the breeding farm, but Spain was an unusual case. She was first bred while still in training with D. Wayne Lukas, so Burton actually traveled to Churchill Downs to meet her.

"She was a real professional," Burton said of his first meeting with the mare. "She's always been professional."

A broodmare manager's chief concern is that the mares in his care get in foal and stay in foal. But Burton's task was complicated by the fact that The Thoroughbred Corp., wanting Spain to set a female earnings mark, planned to keep her in training after mating her. Fresh off a win in the Grade 2 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap, Spain shipped an hour and a half from Churchill to Three Chimneys, visited Storm Cat at Overbrook Farm on May 15, and returned to Churchill the following day.

She ran twice after that, winning the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis on June 15 and finishing third in the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher on June 29. It was enough to set the North American earnings record of $3,540,542.

When Spain retired to Three Chimneys, Burton said, she had little trouble adjusting to her new life. "She never had to be tranquilized to be turned out or anything," he said. "We hand-walked her for a few days, and when we turned her out on her own, she just reached down and started eating the grass. Mares of her caliber aren't always that intelligent about things like that. But she did everything right."

But she might remember her days on the racetrack. Burton said that when Spain shipped in to Keeneland for the auction, the racing simulcasts on the barn televisions caught her attention.

"When she heard the bugle on the TV, her ears would come up," he said.

Burton, who has been at Three Chimneys for four years, worked at the legendary North Ridge Farm when it sold million-dollar yearlings and mares. But Spain's $5.3 million price tag makes her "probably the most expensive mare I've ever dealt with," he said. "I was happy she brought that. I'm very proud of her."

Langfuhr to move to Lane's End in 2004

Langfuhr, sire of Grade 1 winner Imperial Gesture and North America's fifth-leading general sire, will relocate from Vinery to Lane's End in Versailles, Ky., in 2004.

The 11-year-old Danzig horse will stand at Lane's End for $20,000, the same fee he had in 2003.

Langfuhr's leading runner this year is 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, whose $2,017,323 in earnings have contributed substantially to the stallion's 2003 progeny earnings of $5,943,391. Wando also has helped put Langfuhr on the top of the third-crop sires' list, well ahead of his nearest rival, Alphabet Soup, who has $4.2 million in progeny earnings. In addition to Imperial Gesture and Wando, Langfuhr also has sired Grade 3 winner Mobil and 21 other stakes performers.

Langfuhr, who is owned by breeder Gustav Schickedanz, is out of the stakes-winning Briartic mare Sweet Briar Too, who also has produced Canadian stakes winners Wonneberg and Princess Ruckus.