09/17/2003 11:00PM

Prized colt goes high as sale's end nears


LEXINGTON, Ky. - As the Keeneland September yearling sale wound down toward its Sept. 20 ending, sellers were seeing far lower prices than at the earlier sessions that put the auction on a near-record pace. But there was still at least one six-figure lot as Thursday's 10th session headed into the late afternoon.

Blandford Bloodstock, the agency operated by British bloodstock agent Joss Collins, purchased a $155,000 Prized colt from Bruce Kline's Spendthrift Farm, agent. That was the day's session leader as of 5 p.m. Thursday. The colt is out of British-bred Crazee Mental, a Group 1-placed daughter of Magic Ring. The colt is her first foal.

On Wednesday, the 12-day auction's eighth session concluded with a 19-percent increase in gross, 286 yearlings selling for $7,515,800. The session average of $27,133 was up 23 percent from last year's equivalent day, and median climbed 20 percent to $18,000.

Wednesday's top seller was a $260,000 Fusaichi Pegasus-Bet Twice Princess filly that Lake View Farm bought from the Taylor Made agency.

The sale continues through Saturday with daily sessions starting at 10 a.m.

Spectacular Bid owners still bargain shoppers

Harry and Tom Meyerhoff, whose Hawksworth Farm purchased 1979 Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid for $37,000 at the 1977 September sale, were among the bidders staying late at this September sale. Harry Meyerhoff has been coming to Keeneland's fall yearling sale since 1961, and his son Tom has joined him there every year since 1974.

They've seen a lot of changes at the auction, most notably its growth from a source of inexpensive horses to a booming, competitive market that at times rivals Keeneland's prestigious July sale for high prices and big-name pedigrees.

"When we started buying, the summer sale was very expensive compared to the fall, and we couldn't afford to buy at the summer sale," Harry Meyerhoff said.

But as the September sale has grown in prestige, adding two select sessions its first week, horses from such high-quality consignors as Lane's End have drawn wealthy buyers willing to spend millions. The increased competition has prompted the Hawksworth team to rethink its strategy, but not its average purchase price.

"Until last year, we've generally stayed around the $40,000 range," said Tom. "Last year that bumped up to about $50,000. The highest price we've ever paid for a yearling was $90,000, and last year we paid $80,000 for an Old Trieste. But generally we try to stay around $40,000 or $50,000."

Instead of raising their bankroll dramatically for yearlings, the Meyerhoffs have begun coming later in the sale to bargain hunt. First they started skipping the first two days, the select sessions. This year, as money flooded the market early, they bypassed the first four days and showed up with trainer Bud Delp on Day 5, when many of the bigger buyers had left town.

The Meyerhoffs sift carefully through the catalog, and they've found some good winners. Among their big profit-makers are millionaire and graded stakes winner Sunny Sunrise, purchased for $30,000 at the 1988 September sale; Grade 3 winner Perfect Score, a $57,000 purchase in 1997; $65,000 Urban Warrior, a 2002 buy, has won his first two starts this year, including the Chenery Stakes at Colonial. The $80,000 Old Trieste colt they bought last year turned out to be stakes-placed Venizia.

Tom says the family will compromise on dam-side pedigrees if they have to, in order to lower costs, and they avoid highly fashionable stallions.

"We analyze all the new stallions and look at ones with pedigrees we like that we think won't bring too much money," he said. "We have to know they'll be affordable."

"We want either a stallion that we've had good luck with or one that hasn't proven himself but is a good winner," Harry added.

Delp weighs in on the yearlings' conformation, and he approves about 15 percent of the some 200 horses the Meyerhoffs will look at in September, Tom said.

In the end, it's all about homework and discipline, two things that are well developed in the Meyerhoff family.

"We've always kept to our game plan," Harry said. "Even after Bid gave us more capital to spend, we didn't start coming to the July sale. When you look at the results, you don't see more $400,000 winners than $40,000 winners."

* Sunny Sunrise, the 16-year-old Sunny's Halo gelding, is enjoying retirement as a riding horse for Harry Meyerhoff's wife, Mary Jo.

Department of Agriculture okays cheap loans

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association announced Thursday that the United States Department of Agriculture has approved $5,407,739 in low-interest loans for Kentucky breeders who suffered losses from mare reproductive loss syndrome.

The loans will be provided through the USDA's Farm Service Agency. The KTOB said that 15 of 31 applications for loans have been approved, and 11 applications were withdrawn.

* The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company has rescheduled its 2004 winter mixed sale's start date from Jan. 12 to Jan. 19 to avoid a scheduling conflict with Keeneland's January auction. The OBS mixed sale now will run in Ocala, Fla., from Jan. 19-22 this year. Keeneland's January sale is slated for Jan. 5-12 in Lexington

* The Pons family's Country Life Farm in Bel Air, Md., has added the 6-year-old Unbridled horse No Armistice to its 2004 stallion roster. No Armistice, a son of the stakes-winning Hold Your Peace mare Ataentsic, was third in the 2003 El Conejo Handicap, one of his three graded stakes-placings. He will stand for $3,000.