03/04/2005 1:00AM

Record colt prepared in a pinch


It would be no surprise if the record $5.2 million colt by Tale of the Cat makes it to the races at Saratoga later in the year.

MIAMI - For the second year in a row, the Fasig-Tipton sale of select 2-year-olds in training blew the lid off the world-record bid for an unraced juvenile. Last year, Fusaichi Samurai brought a record price of $4.5 million from Fusao Sekiguchi, who had campaigned the colt's sire, Fusaichi Pegasus. On Tuesday, an unnamed colt by Tale of the Cat brought about 15 percent more to establish a new record price of $5.2 million.

Amazing as it seems, the record colt was a longshot even to get into the sale.

First of all, he wasn't intended to be a sales horse, and second, the decision to send him to the sales came almost too late to prepare the colt.

The bay son of Tale of the Cat and the Devil's Bag mare Carry All was bred in Kentucky by Grade 1 Bloodstock, Halcyon Farm, and partners.

"The partners originally intended to race foals from the mare, and that's why the colt never went to the sales," said co-breeder Jay Brunker. "Then in late summer last year, for various reasons not related to the horse, the decision was made to put this colt in the Calder sale."

The change of plans was late for a colt expected to make the February 2-year-old sales. Brunker said: "By the time the decision was made, the colt had already been shipped to Lane's End/Oak Tree to be quarantined. So we had to hurry up. I hustled him over to Sunnyside Farm for Jeff Thornbury to get him broken. Jeff had him 40-45 days to get the tack on him, and then we sent him straight down to Bobby Scanlon, who did a wonderful job.

"We were on the borderline of being too late to get him into the sale, and it is a real credit to Bobby's horsemanship that he was able to get this horse to the sales at his best."

Scanlon agreed that everyone was behind the eight ball when the colt arrived. "They sent him to me sometime in November, a lot later than we would have liked to have him," he said. "Normally, you have to get started with these horses in September or early October. If you start in November, nine times out of 10, it doesn't work."

One of the reasons a late arrival won't succeed is that he has to strengthen and progress faster than the other horses prepping for the sales. But with the $5.2 million colt, Scanlon said: "Everything went good as possible, and then the first time he breezed, I knew things were going to be all right. We first breezed him in January, and he did it real easy. One of the things that made him special is that eight out of 10 horses would have fallen apart. We had to put a little more pressure to get him there, because he was 45 days behind the rest of the horses. The main thing was that we never had a hiccup. Anything at all, and he never would have made the sale."

The colt by Tale of the Cat had the balance, natural precocity, and athleticism to do what was required in a young horse preparing for the juvenile sales. "Physically, he stayed about the same, except that the more training you put into him, the more you started liking him," said Scanlon.

The key to this colt's appeal was that the owners and the trainer weren't the only ones who noticed him and liked what they saw. "Along with nearly everybody else, John Ferguson [from Darley] and Demi O'Byrne [from Coolmore] had already seen him at the farm," said Scanlon.

When the sales horses shipped to Calder, the colt had a reunion with the high-end 2-year-old buyers. "Bobby sent him out the Wednesday before the first breeze show, and the colt breezed in 10 1/5," said Brunker. "That's what kind of locked everybody on board. Then he worked on Sunday," he said, referring to the first official breeze show, "in 10 3/5 with a stiff headwind."

The colt is now back at Scanlon's farm.

"We'll give him 30 days to get over the sale, and then we'll put him back in training," Scanlon said.

With that schedule, there is a good chance the record colt could be racing at Saratoga later this year. That would be more welcome news for co-breeders Jay and Cammie Brunker. They have Halcyon Farm in northern Fayette County in Kentucky, where their nine mares graze on 50 acres of bluegrass.

Unlike large operations that sell many yearlings annually, the Brunkers had never sold a seven-figure horse before this week. "It just shows how great the horse business can be, and I hope that a lot of small guys will see that wonderful things can happen," said Brunker.