11/20/2009 1:00AM

Sale's slump continues


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland's November breeding stock sale posted declines in revenue again Thursday as the 13-day auction neared its end, confirming sellers' concerns that bloodstock selling on later days would face significantly lower prices than last year.

Thursday's 10th session ended with a 13-percent decrease in gross, a 35-percent drop in average, and a 50-percent decline in median. The session sold 239 horses for total receipts of $2,253,900, as compared with last year's $2,580,500 for 178 horses. The 2009 average was $9,431 as compared with $14,497 in 2008, and median was $6,000 as compared to $12,000 last season. Sellers who chose to offer their horses in the softer market this year were less inclined to buy them back: The reserve-not-attained rate fell from last year's session figure of 32 percent to 24 percent.

Through Thursday, the auction's first 10 days had sold 2,261 horses for $155,950,000, down 11 percent. The cumulative average of $68,974 was 22 percent lower than at the same point last year, and the median figure, $27,000, was 29 percent lower. Like the Thursday session's buy-back rate, cumulative buy-backs showed improvement as 21 percent of the horses offered fail to meet their reserve prices. Last year, the figure at the same point in the auction was 30 percent.

The session's top price was the $67,000 that broodmare Stormy B brought. Her consigning agent, Jody Huckabay of Elm Tree Farm in Paris, Ky., said the price was better than expected. Stormy B's buyers signed the receipt only as Audrey/Emily, and Huckabay declined to identify them. But he confirmed that the 4-year-old Cherokee Run mare, offered in foal to Tiz Wonderful, would stay in Kentucky.

"I can't reveal who it was for, but it was not for me," Huckabay said. "The mare sold with no reserve. As they said, they had to spend a little bit more for her than they had hoped for, but they knew they were going to have to spend to get her.

"It was a little higher than I thought," he added. "We had appraised the mare at about $50,000 or $55,000.

"We've had some sticky spots, but we've had some nice sales. I thought it was extremely strong up until about four days ago. I think there certainly have been some buys, if you do your homework."

Stormy B is a daughter of the Deputy Minister mare Seoul and a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Rush Bay.

Baccari Bloodstock paid the day's top price for a weanling when they spent $57,000 for a gray or roan colt by Political Force. The colt was part of John Stuart's Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services consignment. He is out of the Mountain Cat mare Royal Teresa and is a half-brother to the Pollard's Vision winner Purse Luva.

Mint Lane retired

Headley Bell's Pinebloom Stable has retired Grade 2 winner Mint Lane. A 4-year-old Maria's Mon colt, Mint Lane won the 2008 Dwyer and Postponed stakes and finished second that year in the Grade 2 Peter Pan and the Federico Tesio Stakes. He injured a hind ankle in his sixth-place finish in the 2008 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, a problem that resulted in a year away from the races.

Pinebloom Stable cited his inability to return to his previous form as the reason for Mint Lane's retirement. He retires with 4 wins from 12 starts, as well as 2 seconds and 1 third, for total earnings of $299,312.

The Pope McLean family, owners of Crestwood Farm in Lexington, bred Mint Lane in partnership with William Schiffman. Mint Lane is out of Sister Girl, a winner by Conquistador Cielo.

Pinebloom Stable has not yet settled Mint Lane's stud plans.

Banned agent offers defense

Jim Cullen, the first agent banned by Keeneland for violating the Sales Integrity Task Force's code of conduct, publicly responded to the suspension Thursday.

"I just want to make clear that the action by the Sales Integrity Task Force is in no way related to unscrupulous buying practices on my behalf," Cullen said. "I have not engaged in any unsavory actions, no one has accused me of unethical behavior at the sales. It has nothing to do with the actions that so many associate with unethical agents. The fact of the matter is that this action is a byproduct of a banking situation where proceeds were not distributed to some of my partners in racehorses that were sold over a 12-month period.

"I have not run from this problem, I have acknowledged that these people did not get paid, but I did not control the distribution of the proceeds. I never got the money in my hand and said, 'I'm just not going to pay these people.' I never got any proceeds, and I have never seen a schedule showing where that money went. That said, I am responsible for my partners. I have been working with them directly or their attorneys to settle the matter."

Cullen has said the amount involved is about $25,000.

The ban runs until at least December 2010, when Cullen can reapply for admittance to Keeneland's bloodstock sales. A Keeneland vice-president, Harvie Wilkinson, said Tuesday that Cullen was banned for improper distribution of sale proceeds and that the sale company had acted after investigating complaints by two of Cullen's clients. Keeneland has no plans to pursue the matter farther, Wilkinson said.