09/17/2004 12:00AM

Sanan devotes himself to task force


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Padua Stables owner Satish Sanan, who was notably absent at the Keeneland September yearling sale this week, will step down as head of the Alliance for Industry Reform to concentrate on his position as an owner representative on the new Sales Integrity Task Force. Sanan's announcement came three days after the sale of an auction-record $8 million Storm Cat colt to an unnamed buyer, a situation that highlighted AIR's proposal that selling and buying agents be required to disclose their clients' names in transactions.

"It was very important for me to step down so there would be no conflict of interest," Sanan said of his decision. "Cot [Campbell, the task force chairman] and I are pretty much on the same page, and we anticipate making some real progress by the next meeting on Oct. 19."

Padua is a major yearling buyer in the select market, but Sanan said earlier this summer that he would boycott the sales until the bloodstock industry took steps to establish a code of ethics. The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association formed the task force, but Sanan said Thursday that the jury is still out on the group's progress. The task force had its first meeting in early September, naming members to subcommittees that will examine such issues as dual agency, disclosure of veterinary procedures on sale horses, and full disclosure of all owners involved in the buying or selling of a horse.

"It was clear that nothing was going to happen until after the sales," Sanan said of the task force's first meeting and his subsequent decision to skip Keeneland's auction. "Mentally, I have to feel right about going if I am going to the sales, and I didn't feel right about it.

"On the positive side, in my personal opinion, I am pleasantly surprised that Cot Campbell has taken the bull by the horns. But when you look at the overall composition of the committees and subcommittees, it is yet to be determined whether we're going to resolve the issues we've been talking about."

One of those issues came to the fore at the Keeneland September sale when Japanese trainer Hideyuki Mori signed for the $8 million colt consigned by Lane's End, agent. Neither Mori nor Keeneland would publicly disclose the buyer's name, a decision Keeneland director of sales Geoffrey Russell, also on the task force, vigorously defended on the grounds that buyers and sellers both have a right to remain unnamed.

"He is dead against disclosure of seller and buyer, and I am just the opposite," Sanan said. "I think disclosure is good for the game and important. I understand the sale company's position. On the one hand, you respect the privacy of the individual, but the sale company's objective is also to hold a sale with the highest integrity."

Sanan believes full disclosure will be the thorniest issue on the task force's agenda.

"We have to come up with some kind of happy medium," he said.

Sanan said he isn't entirely against owners selling horses through agents, who often can provide sales preparation and marketing that the owner doesn't wish to do.

"But I have a problem if they own the horse, and it's not disclosed, and they bid on it just to run it up," Sanan said, adding that disclosing reserves also might be helpful.

"I think the task force will address these kind of issues," he said. "I think Cot has a sense of urgency to get this done, certainly before the next sale season, and I am cautiously optimistic that will happen."

Florida-based corporate/equine attorney Amanda Simmons will assume Sanan's role as spokesperson and manager of AIR.

Keeneland sale still on record pace

The Keeneland September sale, meanwhile, stayed on a record-breaking pace Thursday. Thursday's fourth session sold 273 yearlings for gross receipts of $37,175,000, up 17 percent from last year's equivalent day, which sold 252 lots. Average price increased 8 percent to $136,172, and median jumped from $90,000 last year to $100,000. Buybacks fell slightly, from 26 percent last year to 25 percent.

Through its first four days, the Keeneland September market has surprised even the auction house, whose officials had said they hoped to stay about level with last year's returns.

The two-week September auction achieved a record gross of $291,827,100 in 2000 and a record average of $92,329 and median of $34,000 last year. Through its fourth session Thursday, including the auction's two select days, the 2004 auction had sold 898 horses for $231,743,000 (up 17 percent over 2003), yielding a $258,066 average (up 11 percent) and a $150,000 median (up 7 percent).

Thursday's session-topper was an $850,000 Elusive Quality-First Glimmer colt that Buzz Chace, agent, bought from the Taylor Made agency.

The sale took a day off on Friday but was to resume Saturday morning at 10 a.m. The auction runs daily through Sept. 27.