11/03/2006 12:00AM

Sellers hope sale follows last year's pattern

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Last year, the market for young broodmares and broodmare prospects reached a world-record peak when Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum of Darley Stable paid $9 million for champion Ashado.

Keeneland officials - and sellers of the 2006 Keeneland November mixed sale catalog's most accomplished mares - are hoping the climate stays that hot this year. The Keeneland sale opens on Monday and runs through Nov. 19, with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m. And, once again, the catalog's mares will be attracting special attention.

The market for mares, especially young ones, has been on the rise, and it's easy to see why. As yearling prices have performed well over the last decade, the value of the mares producing those yearlings understandably also goes up. Keeneland's September yearling sale has yielded gains in average and median for the last four years, and November has followed a similar track, with increases in average and median since 2001.

In 2005, the Keeneland September sale - generally regarded as the truest yearling market indicator because it offers several thousand yearlings from all market levels - enjoyed a run that set sale records for top price ($9.7 million for a Storm Cat-Tranquility Lake colt bought by Sheikh Maktoum), average ($108,420), and median ($40,000). That set the November sale up well for success, and the November auction set its own records for average ($102,842) and median ($35,000).

The 2006 auction year looks like it could be the same old story.

"The same old story is a good story for us," said Keeneland's director of sales, Geoffrey Russell.

In a market where $9 million mares are possible, it's not surprising that many people with a broodmare or broodmare prospect are happy to cash in their chips. This year, two Breeders' Cup Distaff competitors are among the young broodmare prospects who have the potential to move the upper market: Personal Ensign Stakes winner Fleet Indian, selling as Hip No. 85, and Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, who sells as Hip No. 449. The catalog's pregnant broodmares include Hip No. 173, Madcap Escapade, in foal to A.P. Indy; Hip No. 245, the dam of Madcap Escapade and Dubai Escapade, in foal to Storm Cat; Hip No. 244, Runway Model, in foal to Storm Cat; and Hip No. 68, the dam of Lawyer Ron, in foal to Smarty Jones.

Bidders like Maktoum and Coolmore's John Magnier don't have to abide by a strict bottom line. But smaller commercial breeders do. Happily for them, the yearling sales - as evidenced by Keeneland September - were a fairly profitable endeavor in 2006. That means many of the breeders have some money in their pockets and might use it to buy new or better-quality mares. And weanling-to-yearling pinhookers who also rode the crest of the yearling market this year should also be back to restock their shelves with weanlings.

Overseas buyers are likely to play a big role. Russell said that, for the first time, Swedes and Bulgarians have expressed interest in attending, and they will join an already strong contingent of British and European buyers who currently enjoy a favorable exchange rate. Domestic buyers will get no such break, and will be paying top dollar for stock if the market stays as strong as expected.

The down side to buying mares and weanlings when the market is up is that the investor is gambling that the following season's yearling market will continue to rise. It's a gamble many buyers have been willing to take.

"We're always waiting for the correction to happen," Russell said. "It will happen someday, but we hope it won't be this year."

Keeneland has cataloged 5,026 horses to the November auction this year. Following is a sample of lots that are Grade 1 winners or champions, or have close pedigree connections to such horses:

* Hip No. 17, Ancho, dam of CCA Oaks winner Wonder Lady Anne L, in foal to Unbridled's Song.

* Hip No. 90, Grade 1 winner Friendly Michelle, in foal to A.P. Indy.

* Hip No. 93, a weanling Speightstown filly out of Canadian champion Gandria.

* Hip No. 95, a weanling Speightstown half-brother to Forest Secrets.

* Hip No. 109, a weanling Pleasantly Perfect half-sister to 2002 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Starine.

* Hip No. 121, a weanling Empire Maker half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Behrens.

* Hip No. 122, a weanling Giant's Causeway half-brother to Strub winner Victory Speech.

* Hip No. 131, the dam of dual Grade 1 winner Spun Sugar in foal to Storm Cat.

* Hip No. 140, a weanling Dynaformer half-sister to Del Mar Oaks winner Arravale.

* Hip No. 142, the dam of Arlington Million and Secretariat winner Kicken Kris, in foal to Stephen Got Even.

* Hip No. 145, a weanling half-brother to Chaposa Springs and You and I.

* Hip No. 167, the dam of dual Grade 1 winner Castledale, in foal to Medaglia d'Oro.

* Hip No. 184, Grade 1 winner Mea Domina.

* Hip No. 187, a weanling Unbridled's Song half-sister to Platinum Tiara.

* Hip No. 194, the dam of Closing Argument, in foal to Saint Liam.

* Hip No. 206, One Number Short, the dam of Wildcat Bettie B.

* Hip No. 210, Spinster winner Pampered Princess, in foal to Unbridled's Song.

* Hip No. 220, a weanling Action This Day half-sister to Premium Tap.

* Hip No. 230, the dam of Pomeroy, in foal to Ghostzapper.

* Hip No. 238, a weanling Johannesburg half-sister to 2005 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Silver Train.

* Hip No. 246, a weanling Mineshaft half-sister to Lion Heart.

* Hip No. 331, a weanling Friends Lake half-brother to Sweet Talker.

* Hip No. 363, a weanling Yes It's True half-brother to Star Parade.

* Hip No. 382, the dam of Dancing Edie, in foal to Powerscourt.

* Hip No. 385, a weanling Montjeu half-brother to Electrocutionist.

* Hip No. 393, a weanling half-sister to champion Farda Amiga.

* Hip No. 458, the dam of Happy Ticket, in foal to Unbridled's Song.

* Hip No. 496, a weanling Malibu Moon half-sister to Hookedonthefeelin.

* Hip No. 508, a weanling Tale of the Cat half-brother to champion Gourmet Girl.

* Hip No. 555, a weanling full sister to Forest Danger.

* Hip No. 556, the dam of Officer, in foal to Tiznow.