02/27/2004 12:00AM

Serious money for unproven sires


MIAMI - Only the dead were unaware of the heavy-hitters among the juveniles available at the Fasig-Tipton select sale of 2-year-olds in training at Calder on Tuesday. Yet the confluence of buyers with seemingly limitless budgets and a couple of dozen very exciting young prospects sent prices to unprecedented heights.

The world's record for a 2-year-old in training was broken not once, but twice, in the one-day session, and both the colts, one selling for $3.1 million and the second for $4.5 million, seem outstanding young athletes for racing both this year and next.

Intriguingly, both are by young stallions who have not yet had a runner. Consigned by Kirkwood Stables and selling as Hip No. 229, the new world record 2-year-old is by Fusaichi Pegasus, himself a $4 million Keeneland July yearling and later a classic winner. Two and a half hours or so earlier, the previous record price from last year's Barretts sale had been broken by a gray son of Stephen Got Even, selling as Hip No. 145.

Actually, this is the sort of freshman-sire excitement that might have been predicted for Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, whose first crop are now 2 and sold very well at the Fasig-Tipton auction.

A horse of outstanding physical development and presence, Fusaichi Pegasus was the master of the grounds from the time he stepped onto Keeneland for the July sale in 1998. A winner of 6 of his 9 starts, including the Kentucky Derby, Wood Memorial, San Felipe, and Jerome, Fusaichi Pegasus sold to Coolmore as a stallion prospect for a price reported in excess of $60 million.

He went to stud for a fee of $150,000, the highest entering stud fee in the United States for more than a decade. Four years later, Fusaichi Pegasus has to prove himself as a sire with his first crop to race this year. Since breeders are most reluctant to expose themselves to a horse "on the bubble," whose value can decline if his first runners are unsuccessful, the stud fee for Fusaichi Pegasus has been reduced to reflect that reality and is now $85,000.

But if the evidence of the Fasig-Tipton sale is any indication of the young stallion's fortunes, he will make the grade.

In addition to the record juvenile, Fusaichi Pegasus also sired Hip No. 260, a colt out of the Known Fact mare Li Law. He went to Brian Morgan, agent, for $700,000.

The record-setter is out of a young unraced daughter of Storm Cat named Hidden Storm. Sold at the Keeneland September sale in 1998 for $360,000 to Padua Stable, Hidden Storm was bred and consigned by Lane's End. The mare, a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Jazz Club, is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Hidden Garden.

This is the family of Lane's End foundation mare The Garden Club, from whose family have come a Horse of the Year, Mineshaft and an Alabama winner, Runup the Colors.

With such a family, Hidden Storm had considerable value, even though she never ran, and resold at the Keeneland November sale in 2001 for $450,000, carrying this colt, to Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds. The record juvenile first visited the auction ring at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga select sale in 2003, bringing $270,000 from Whitehorse Stable, and his dam, in foal to Danehill, brought $700,000 at the Keeneland November sale last year.

A good-sized colt with substance and scope, Hip No. 229 greatly appealed to buyer Fusao Sekiguchi, who purchased the sire for a half-million less as a yearling. The colt carries a certain resemblance to his sire, and with Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale managing the colt's racing career, he will have conservative handling with an emphasis on doing the best for the horse in the long run.

Whereas everyone expected a very significant price for Hip No. 229 because of his pedigree and natural athleticism, few observers had an inkling that Hip No. 145 would bring a record price until they saw him on the track for the first time.

And he didn't even work on the first breeze day.

Consignor Niall Brennan, agent for himself and partner Mike Ryan, noted that the gray colt had missed a bit of training and, as a result, only galloped over the Calder surface on the first breeze day.

It was a most impressive gallop. The colt went a quarter-mile in 23.40 seconds, which is faster than many horses breeze the distance. And when he came back to breeze a furlong in 10.40 seconds on the Sunday before the sale, it was the most anticipated breeze of the day.

The colt did not disappoint. He showed the extension of stride and smoothness of gait that tend to mark the best racing prospects. A colt of medium size, Hip No. 145 has a good shoulder, very good hindquarter, and good length through the body. He shows quality and good balance, is correct and easy on himself, both mentally and physically.

All these qualities naturally impressed Godolphin's chief representative, John Ferguson, and when the gray went through the ring, Ferguson was on the phone, quietly answering every bid until the handsome colt was Godolphin's for $3.1 million.

Out of a minor stakes winner by Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair, Hip No. 145 was quite a nice colt in manner and conformation, but his action and natural ability set him apart as a serious prospect for this year and especially for next year, with longer distances suited to a colt with his exceptional stride.

His second dam is the hickory racemare Degenerate Gal, who won 22 races and $936,393. The colt's sire, the A.P. Indy horse Stephen Got Even, stands at Lane's End for $12,500 live foal. He was a high-class runner who won the Grade 1 Donn and a bit more than $1 million. He was not, however, blessed with the best feet, and they compromised his racing.

Should this colt prove to have the talent of his sire allied with the toughness of the female family, the new owner Godolphin and the stallion managers at Lane's End will have plenty to cheer about.