03/21/2003 12:00AM

Shake-up at online auction house


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Equine Spectrum, an online auction house operated by the Keeneland Association in partnership with some of Kentucky's most influential consignors, has dismissed its staff and will come under more direct Keeneland management.

"Equine Spectrum is still a very viable entity," Keeneland spokeswoman Julie Balog said. "Keeneland has assumed more active management of the company. Keeneland has been the managing partner of Equine Spectrum, but now it will take a more day-to-day role."

Balog declined to offer additional details on what, if any, additional changes Keeneland might make to the online auction service. But she did say that Equine Spectrum has no auctions scheduled in the near future. The web site was still operating on Friday, offering registration services and links to industry news.

Mark Taylor of Taylor Made Farm, one of the sales agencies that founded Equine Spectrum, said that the costs of running the online auction house had not been justified by the early returns. But he added that the company would continue to exist.

"When the concept was created a couple of years ago, no one was able to foresee how rapidly or what role online sales would have in integrating into the bloodstock market," Taylor said. "We wanted to synergize groups of consignors and breeders with bloodstock product to get in on the ground floor of any boom.

"It's scaled back, but it continues to do some research and development that won't be as costly," he said of Equine Spectrum. "We don't know where the technology is going to go, so we don't want to drop the ball and say it's a failed concept. This kind of service could be very useful in the future."

Equine Spectrum debuted in December 2000 with the backing of founders Lane's End, Coolmore, Taylor Made, Three Chimneys, and the Eaton Sales agency. Keeneland bought a 25 percent share in the company in March 2001. But the online auction service struggled to sell a high percentage of the horses it offered, a common complaint among online Thoroughbred sales sites and one that helped shutter Keeneland's own online auctions for horses that failed to sell through its live auction ring.

Equine Spectrum hired Dan Kelliher, a vice president of sales for Milwaukee-based Paragon Development Systems, as its CEO in 2002. He and several other staff members have been laid off.

Calumet will stay the course for now

Since the death of Calumet Farm owner Henryk de Kwiatkowski, 79, on March 17, the racing industry and Lexington residents alike have been wondering what the future holds for the historic property.

At least for the immediate future, the plan is to stay the course. That was the word on Thursday from Calumet general manager Tony Cissell, still in the Bahamas where he delivered Region of Merit's Tampa Bay Derby trophy to de Kwiatkowski last Sunday.

"His wishes are for the farm to continue on," Cissell said. "We're going to continue on and endeavor to fulfill his wishes and continue to raise horses unless notified otherwise."

Cissell said that the family has been making memorial plans, and "the estate settlement hasn't gotten that far yet" with regard to announcing long-term plans for the farm.

"Region of Merit is still being pointed to the Blue Grass Stakes [April 12]," Cissell said. "He was very fond of that horse, and before being hospitalized he said that if Region of Merit won the Tampa Bay Derby, he wanted him to run in the Blue Grass."

Calumet's famous white fences and red-trimmed barns are icons of Lexington, and its distinguished record as a breeder and owner has made the farm a historic treasure for the sport.

* Mr. Henrysee, sire of 2002 Australian champion juvenile filly Victory Vein, has relocated from Australia to Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Jones's Domino Stud for a fee of $7,500. Mr. Henrysee is a son of Mr. Prospector and the Secretariat mare Cinegita. He will begin covering mares on April 1.