07/21/2005 11:00PM

She found Lost in the Fog

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Bloodstock agents, young and old, dream of selling the big one. For Kelli Mitchell the dream became a reality at the Ocala Breeders' Sales August yearling sale of 2003. Her weanling pinhook was sold at a good profit, and the attractive bay colt by Lost Soldier became a marquee performer who races with the name Lost in the Fog.

This year, Mitchell will take 39 yearlings to the Ocala August sales, a few more to the Keeneland fall sales, and a consignment to the Eastern fall sales.

Mitchell has worked her way up the economic ladder to prosper as a bloodstock agent. This, however, was not always a certain vocation. The family business was dealing in used cars. But, they ventured in all sorts of horsepower, from show horses to lower-level claimers competing at Finger Lakes.

In the mid-70's Mitchell's family bid goodbye to New York and relocated to a farm in Ocala. Mitchell went to a local high school and graduated. In between classes she worked with show horses.

It was at a horse show that Mitchell was introduced to Tom Lavery and his partner and wife, Betty. The Laverys - Tom Lavery has since died - were acknowledged bloodstock agents and Kelli was offered a post-high school graduation job.

"I went out to Lavery Farm and the first thing they did was put me on a horse," Mitchell said. "Mr. Lavery was on a pony and Mrs. Lavery on a 2-year-old sales prospect. I was wedged in between them and that was my first lesson."

Several years ago, Mitchell apprenticed with Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck, who nowadays sell under the name of Summerfield Sales.

"I had assisted taking care of 90 or so yearlings at the OBS yearling sales," Mitchell said. "The next year, when I had five of my own, I thought I might as well do the prepping and sales stuff myself."

Among Mitchell's employers or benefactors were the Brookside South farm (now Lambholme South), Junior Serna, and Dr. and Mrs. Pug Hart.

Mitchell said she has sold some sale-toppers for Ocala Stud, which is geared to sell in the 2-year-old market and does not often participate in the mixed sales or the yearling sales. "When Ocala Stud has something to sell, they usually call me," said Mitchell.

Mitchell is a pure pinhooker - she has no broodmares to re-supply her sales needs. She attributes much of her pin-hooking success to local horsemen Bobby Noble and Bill Terrill.

The pinhook story of Lost in the Fog is worth the telling. In November of '02 Mitchell, with her own money and money from Terrill, went to the Keeneland November sales looking to buy some New York-breds for resale at Saratoga's statebred yearling auctions. She was not getting the job done, as prices were steeper than her budget.

"I saw a couple of my Ocala buddies at the sale, they were handling a consignment of horses, and one of them told me that I should look over a bay colt in the consignment who would be on the market at $10,000," Mitchell said.

Mitchell took a look at the weanling colt and liked him. When her limit was reached at the sale, she had bought the Lost Soldier colt for $13,000 and another Kentucky-bred colt for roughly the same price.

"When [Terrill] asked me about the purchases and why I did not buy the New York-breds as planned, I told him that we bought what we could afford," Mitchell said. "Funny, the Lost Soldier colt was born and raised less than five miles from me, and here I had to go to Kentucky to buy him."

Nine months later at the OBS August yearling sale, when the bidding on the Mitchell pinhooked Lost Soldier colt ended, he was led out of the ring for $48,000.

"I knew he was going to sell good," Mitchell said. "He was just so good-looking. A hundred-thousand would not have surprised me. Good things can happen to you in this business!"