07/17/2005 11:00PM

Small farm hits home run with El Corredor colt


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Thoroughbed breeder and seller Rosilyn Polan got a long-awaited payday at Monday's opening session of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale. Going into the two-day auction, Polan's best price for a sale horse was, as well as she could recall, somewhere below $100,000. But on Monday afternoon, Polan's colt by El Corredor lit up the price board to the tune of $385,000, giving her Sunday Morning Farm a bona fide home run. California-based owner B. Wayne Hughes signed the ticket.

As of 5 p.m., that was the session's highest price. The day got off to a tepid start as yearling-to-juvenile resellers, feeling conservative after lowered profits at the 2005 juvenile sales, spent less generously for new inventory. Prices picked up in the second half of the day as the session continued, with a spate of six-figure lots.

Polan's $385,000 colt, a strapping son of the Meadowlake mare Meadow Bryte, attracted attention even before he hit Fasig-Tipton's sale ground at Newtown Paddocks. Polan paid $51,000 for his dam, carrying the El Corredor colt, at the 2003 Keeneland November sale, and when the foal was born Polan felt strongly that she had a winner on her hands.

Much to her husband's chagrin, Polan turned down private offers of $70,000 and $80,000 when the colt was a weanling and a $125,000 offer the week before the July sale.

"My husband was sick," she said of Kenneth Ross, who admitted that, in retrospect, his wife knew what she had better than he did.

Holding 7-year-old daughter Laiken on her hip, Polan was both exuberant and tearful about the sale, which came after two decades of hard work. Polan and Ross bought Sunday Morning Farm almost 20 years ago, gradually working up to eight mares on their 100 acres. While building their small breeding business, the couple also grew 30,000 pounds of tobacco for 12 years. Ross was a roofer, and Polan operated a small catering company whose main business was providing ready meals for other consignors' staff members during auctions.

The sale of Hip No. 172 represented a team effort and some good luck. When Sunday Morning's one employee quit working there this spring, Polan hired Manuel Rodriguez to help her prepare her star colt for the auction. Polan, who used to prepare Quarter Horses for halter classes in the show ring, was available only because Kentucky's drought this spring had put his gardening job on hold. In the four weeks before the auction, Rodriguez borrowed young Laiken's Quarter Horse, Hoodoo, to pony the El Corredor colt up and down hillsides. By sale time, the colt had bloomed.

"There was no reserve, no pushing the bidding," Polan said. "I knew this colt would sell himself."

Yearling-to-juvenile pinhookers may have contributed to the early bidding for Polan's colt, but their names rarely appeared on tickets above $150,000 as they left more expensive lots to owners like Hughes, Mercedes Stables, Jim Connelly, and others.

"I anticipated that everybody would pull back by about 30 percent because of the 2-year-old sales," pinhooker Murray Smith said of her colleagues. "They only want real good racehorses at the 2-year-old sales. The 2-year-old sales have been so spotty and selective, and the yearling market here is very spotty. You need that real athlete that vets really good and looks like it could be the big horse next year."

Smith went past her usual budget to get one she thought fit the bill, paying $200,000 for a chestnut colt by first-crop sire Snow Ridge (Tabasco Cat). Smith's new acquisition is out of the stakes-placed Crusader Sword mare Crusading Miss Cox and is thus a half-brother to the juvenile filly Sister Soup, a winner this year.

"I don't usually do that," said Smith, who tries to average $50,000 on her yearling purchases, "but he was gorgeous. I looked at him when he was a weanling, and he was a grand-looking weanling who's turned into a grand-looking yearling. Let's hope he continues to go that way."

Just outside the bidding arena, Rosilyn Polan was, for the first time, experiencing what it's like to have a horse go exactly the right way at the right time.

"I'm totally starstruck by all the people who looked at my colt," Polan said, adding that she was most appreciative of potential bidders' compliments when they came to view the colt, the only lot she had on offer. "It makes you feel like a million bucks."