01/09/2007 12:00AM

Solvig brings $750K in second go-round


LEXINGTON, Ky. - A year ago, Fitz Eugene Dixon paid $950,000 for the dual Grade 3 winner Solvig when she went through the auction ring at Keeneland's 2006 January all-ages sale. Carrying a foal by Smarty Jones, she was one of the last major purchases Dixon made before his death at age 82 last Aug. 2.

Dixon's death brought Solvig back to Keeneland's auction ring again on Tuesday, and, once again, she was one of the top choices at the January all-ages sale. Offered in foal to the 2005 champion 3-year-old Afleet Alex, Solvig was Tuesday's session-topper at $750,000.

Solvig now will join the small but select broodmare band owned by Canadians Dave and Adrian Munro.

In addition to Solvig, other six-figure horses from the Dixon dispersal included $350,000 I'm a Caution, in foal to Johannesburg, and $275,000 Stylish Beauty, in foal to Grand Slam. The Dixon horses sold through the agencies of Claiborne Farm and Mr. and Mrs. Rick Abbott's Charlton operation.

Final figures for the Tuesday session were not available as of 6:30 p.m.

Solvig was an obvious standout at the second session, and it now seems likely that the Afleet Alex foal she's carrying will also show up in the auction ring as a yearling of 2008.

"There's been some debate about that, but our intent right now is to sell the foal," said Adrian Munro, who was seated next to bloodstock advisor Steve Johnson of Margaux Farm.

Adrian and his father, Dave, have been increasingly interested in commercial breeding and are trying to build a sales-quality mare band in Kentucky, in addition to the mares they have at home in Calgary. Their Highfield Stock Farm operation owns about 65 horses, most of which are mares, Adrian said, and also stands Captain Bodgit. They also campaign runners through the Team Valor partnerships, most recently as investors in United States allowance winner Fairbanks and South African stakes-winner Stratos.

"They're trying to buy one big mare a year," said Johnson, who oversees the Highfield mares in Kentucky at Margaux. Including Solvig, the Kentucky band now numbers five.

"She was in foal to the right horse, in foal at the right time, and she has a great race record," Johnson said of Solvig. "She had it all. I thought she'd bring more."

Solvig was not the Munros' first splashy Keeneland January purchase. Last year, they bought Argentine-bred Crazy Ensign, who was a Grade 1 winner in her homeland before becoming a graded-placed stakes winner in California. Highfield Stock Farm paid $925,000 for the mare. They also own Canadian stakes winner Marisa Go.

The Munros have flown just under the radar in the United States market, but Dave Munro has been involved in the Thoroughbred business for years. Dave Munro's interest in developing a commercial band in Kentucky has grown, his son said, after he sold "a couple of his businesses." Munro is the chief executive officer of Gienow Window and Door, based in Calgary. The family's varied business interests also include oil and gas.

The importance of breeding for the top of the marketplace was crystal clear at the January sale's Tuesday session.

"The top end is strong, and that's about all there is," Steve Johnson said after signing the ticket for Solvig. "It's tough below that. . . . There are a lot of people shooting at the same target."

Solvig's seller, Rick Abbott, agreed.

"The market wants quality, and if it's not that quality, it doesn't sell," he said.

But, for Abbott, bringing Solvig full circle back to the Keeneland January auction wasn't about business. It was about the end of a 25-year friendship with the man who bought the mare there in 2006. Abbott and Dixon served together on Pennsylvania's racing commission and became fast friends through horses.

Dixon, who fell ill last June, had especially wanted Solvig because she was in foal to famous Pennsylvania-bred Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones. When Dixon purchased Solvig, it was Abbott who signed the ticket on his behalf.

"It killed me to sell that mare," he said. "He was so excited about her when he bought her, and he really wanted a Smarty Jones foal."

Solvig's Smarty Jones filly was born on Feb. 26 and was Pennsylvania's first Smarty Jones foal - a fact that pleased her breeder. Now named Smart 'n Snazzy, she's at the Abbotts' farm.

"She's covered with mud and out in a field," Abbott said. "When she was born, Mrs. Dixon called me and said, 'I can't sell this filly.' So she'll keep her and race her."

The Keeneland January sale was to continue through Monday at the Keeneland sale pavilion in Lexington, with sessions beginning daily at 10 a.m.