11/04/2003 12:00AM

Spending spree

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Horsephotos
Banshee Winds, the dam of Banshee Breeze, is led out of the sales ring after attracting a winning bid of $2.4 million. Banshee Winds is in foal to A.P. Indy.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The name of John Ferguson, the regular buying agent for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum, wasn't on the buyers' list very often on Monday at the Keeneland November breeding stock's opening session. But he made up for it on Tuesday, spending $6.1 million to acquire the day's top lot - Johar's dam, Windsharp, from the late Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corp.

Ferguson's assignment was simple: get that mare.

"I can tell you that as long as I have been working for Sheikh Mohammed," Ferguson said after signing the ticket, "there hasn't been a mare to come through the auction ring that we were as keen to get as this one, with the possible exception of Caress. We were very keen to get her, too."

Windsharp wasn't the only seven-figure mare on Maktoum's list. He also bought the multiple Grade 1 winner and $2 million earner Sharp Cat, in foal to Gone West, for $3.1 million. Like Windsharp, Sharp Cat also hailed from The Thoroughbred Corp.'s consignment. Alice Chandler's Mill Ridge agency sold both mares as well as several other million-plus horses.

Many expected Windsharp to be the November sale-topper. Her price fell short of Cash Run's $7.1 million price tag at Monday's opener, but she was still what you might call the true sale-topper. Padua Stables sold Cash Run to dissolve its partnership with Coolmore, which owned 50 percent of the mare. When Coolmore outbid Padua to retain the mare, it effectively was paying only half of the price displayed on the board.

Windsharp led a second consecutive day of strong prices for some of the world's most accomplished and well-bred broodmares.

Through the first two sessions, the auction sold 366 horses for a total of $140,093,000, up 25 percent from last year, when 368 were sold. The two-day average was $382,768, up 26 percent. And the cumulative median of $190,000 was a gain of 13 percent. But the buy-back rate for the first two days also climbed, rising from last year's 21 percent to 27 percent in 2003.

The session sold 12 millionaires, including $3.15 million Purrfectly, dam of 2003 Kentucky Oaks runner-up Santa Catarina and a half-sister to European champion Culture Vulture; $2.9 million Habibti, in foal to Point Given and purchased by Shadwell; $2.4 million Banshee Winds, dam of champion Banshee Breeze; $2.05 million Poetically, a Canadian champion; and $2 million Turko's Turn, dam of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given.

Windsharp's value got a boost when Johar dead-heated with High Chaparral in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Turf. She currently is in foal to again to Johar's sire, Gone West.

But as Ferguson pointed out, Johar's Breeders' Cup Turf win was icing on an already luscious cake. Windsharp is a two-time champion in Canada with earnings of more than $1.1 million. Even before Johar entered the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita, he was a Grade 1 winner. And Windsharp has another Grade 1 winner to her credit in the filly Dessert, winner of this year's Del Mar Oaks. This gives the young broodmare a perfect record of two Grade 1 winners from two foals to race.

Bidding for Windsharp opened at $1 million, and bids flashed all over the pavilion as everyone who was anyone took a shot. But Ferguson, bidding in his customary place near the back walking ring, was working for a man who was "very keen," and whose keenness is backed up by the Thoroughbred world's deepest bank account.

Nonetheless, Ferguson had tenacious competition in Ira Gumberg, who bid on behalf of his family's Pittsburgh-based Skara Glen Stable. Gumberg hung on like a terrier, but Ferguson finally shook him off, too, and a smiling Gumberg graciously stepped over to congratulate his rival after the hammer fell. Gumberg didn't leave the sale empty-handed, either: a couple of hours after Windsharp sold, he signed for $1.2 million Charm, a Polish Numbers half-sister to champion Banshee Breeze, who sold in foal to Unbridled's Song. Mill Ridge was the consignor.

Gumberg was one of several American buyers who stepped up to the challenge in Tuesday's competitive bidding atmosphere.

Texas banker Don Adam, owner of Courtlandt Farm in Florida, paid $3.15 million for Purrfectly. Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud agency sold Purrfectly in foal to Unbridled's Song.

Adam, who bought $2.25 million Gourmet Girl and $1.85 million Kalookan Queen here last year, shrugged off the price.

"Everything was going to be a premium," he said. He opened his catalog to show the remarks he had written in neat ball-point print at the top of Purrfectly's catalog page: From a great Phipps family and already has produced a top-class runner: A++.

"It's a wonderful pedigree, and she's a young mare who still has plenty of good years left," Adam said.

Another major American interest, the ClassicStar partnership managed by David Plummer, bought Banshee Winds, dam of Banshee Breeze and in foal to A. P. Indy; Turko's Turn, dam of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given and carrying a full sibling to him; and $1.3 million Stylelistick, a stakes-winning Storm Cat mare in foal to Kingmambo. Mill Ridge, agent, sold Banshee Winds and Turko's Turn, and Denali Stud, agent, sold Stylelistick.

The prices were lavish, but, unlike Maktoum, Plummer was operating as a commercial breeder and therefore had spending limits. The ClassicStar group sells most of its foals and is looking to turn profits on its mare purchases.

"You can't bid with emotion," Plummer said. "We decide what we think they're worth, and we stop after that. If they go for more than that, we don't buy them."

B. Wayne Hughes, another American prominent on the buyers' list, paid $2.05 million for Poetically, a mare who wasn't even his top choice at the auction.

"She was our second choice behind Saudi Poetry," Hughes said. Saudi Poetry sold to WinStar Farm for $2.2 million on Monday. "But we're glad to get her. We liked it a lot that she was in foal to A.P. Indy, and she's a beautiful mare. She's a champion, and she's young."

Hughes said he will race the A.P. Indy foal and, if he likes the look of it, he'll probably breed Poetically back to A.P. Indy.

Brookdale Farm, agent, sold Poetically.

From the sellers' standpoint, the day belonged to Mill Ridge, which sold six of the session's million-plus lots, for a staggering total of $17.7 million - and that wasn't counting the consignment's less expensive lots. Still, it stung Alice Chandler a little to watch those young, promising Thoroughbred Corp. mares, some of the best bloodstock in the world, step through the auction ring. Chandler has boarded them for Salman, overseen their matings, and raised many of their foals.

"It's bittersweet," she said. "We're losing 27 mares. We've raised a lot of good horses out of them, like Johar, Dessert, and Point Given. I'm glad they've got good homes. That's the most important thing to me."