09/18/2001 11:00PM

Storm Cats bring in the millions


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Handsome chestnut sons of top international sire Storm Cat brought the top prices at the two select sessions of the Keeneland September yearling sale last week. The highest price of the sale was $6.4 million, which Coolmore bid on Sept. 12 for a colt out of Halory, the dam of Blue Grass Stakes winner Halory Hunter and three other stakes winners. The session's high price on Sept. 10 was $5.5 million for a colt out of La Affirmed who sold to Sheikh Mohammed.

The colt out of La Affirmed is a full brother to three other graded or group stakes winners: Country Cat, Caress, and Bernstein. An elegant colt with great presence, he was bred by Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable and sold from the consignment of Eaton Sales.

Moran, a feisty player in the upper levels of the bloodstock market, owns 25 broodmares and shares in all the major stallions, such as A.P. Indy, Seeking the Gold, and Danzig. Moran's broodmare band includes multiple Grade 1 winner Excellent Meeting, the high-class Storm Cat mare Catinca, classic winner Forest Flower, and her stakes-winning half-sister Scoop the Gold.

La Affirmed, by Affirmed, is one of Brushwood's best producers. She is out of the Round Table mare La Mesa, who also produced Outstandingly, winner of the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1984.

Oustandingly is by Exclusive Native, also the sire of Triple Crown winner Affirmed, and as La Mesa, Outstandingly, and Affirmed were all owned by the Harbor View Farm of Louis and Patrice Wolfson, the decision to send La Mesa to Affirmed was both simple and blessed with success.

Actually, the major success came later. La Affirmed was only a good winner at the track, but once retired to the paddocks, she became a star. Her first two foals sired by Storm Cat were the stakes winners Caress and Country Cat, and following them came the graded stakes-placed Unify, by Farma Way.

Relatively early in her producing career, La Affirmed's status had risen to such an extent that her daughter by Mt. Livermore was accepted to the 1996 Keeneland July select yearling sale and brought a final bid of $975,000. That filly was one of several yearlings that Fusao Sekiguchi signed for only days before being sacked by his corporate board in Japan and finding himself without the means to satisfy these obligations.

Moran was one of the active Keeneland buyers who stepped up and purchased those yearlings privately, with Sekiguchi covering any shortfalls and additional costs. The filly Moran acquired was named Layounne, and "Mrs. Moran was so pleased with her that she wanted to acquire the dam," said Tom Van Meter, partner in Eaton Sales with Reiley McDonald.

That opportunity came later in 1996, as La Affirmed was offered at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in foal to Storm Cat. Brushwood purchased the 13-year-old mare for $1.9 million, second in price that year only to the $2.6 million that John Magnier paid for 5-year-old Mariah's Storm, carrying a colt later named Giant's Causeway.

The following November, Brushwood marketed La Affirmed's handsome son by Storm Cat, and he sold out of the Eaton consignment to Demi O'Byrne, agent, for $925,000 and was later named Bernstein. The colt won a pair of Group 3 races in Ireland and entered stud at Buck Pond Farm in Kentucky this spring.

The mare's 2-year-old, a Danzig colt named Della Francesca, was sold privately, and her yearling was the center attraction at Keeneland on Monday. He entered the ring and planted himself like a statue. There he stood for what must have been 10 minutes as the bids rose, and even amid all the racket in the sales pavilion, he simply stood and surveyed his domain.

Before the bidding began, Van Meter said, "We knew both Coolmore and Fergie [Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock consultant, John Ferguson] liked him, and the thing that really got me was that in the early threes, Fergie took a step back from Sheikh Mohammed and let him bid on the colt from there onward."

Just as Sheikh Mohammed's interest in the colt was very important to his sale, Brushwood's relationship has been important to Eaton. Of Moran, Reiley McDonald said, "She's a great friend to us. I called her and told her 'You topped the sale, and he brought five and a half million.' It took five minutes to convince her, and then she went from tears and elation to being mad at herself for not being here." Moran is on a fishing trip.

At the sale's second select session, Sept. 12, another muscular chestnut son of Storm Cat produced the biggest ticket. From the consignment of Lane's End, agent for Stonerside Stable, the colt is out of the Halo mare Halory. Stonerside acquired the mare as part of a package deal several years ago when the operation bought the broodmare band of Jack Kent Cooke's Elmendorf Stud in a private transaction.

Halory, in addition to producing Halory Hunter, is the dam of stakes winners Prory, Key Lory, and Brushed Halory. The mare is in foal to Unbridled.