01/14/2010 12:00AM

Stronach goes over $1M for Miss Isella

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Frank Stronach bid the first million-dollar price at the 2010 Keeneland January sale during the Tuesday session's final hour, paying $1,085,000 for the multiple graded winner Miss Isella.

That helped the second of five sessions offset steep losses on Monday's opening day, but the 2010 edition of the Keeneland January auction was still running behind last year's figures at the close of business Tuesday.

Through Tuesday, the 2010 auction had sold 406 horses for a gross of $17,993,800, a decline of 15 percent from last season's total for 412 horses from a significantly larger catalog. The $44,320 average price was down 13 percent, and the $20,000 median was off by 26 percent. Cumulative buy-backs rose from 25 percent to 26 percent.

The Tuesday session alone performed well versus the equivalent day in 2009. The second day of the 2010 auction sold 228 horses for $11,401,200, up 25 percent from last year, while average rose 15 percent to $50,005, though median dropped 25 percent to $20,000.

Session buy-backs held level at 23 percent.

Stronach and underbidder Mandy Pope put on a good show over Miss Isella. After a long duel, Pope finally bowed out and Stronach added Miss Isella to his broodmare band at a cost of $1,085,000.

Miss Isella is a 5-year-old multiple Grade 2 winner and also is Grade 1-placed by virtue of a second-place finish in the 2009 Go for Wand Stakes. Lane's End, agent, consigned the Silver Charm mare as a broodmare prospect.

"I like gray mares," Stronach joked. "She put the charm on me. She a nice-looking filly, very correct, and she's got the race record and bloodlines."

Stronach's Adena Springs breeding operation wrapped up 2009 as North America's leading breeder by earnings for the seventh consecutive year.

Stronach said after signing the ticket that he hadn't decided which of his stallions he'd breed Miss Isella to.

"But probably Ghostzapper," he said.

"I thought she might bring maybe a little less, yeah," he added. "But on the other hand, if you've got something outstanding, there's always money there."

Underbidder Pope was also surprised that Miss Isella topped the $1 million mark but said her bidding was propelled by the mare's exceptional race record.

"It was just a hell of a race record, and she was pretty, and she was half to a little bit," Pope said. "She's the kind of horse we're looking for."

The "little bit" that Miss Isella is a half-sister to is nothing to sneeze at. Her half-brothers include Grade 2 winner Sir Cherokee and stakes-placed Guam Typhoon, and her half-sisters are led by graded-placed Lady Linda.

"I thought she'd bring $800,000 or maybe a little more, but I didn't think she'd bring that much," she said. "I really wanted her."

Pope owns Whisper Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla. She was underbidder at this sale last year on the $950,000 co-sale-topper Almonsoon, then spent $600,000 to get a juvenile Giant's Causeway-Yard Art filly at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Calder select 2-year-old auction. That filly, now named Dreamingly, is in training with Seth Benzel at Palm Meadows and nearing her first start, Pope said.

The second-highest price at Tuesday's Keeneland January session was $950,000 for Grade 1-placed Bon Jovi Girl. She sold to an undisclosed client of Denali Stud owner Craig Bandoroff. Gainesway, agent, consigned the 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly.

Southern Equine Stables' broodmare Last Song looked likely to be a big seller, but when the hammer fell at $775,000, it turned out that her owners had bought her back. Kerry Cauthen of consignor Four Star Sales said the final bid had been "close, very close" to the 9-year-old Unbridled's Song mare's reserve.

"They were within $50,000 or $75,000 of what they wanted," Cauthen said. "They valued the mare. They thought she was a nice mare, still wanted to test the marketplace, and they still like the mare and decided they want to take her home for that price."

Southern Equine paid $1 million for Last Song at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton November sale, where they and Hill 'n' Dale Farms dissolved their partnership.

Last Song was cataloged in foal to Elusive Quality on a late April mating.

The Keeneland January sale will continue through Jan. 15. Sessions start daily at 10 a.m.