08/02/2001 11:00PM

Such a lovely place to buy a racehorse


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Fasig-Tipton Company's Saratoga selected yearling sale, which runs from Aug. 7-9 at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion across from Saratoga Racecourse, is as much about atmosphere as it is about selling horses. In fact, some buyers and sellers believe the vaunted Saratoga sporting life helps create a better horse sale by pumping up owners' enthusiasm for the sport.

Nothing brings home the potential excitement of racehorse ownership quite like a day at the Saratoga racetrack. Once they are brimming with the love of the game, covetous owners have just a short walk to the round two-story sale pavilion. Trainers, quite often, are stabled nearby, and it's all so convenient.

"So many trainers are here, and there's plenty of time to look at the yearlings and judge them," said Arthur Hancock III, the Kentucky horseman who is bringing his first-ever consignment to the auction this year. "It's relaxing, and if you have a good horse to show them he has all the time in the world for that good to come out. People up here, they go to the races, go out to dinner and maybe have a nice steak and a couple of glasses of wine, and they come out ready to buy horses."

Whether it is because of the Saratoga experience, the economic boom in recent years, or a combination of the two, the August auction has been on the upswing since 1993, in terms of average price and gross revenue. Last year, the three-session sale sold 137 yearlings for $41,901,000 in gross revenue, up 8 percent from 1999, when 149 lots sold. Average rocketed up by 17 percent to $305,847.

Last year's sale-topper, a $4.2 million Seattle Slew-Omi (Wild Again) colt bought by David Shimmon, was within striking range of the sale's all-time leader, Parlando, who sold for $4.6 million in 1984.

As always, the question is whether or not this select sale can ratchet up its results another notch. Last year's gains were so substantial that it may be unfair to expect similar results again, especially in a slower economy. But recent results from the season-opening Keeneland July selected yearling sale, which produced a record average of $710,247, suggest that the Thoroughbred game's biggest players are still happy to spend money for good horses. Chances are, a number of them left Keeneland with space left on their shopping lists - Keeneland offered a record-low 144 lots this year - and, if Hancock is right, they could be ready to buy.

In recent decades, the Fasig-Tipton sale has presented athletic prospects whose pedigrees are one rung below those at Keeneland July. But this year's catalog has generated some extra buzz, partly because of a large contingent of Lane's End bloodstock and the appearance, though small with only four horses, of Hancock's Stone Farm.

This year's catalog of 237 yearlings includes a liberal smattering of black-type pedigrees, including a single colt from the final crop of Mr. Prospector; this one is out of the Storm Bird mare Stone Flower, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Danger's Hour. Here is a brief list of some other notable ones:

Hip No. 3, an Unbridled Song half-brother to Grade 2 winner Graeme Hall;

Hip No. 8, a Dixieland Band full sister to stakes-winner Jena Jena;

Hip No. 13, a Gone West half-sister to graded stakes-winner Adcat and stakes-winner Adorydar;

Hip No. 14, a Storm Cat filly out of multiple graded stakes-winner Advancing Star;

Hip No. 20, a Seattle Slew filly out of a full sister to millionaire Corporate Report;

Hip No. 24, a full brother to Grade 1-winning millionaire Honor Glide;

Hip No. 36, a Devil's Bag three-quarters brother to Kentucky Derby second Strodes Creek;

Hip No. 58, an A. P. Indy colt out of a full sister to Grade 1 winner Withallprobability;

Hip No. 59, a Tale of the Cat half-brother to Grade 2 winner Tricky Code;

Hip No. 70, a Southern Halo colt out of three-time South African champion Empress Club (Arg);

Hip No. 88, a full brother to Grade 2 winner Saudi Poetry;

Hip No. 100, a Carson City filly out of graded stakes-winner Hey Hazel;

Hip No. 101, a Pulpit half-sister to Grade 1-placed stakes-winner High Heeled Hope;

Hip No. 121, a Gold Fever half-brother to stakes winners Bite the Bullet and Shuailaan;

Hip No. 124, a Deputy Comman-der half-sister to Grade 1-placed stakes-winner Laura's Pistolette;

Hip No. 125, a Storm Cat half-brother to stakes-winner Sazarac Jazz;

Hip No. 134, a Touch Gold half-brother to graded winners Posen and Truluck;

Hip No. 142, a Clever Trick half-brother to Grade 1 winner Zoftig;

Hip No. 153, a Gone West half-sister to last year's $4.2 million sale-topping colt;

Hip No. 167, a full sister to Grade 1 winner Hookedonthefeelin;

Hip No. 177, a Capote half-sister to graded winners Ifyoucould-seemenow and DoyouseewhatIsee;

Hip No. 206, a Dixieland Band half-brother to $2 million earner and Grade 1 winner Sir Bear;

Hip No. 233, a Hennessy half-brother to Grade 2 winner King Cugat; and

Hip No. 235, a Tabasco Cat half-sister to Grade 1 winner A P Valentine.

Sessions begin nightly at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.