08/11/2004 11:00PM

Team Valor wins day 2 bidding war

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A $1.85 million colt by young sire Giant's Causeway provided a dramatic climax for day two of Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga yearling sale Wednesday night in Saratoga Springs.

Team Valor's Barry Irwin outdueled Sunland Park owner Stan Fulton and Roger King, the flamboyant owner of King World Productions, for the colt, who is a three-quarters brother to Grade 2 winner Keats and a half-brother to Grade 3-placed Grand Score.

Irwin got the receipt only after Fulton capitulated and a long hesitation from King, who seemed to abandon the bidding when he walked out of the pavilion doors. Standing astride the threshold of the open doorway, King was tempted to rejoin the battle for the colt. Auctioneer Walt Robertson tried to convince him to return and up Irwin's $1.85 million bid, but ultimately King said, "I'm out."

The purchase represented an unusual pricey auction buy for Team Valor, a public partnership which generally purchases less expensive horses at auction or privately from foreign markets. After signing the ticket, Irwin explained that the partnership's goal is to buy horses with Triple Crown races in their futures, and the group has come to the conclusion that it can best obtain those potential stars by stepping up and paying retail prices at yearling sales. Gainesway, agent, sold the son of Alaska Queen, by Time for a Change.

The session sold 50 yearlings for $14,510,000, down 17 percent from last year's second night, when 49 sold for $17,440,000. Average price slid 19 percent, from $355,918 to $290,200, but median climbed four percent, from $200,000 to $207,500. Fifteen horses failed to reach their reserves, as compared to 16 at last season's second session.

In explaining the session-to-session comparative downturn, Fasig-Tipton officials pointed out that last year's second night included three major horses, including the sale-topping $2.7 million Unbridled colt.

As at Tuesday's opening session, there was only one seven-figure yearling at the Tuesday night session. The evening's second-highest price was the $900,000 that Fulton paid for Grand Slam colt out of Bisbee. Three Chimneys, agent, sold the colt, who is a half-brother to stakes-winners Taste the Passion and Bisbee's Prospect.

The auction continues Thursday night at Fasig-Tipton's Finney sale pavilion, beginning at 7:30 p.m.