09/15/2008 11:00PM

Top of market strong, but numbers down overall

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Racing stables, resellers, and foreign buyers combined to shore up the top of Keeneland’s open September yearling market on Sunday. But even with strong selling in the higher price brackets the auction’s sixth session suffered losses.

The session’s five leading buyers suggested the depth of competition for horses on offer as the sale wended through its second week. The leading buyer by gross was Nick de Meric, a yearling-to-juvenile reseller, who purchased six horses for $955,000. The rest of the top five purchasers were Ahmed Zayat, Hacienda El Refugio, Eisaman Equine, and Jay Em Ess Stable - which collectively represent nearly every activity in the industry, from owners planning to race their stock to investors planning to resell their stock.

The session’s highest price was the $400,000 that Paula C Racing Stable paid for Hip No. 1897, a Macho Uno colt out of Bag Lady Jane, a Grade 2-placed stakes-winner. Hidden Brook, agent, sold the colt on behalf of Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs. Hip No. 1897 is a half-brother to the winner Champagne Dream.

Coolmore agent Demi O’Byrne paid the second-highest price of the day, $375,000 for a Powerscourt-Beefeater Baby colt consigned by Padraig Campion’s Bandford Stud agency.

The session sold 295 yearlings for $27,081,500, down 4 percent from the total for 288 yearlings sold at last year’s sixth session. The average price, $91,802, was down 7 percent from last season, and median dropped 13 percent to $70,000. Though the market was softer than last year’s, the buy-back rate declined from 23 percent to 22 percent.

“Everybody understands where we are at this time has adapted,” said Keeneland’s director of sales, Geoffrey Russell.

Eight horses sold for $300,000 or more, continuing the trend of strength at the top end of each day’s selling.

The Keeneland September sale, which features a record catalog of 5,555 yearlings this season, was to continue through Sept. 23. Sessions begin daily at 10 a.m. at the Keeneland sale pavilion.