09/06/2001 11:00PM

Top of September sale may be sturdier

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - As Keeneland prepares for its 13-day September yearling sale, consignors of select yearlings may not be as jumpy as they might have been before the season's round of boutique yearling sales began in July. But their brethren who sell stock to middle- and lower-market buyers will be anxiously awaiting the September sale's later sessions, which traditionally reflect the health of the wider Thoroughbred market.

With its catalog of 4,483 horses - down from last year's record 4,650 - the September marathon, which starts Monday, has something for everyone and therefore provides the year's most comprehensive report on the yearling market.

Last year, featuring a classy Lane's End consignment, the auction ran up a record gross of $291,827,100, record average of $88,085, and 20 seven-figure yearlings.

So far this yearling season, sellers at most levels have had mixed results to ponder. Even as the economy slowed and the stock market declined, the summer's most select auctions - the creme de la creme of the Thoroughbred marketplace - brought good news with record averages at Keeneland July ($710,247) and Fasig-Tipton Saratoga ($385,259). A handful of middle- to lower-level auctions also had solid returns: Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's July sale rang up a 26-percent upswing in average to $97,671, and the company's Texas sale also posted gains.

But regional markets in Canada and Washington declined, and sales from top to bottom have seen higher buyback rates. At Keeneland July, the rate at which sellers' horses failed to reach their reserve prices climbed to 33 percent, and at Fasig-Tipton July it jumped to 38 percent. The pleasant exception proved to be Saratoga, where buybacks actually dropped, to 19 percent.

Still, top-class consignors in the boutique portion of the September auction, the sale's first two days, have reason to be more confident than they were before July. The July and Saratoga sales suggested that the people who bid millions at the top of the game - Michael Tabor, John Magnier, and Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum - have been relatively unaffected by America's slowing economy and stock market, and it is likely that their money will be in evidence again.

A lot of that money is likely to find its way into the Lane's End account. Last year, when Lane's End owner Will Farish opted for the first time to bypass Keeneland July in favor of September, he was hugely successful. Lane's End set a consignment record, selling 46 yearlings for $45,697,000, crushing the late Warner Jones Jr.'s record of $19,470,000.

Lane's End is back with, among other superbly bred horses, a Kingmambo colt who is the penultimate foal out of Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise. The dam of Summer Squall and A. P. Indy, Weekend Surprise died in March producing her final foal, a Belong to Me filly.

There are other jewels in the enormous catalog, among them a pair that probably represent the first time full siblings to a Kentucky Derby winner and a Kentucky Oaks winner have sold in the same consignment. Arthur Hancock III's Stone Farm offers Hip No. 458, a Deputy Minister-Fineza colt who is a full brother to 1998 Oaks winner Keeper Hill, and Hip No. 505, a Gulch-Line of Thunder colt who is a full brother to 1995 Derby winner Thunder Gulch.

The auction also features 13 yearlings by the late Mr. Prospector, the last of his yearlings to be offered at North American auction. There is also a single colt by legendary Australian sire Danehill. The colt is a half-brother to stakes winners Dreamer and River Deep.

Continuous sessions begin daily at 10 a.m.

The accompanying chart shows a sampling of some of the more interesting pedigrees from the sale's first two days.

24A Coronado's Quest colt out of

champion Storm Song

181A Kingmambo half-sister to

Storm Song

35A full sister to Startac

41A full sister to Breeders' Cup Juvenile

winner Unbridled's Song

48A half-sister to champion

Victory Gallop

63A Deputy Minister colt, the first foal

for champion Ajina

98A Gone West filly out of Grade 1

winner Chelsey Flower

128An A. P Indy filly out of champion

Eliza

130A Swain colt out of champion

Epitome

134A Storm Cat half-brother to Horse of

the Year Favorite Trick

136An A. P. Indy filly, the first foal for

Fabulously Fast

144A Storm Cat half-sister to Concern

153A full sister to Gaviola

177A Storm Cat colt out of champion

Hidden Lake

185A Storm Cat half-sister to Horse of

the Year Skip Away

191A Storm Cat filly, the first foal for

Jj'sdream

282A Kingmambo colt out of Irish

champion Royal Ballerina

358A Gulch half-brother to

Tranquility Lake

382A Dixieland Band half-brother to

champion Possibly Perfect

384A full sister to champion

Banshee Breeze

405A Storm Cat half-brother to champion

Lemon Drop Kid

410A Storm Cat colt out of

Clear Mandate

540A full brother to Subordination

556A Belong to Me half-brother to

Secret Status.24A Coronado's Quest colt out of

champion Storm Song

181A Kingmambo half-sister to

Storm Song

35A full sister to Startac

41A full sister to Breeders' Cup Juvenile

winner Unbridled's Song

48A half-sister to champion

Victory Gallop

63A Deputy Minister colt, the first foal

for champion Ajina

98A Gone West filly out of Grade 1

winner Chelsey Flower

128An A. P Indy filly out of champion

Eliza

130A Swain colt out of champion

Epitome

134A Storm Cat half-brother to Horse of

the Year Favorite Trick

136An A. P. Indy filly, the first foal for

Fabulously Fast

144A Storm Cat half-sister to Concern

153A full sister to Gaviola

177A Storm Cat colt out of champion

Hidden Lake

185A Storm Cat half-sister to Horse of

the Year Skip Away

191A Storm Cat filly, the first foal for

Jj'sdream

282A Kingmambo colt out of Irish

champion Royal Ballerina

358A Gulch half-brother to

Tranquility Lake

382A Dixieland Band half-brother to

champion Possibly Perfect

384A full sister to champion

Banshee Breeze

405A Storm Cat half-brother to champion

Lemon Drop Kid

410A Storm Cat colt out of

Clear Mandate

540A full brother to Subordination

556A Belong to Me half-brother to

Secret Status.