11/10/2006 12:00AM

Two-generation purchase looks to long term


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The sale of Grade 1 winner Madcap Escapade and her dam, Sassy Pants, produced the largest total sum for a mare and daughter in the history of the Keeneland sales.

Madcap Escapade, winner of the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes, was the sale's most expensive mare, bringing $6 million from Hill 'n' Dale Bloodstock. Claiborne Farm consigned the mare for Bruce Lunsford, who raced her and retained an interest in this young mare carrying her first foal on a cover by Claiborne stallion Pulpit.

Hill 'n' Dale also purchased the dam of Madcap Escapade, getting Sassy Pants for $4.5 million from the Dromoland Farm consignment. In foal to Storm Cat on a June 25 cover, Sassy Pants has already produced two Grade 1 winners: Madcap Escapade and Dubai Escapade, winner of the Ballerina.

"This also highlights the focus and demand of the market," said Geoffrey Russell, director of sales for Keeneland, "because at the moment, a multiple Grade 1-producing mare in foal to Storm Cat sells for less than her Grade 1-winning daughter, who is in foal to Pulpit. The market is putting a premium on the young and the beautiful. That is the flavor of the month, and also there's no getting around it: They were two very nice mares."

Buyer John Sikura of Hill 'n' Dale said that the pair made a "unique offering of outstanding individuals with both pedigree and performance."

One of the fascinating aspects to purchasing premium bloodstock, however, is not just that a horse has accomplished this or has been sold for that. The very best Thoroughbreds convey a legacy of tradition and significance far exceeding their individual records.

"Everybody is looking for a mare that changes who you are," Sikura said. "Great matriarchs have a lasting effect on the breed and on one's role in the business. Mares such as that are rare commodities."

Indeed, mares such as Almahmoud, owned by Henry Knight's Almahurst Farm, Blue Delight at Calumet, and the Col. E.R. Bradley-owned La Troienne created dynasties of successful racehorses, and they passed on that legacy from generation to generation of horses and owners.

In attempting to achieve that level of success, Sikura has acquired Better Than Honour (dam of Jazil), Grade 1 winner Lady Tak, an interest in Silvery Swan (dam of Grade 1 winners El Corredor and Roman Ruler), as well as Madcap Escapade and Sassy Pants.

Both were stakes winners, but Madcap Escapade simply raced at a higher level than her dam. Madcap Escapade won 7 of 9 starts, and six were stakes. In two seasons of racing, Madcap Escapade earned slightly more than $1 million.

As a proven member of the Thoroughbred elite, Madcap Escapade begins her producing career with every opportunity. She is in foal to leading sire Pulpit, the most successful son of A.P. Indy.

"It is a good blend," Sikura said. "It offers more stamina and classic aptitude, and A.P. Indy will be a prime consideration for her next mating, because I hope she can breed a classic winner."

The purchase of premium broodmares also has a practical aspect in the business of breeding horses. Sikura said, "This is my business, and we had a good year with our yearlings. I try to get as deeply involved as possible by reinvesting fully - and then some in this case - in core broodmares, because they produce the yearlings you want for elite commercial consignments."

He explained that his perception of the way buyers are attracted to top-tier yearlings is by an emotional or visceral reaction more than a rational inclination. Sikura said, "When you look at a catalog page, you're either captivated by it or not" in terms of the stallions and mares represented, as well as the racing successes of their produce on the page.

And there are reasons to pay a premium for grandly pedigreed bloodstock, Sikura said.

"In attracting buyers," he said, "we know that they look for the unique individual with physique and pedigree. While you can't control the unique physical, you can control a unique pedigree. Those in buying mode will hopefully recognize the uniqueness of the enterprise and zero in on our offerings."

Few mares produce even one Grade 1 winner, and Sassy Pants, as the dam of two, is an even more unusual specimen than her outstanding daughter. A 14-year-old daughter of Saratoga Six, she is out of the Czaravich mare Special Portion, who produced three stakes winners.

Sikura said he "may or may not breed her back" in 2007. If the mare is bred back, Storm Cat would clearly be under consideration, but the opportunity to give the mare a year of rest after nine consecutive foals may prevail. And in that case, she would have the further potential to get in foal early for the following year's offspring.