07/19/2005 12:00AM

Upper market healthier on sale's second day

This El Corredor-Meadow Bright colt was the top-priced yearling on Monday, bringing $385,000.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When consignor David Hager of Idle Hour Farm advised a client, Marion Montanari, to send her handsome chestnut Giant's Causeway colt to Fasig-Tipton's July yearling sale, she wasn't so sure she shouldn't wait for the Keeneland September sale.

But Hager's advice turned out to be sound and profitable for Montanari. The Giant's Causeway colt - the only yearling in the Fasig-Tipton catalog sired by that popular stallion - showed up all the better for his rarity and brought $650,000 as a result.

The buyer was Demi O'Byrne, the regular agent for Michael Tabor and John Magnier, who owns the Coolmore Stud where Giant's Causeway stands.

"I had to talk her into this sale," Hager said of Montanari. "We all know there are a lot of Giant's Causeways out there, and that was my concern, to try to get into a market where there were fewer to compete with."

Hager and Montanari also benefited from a stronger upper market on Tuesday than they would have gotten on Monday, the auction's opening day.

By 5 p.m., the Tuesday session had rung up a string of lots above $300,000, including a $500,000 Buddha-Danzig Darling colt sold by Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds (Paramount Sales, agent) to Maurice Miller and Tom Van Meter; a $425,000 Forestry-Magical Masquerade colt that Padua Stables (Taylor Made, agent) sold to the pinhoooking team of Randy Hartkey and Dean DeRenzo; and a $395,000 Devil His Due-Ballybeg colt that Margaux Farm, agent, sold to Buckram Oak Farm.

At Monday's opener, the highest yearling price was $385,000 for a colt by second-crop sire El Corredor out of the Meadowlake mare Meadow Bryte. Rosilyn Polan's Sunday Morning Thoroughbreds sold the colt to B. Wayne Hughes.

The opening session produced mixed results. Buoyed by the largest-ever catalog, totaling 672 yearlings, the opening-day gross rose from $16,744,000 to $17,503,000, and the median held level with last year at $80,000. But the average price dropped by 4 percent, and the buy-back rate rose sharply, from 25 percent last year to 38 percent. Thirty-six horses were withdrawn from the first session.

The increased buy-back rate unnerved sellers and disappointed auction officials, but Fasig-Tipton's president, Walt Robertson, remained stoic.

"Let's see tomorrow," he said after the opening session, which consisted mainly of offerings by first- and second-crop sires. "I don't think it's time for panic. This is a good horse market. Horses are averaging $95,000 for untried stallions."

Unusual for this sale, Monday's highest price was not for a yearling at all. Buzzards Bay, winner of this year's Santa Anita Derby and fifth in the Kentucky Derby behind Giacomo, was a late addition to the sale when his owners, David Shimmon and Bill Bianco, terminated their partnership in Fog City Stables. Consigning agent Darby Dan Farm offered Buzzards Bay without reserve, and the 3-year-old Marco Bay colt brought $725,000 from Gary and Wendy Broad. The Broads, residents of Incline Village, Nev., are relatively new to the game and were represented at the auction by trainer Ron Ellis.

One reason generally credited for the Monday session's comparative softness was conservatism among pinhookers, the yearling-to-juvenile resellers who faced a tough market at the spring's 2-year-old sales. Though they were active on Tuesday, they were highly selective and cautious in their spending, a factor that likely contributed to many buy-backs in the $25,000 to $100,000 middle market.

But at least one pinhooker wasn't pulling in his horns. That was Maurice Miller, whose breathtaking pinhooking gambles are famous, and often successful. On Tuesday, Miller spent $500,000 for a Buddha colt he and regular selling partner Van Meter plan to offer again at the 2006 juvenile sales.

"We thought he was the best colt in the sale," Miller said after bidding from the pavilion's second-floor press gallery. Miller acknowledged that the price was "a stretch."

"A friend of mine says there are old pinhookers and bold pinhookers, but there are no old, bold pinhookers," Miller said. "But we're almost getting there."

Miller wasn't the only buyer who felt a little stretched on Tuesday. Mohammed Moubarak, representing Buckram Oak, went to $395,000 to acquire Hip No. 350, the Devil His Due-Ballybeg colt.

"We feel we overpaid," Moubarak said, "but, now, for a good individual, you've got to overpay, no matter what the pedigree."