12/05/2001 1:00AM

Washington sale hit hard by declines


Average price fell 13 percent from last year, to $3,811, at Sunday's Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association's winter mixed sale, where 233 head sold for a total of $888,050.

Bill Feeley of Roscoe, Mont., purchased the sales topper, a yearling colt by Devil's Bag from the consignment of Northwest Farms, for $37,000. The colt is a half-brother to 2001 Emerald Express Stakes winner Melcapwalker. Both are out of the Greinton mare No Extra Charge.

The top-selling filly was a yearling daughter of Souvenir Copy out of the multiple stakes-winning Seattle Slew mare Tax Dodge. The filly was consigned by Jawl Bros. and went to Liberty Road Stable of San Francisco for $28,000.

The yearling portion of the sale saw 147 head sell for an average price of $4,944, down 19 percent from last year's sale. Last year, 111 yearlings were sold. Twenty-six weanlings sold for an average of $2,437, down 46 percent, and the 40 broodmares sold averaged $1,850, off 27 percent.

The faltering economy took most of the blame for the lower prices, but some saw a special significance to the weak market for broodmares and for females of all ages. Of the 10 horses, all yearlings, who sold for more than $15,000, only three were fillies.

"One way to look at it is to say the breeding market has crashed," said Debbie Pabst, a breeder and sales committee member. "There weren't many people looking for fillies and mares."

Of the 328 horses cataloged, 30 were withdrawn before the sale and 65 did not attain their reserves. The rate of reserves not attained was 18 percent, up slightly from last year's figure of 14 percent.

A gelding - and a sire

Live at the Half officially sired his first winner Sunday when Savanna's Folley won the second race at Portland Meadows, which was for 2-year-old maiden fillies.

Savanna's Folley is a member of Live at the Half's only crop of foals.

Live at the Half, who is now a gelding, is competing at the Portland meet. The 8-year-old won his first start at the stand for owner and trainer Dick Occhiuto, then came back and finished last against $3,200 sprinters on Saturday. Live at the Half was claimed out of that race by owner and trainer Robert Schmidt, who plans to campaign him next summer in Alberta.

Webb sidelined 4-6 weeks

Jockey Bob Webb, who was fourth in the Thoroughbred standings and first in the Quarter Horse standings at Portland Meadows, will be out of action for four to six weeks after fracturing his heel on Friday. Webb sustained the injury when his mount in Friday's sixth race, Goldfield Gamble, veered at the start, bumped a rival, and unseated Webb.

Webb's misfortune contributes to a revolving-door syndrome in the Portland jockey colony. Also missing are Gary Baze, who decided to take the rest of the winter off, and Amir Cedeno, who left after Sunday's races to spend the holidays in his native Panama. Baze is expected to return in March or April to tune up for the Emerald Downs meeting, and Cedeno will be back in January.

Recent arrivals include Sean Evans, who started riding at Portland last Friday after riding in Alberta, and apprentice Kevin Mangold, who shipped in from Phoenix to accept his first local mount on Sunday.

Scheduled to make an early return to the races is Clark Jones, who was supposed to be out six to eight weeks after breaking a bone in his foot on Nov. 10. Jones will attempt to make a comeback in time for Oregon-bred Day, Dec. 15, according to agent Steve Peery.

Former rider Mills dies

Former Longacres rider Jeff Mills died unexpectedly on Sunday after complications from a tonsilectomy performed on Friday. He was 45.

Mills, who was living in Puyallup, Wash., retired from riding in 1998 with a career record of 988 wins from 10,737 mounts. He rode at Longacres from 1983 through 1990 and ranked among the top 10 riders in all but one of those years.

Mills's body will be shipped to Wisconsin, where most of his family resides, for services on Monday. Local services will be held Friday at 10 a.m. in the Emerald Room at Emerald Downs.