09/16/2006 12:00AM

Week 2 begins with several $300,000-plus yearlings

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Keeneland's September yearling auction began its second and final week of selling on Saturday with a bumper crop of buyers on hand to push the prices high.

The 14-day auction opened last week in spectacular fashion, with a sale-record $11.7 million Kingmambo-Crown of Crimson colt the sale topper. That horse went to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum after an intense battle with Coolmore owner John Magnier.

Sheikh Mohammed was no longer on the grounds by the time the second week began Saturday, but vendors found plenty of interest in their stock.

As of 5 p.m., the session leader was Hip No. 1506, a $625,000 Silver Deputy colt out of the Cox's Ridge mare Zuri Ridge. Ben Walden Jr.'s Gracefield was the seller.

Tim Kegel, agent, signed for the colt on behalf of the Geathers Racing Stable partnership. The colt was one of nine yearlings bringing $300,000 or more by that hour. Prices were propelled partly by buyers who had been shut out on earlier purchases and were shopping later in the sale.

"The middle market is very strong," said Sergio de Sousa, manager of Hidden Brook Farm in Paris, Ky. "There are only so many blue hens anymore, and a lot of them are owned by people who won't sell. So horses that come out here and do everything right can bring a lot of money."

Even smaller consignors were enjoying a rush of customers.

"It's constant," said Beau Lane, whose Beau Lane Bloodstock had two horses on the grounds on Saturday. He flipped through a thick stack of cards that many lookers fill out when they view a consignment's horses. "That's about 75 cards, and there were probably another 20 people we had looking that didn't fill them out," he said.

"It amazes me," Lane said. "I see people I see every year, and I see a lot of new people I've never seen before. I'm surprised how well the prices are holding up."

The downside to such strong early selling in book 1 (the catalog covering the Sept. 11-12 select sessions), Hidden Brook's de Sousa noted, is that it can scare off buyers later in the sale who think they won't be able to compete.

"Book 1 isn't just for the Arabs and Coolmore," he said, pointing out that some horses sold in those days for between $110,000 and $200,000. "And book 7 isn't just for throwaway horses. I hope these buyers stay around for later in the sale."

But at least week 2 was starting on a high note. As Lane put it, "Nobody's complaining."