09/16/2010 3:43PM

Zayat pays $550,000 for Smart Strike colt

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Benoit & Associates
Ahmed Zayat paid $500,000 for a son of Smart Strike out of the mare Madame Thor.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Domestic buyers continued to dominate the upper market Thursday at the Keeneland September yearling sale’s fifth session, where a $550,000 Smart Strike colt that Ahmed Zayat bought was leading the sale prices at 3 p.m. Eastern.

Zayat Stable’s financial manager, Bradley Weisbord, bid for the Smart Strike colt, who sold as Hip No. 985 from Gainesway’s agency. The bay colt is by two-time Horse of the Year Curlin’s sire and, also like Curlin, is out of a Deputy Minister mare. The session-leading colt’s dam is Madame Thor, already the dam of stakes-placed Star Defender, by Vindication.

Below Zayat on the buyers’ list were several American-based buyers purchasing horses for $300,000 or more. Those included Reynolds Bell, agent, who picked up a $350,000 Lion Heart-Lifeinthefastlane colt from Lakland Sales; Scott Ford’s Westrock Stables, buyer of a $350,000 Tiznow-Lajitas filly from the Taylor Made agency; Ann and Jerry Moss, buyers of a $305,000 Bernstein-Moonstar colt, a full brother to Grade 1 winner Miss World, from the Three Chimneys agency; and Ben Glass, agent, who paid $300,000 for a Pulpit colt out of Just a Ginny, also from Lakland Sales.

Less easy to classify, but good news for investor-hungry Thoroughbred breeders, were the buyers of another $350,000 colt: Northwest Stud Stable. The group seems both foreign-based and domestic, as they are a Venezuelan partnership that recently has acquired a farm in Ocala, Fla. They sprang for Hip No. 989, a $350,000 Street Cry colt out of Magical Meadow. Consigned by the Betz Thoroughbred agency, the chestnut colt is a full brother to Grade 3 winner Street Magician, who retired this week to Northview Stallion Station in Maryland.

Thursday’s fifth session followed an upbeat Wednesday session that kept the auction’s average and median prices running ahead of last year’s by this point. The fact that the sale’s first-week format has changed significantly makes exact comparisons difficult, but sale executives clearly were pleased by the close of business Wednesday. They also were crediting the format change. The reformatting halved the two select sessions’ catalog and moved select selling to nighttime sessions, and it also spread higher-quality offerings more evenly throughout the 1,500-horse, Tuesday-to-Friday sessions, collectively known as “book two.” That appears to have encouraged wealthy buyers to extend their stays past the select days and keep bidding all week.

Through Wednesday’s fourth session, the world’s largest yearling sale had grossed $95,456,000 for 527 yearlings, making the four-day average $181,131 and the median $120,000. The average and median compared favorably with last year’s returns. In 2009, the first four days’ larger catalog had sold 703 yearlings for $117,659,500, but average price and median were lower at $167,368 and $110,000, respectively.

At least through Wednesday, the Keeneland September auction was making a compelling case that the nation’s boutique yearling sales were doing what sellers hoped and what other sales executives, at far smaller auctions in terms of numbers, said they saw earlier this summer – namely, stabilizing.

Zayat Stables, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, has returned to the auction ring after working out an agreement with Fifth Third Bank. The bank had sued them for $34.5 million, alleging default on a series of loans. Those days seemed behind them as Weisbord, the son of owner-breeder and trade publisher Barry Weisbord, bid confidently for a colt he confessed was stretching his stated budget.

“This was our favorite horse in book two,” Weisbord said after accepting a congratulatory handshake from Gainesway representative Michael Hernon in the hallway. “All of our horses are broken by J. B. McKathan, and Mr. Zayat will decide on a trainer later. Mr. Zayat loved the horse, his advisors loved the horse, and he felt this was a must-have.”

Asked which of the colt’s attributes made him irresistible, Weisbord simply smiled.

“I’m not the one that looks at the horses,” he said. “I just do the bidding.”

Two other notable yearlings that sold Thursday also bear mentioning. The Even the Score colt cataloged as Hip No. 1034, a half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner and 2008 Canadian juvenile champion Mine That Bird, brought $250,000 from Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing; Bona Terra Stud, agent, sold the chestnut colt. Hip No. 1027, a bay Stormy Atlantic filly, brought $110,000 from Australian Nathan Tinkler’s Patinack Farm as one of a large number of horses to bring six-figure bids. She is out of Mien, making her a half-sister to 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown. His breeder, Monticule Farm, sold her, too.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s representative, John Ferguson, also paid six figures for another yearling with a notable pedigree. Hip No. 1050, a $150,000 gray or roan Bernardini-Miss Soft Sell colt, a half-brother to dual Grade 1 winner Brother Dere, purchased him from Brookdale Sales, agent.

The Keeneland September yearling sale continues through Sept. 26. Sessions continue daily at 10 a.m. except for Saturday, which is the auction’s dark day.