$320,000 Thunder Gulch Colt Tops Keeneland September's Sixth Session

The last horse in the auction ring Sunday brought the top price of $320,000 during the sixth session of Keeneland's September yearling sale in Central Kentucky. Robert V. LaPenta's Whitehorse Stables purchased the Thunder Gulch colt, with a member of LaPenta's buying team, David Foye, signing the sale ticket.

The athletic-looking yearling is the second foal out of Cyber Cat, a 7-year-old winning daughter of Storm Cat. The mare is a half-sister to grade III winner Mr. Jester (by Silver Deputy). Will Farish's Lane's End consigned the Kentucky-bred colt as agent. The session topper's breeder was G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

"I thought he looked the part, and, obviously, everybody else thought the same thing," said one of LaPenta's key advisers, trainer Nick Zito, of the flurry of bidding the colt attracted.

LaPenta owned the Fusaichi Pegasus  -- Hidden Storm colt that brought a world-record price of $4.5 million at this year's Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of select 2-year-olds in training. With Zito as his guide, LaPenta had purchased the colt for $270,000 at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction.

Under LaPenta's business plan, the yearlings he buys are offered at juvenile auctions, and he races the ones whose prices do not surpass their reserves. His buy-backs have included The Cliff's Edge, which captured the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland and more recently finished second in the Travers Stakes (gr. I).

"As you know, every horse we have (for LaPenta) is for sale," Zito said. "If this colt (by Thunder Gulch) doesn't get the price he (LaPenta) wants (at a juvenile auction), he will just say, 'That's okay, he's a nice horse.' "

Zito said the Thunder Gulch colt would be sent to South Carolina pinhooker Kip Elser, who consigned the world-record Fusaichi Pegasus colt to the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction for LaPenta.

Sunday was the first session this year in which an increase in gross revenue was not recorded. The total of $16,487,000 for the 258 yearlings sold was down less than one percent from 2003's amount. However the average and median prices of $63,903 and $50,500, respectively, both represented increases. The figures for 2003's comparable session were 275 horses sold for a gross of $16,547,500, an average of $60,173, and a median of $45,000.

The buy-back rate rose from 22.5% last year to 27.1% this year.

"It was a solid session all the way through," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "We sold fewer horses than last year, so the gross was down slightly. The repository was exceedingly busy today, so that's a good sign for tomorrow."

The cumulative figures for the auction are 1,428 horses sold for a gross of $271,410,000, an average of $190,063, and a median of $100,000. All are ahead of 2003's numbers. Last year's statistics through the same point were 1,405 yearlings sold for a gross of $235,465,500, an average of $167,591, and a median of $85,000.

The sale continues Monday, beginning at 10 a.m. (EDT).

Results, leading buyer, leading consignor, leading sire lists from Keeneland