Keeneland January Sale (Cont.)

Major Players
The auction started off with a bang when Desert Stormer's price soared past the mare's $2.4-million reserve and leveled off at $3.6 million on Jan. 7. Michael Youngs, representing Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Stud of Florida, was the winning bidder, holding off Tony Ryan of Ireland.

A 12-year-old daughter of Storm Cat and the unraced Damascus mare Breezy Stories, Desert Stormer was carrying a foal by Kris S. She captured seven of her 17 career starts and earned $862,950. She also is the dam of Sahara Gold (by Seeking the Gold), winner of the 2000 Stonerside Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.

"I thought she was as nice as any of the mares in the Keeneland November sale," said Youngs of Desert Stormer. "Physically, she's a lovely mare. She's a Breeders' Cup Sprint winner. And she's the dam of a graded stakes winner. She has everything."

Taylor Made Sales Agency consigned Desert Stormer as agent for Joanne Nor of Norfields. In all, Nor sold nine horses for $4,129,200 through Taylor Made.

"It's not a pretty story," she said. "I've been going through an eight-year divorce, and I had to regroup financially. Desert Stormer was the light of my life."

Taylor Made's Duncan Taylor described the selling of Desert Stormer as "bittersweet" and a little disappointing. He had hoped the powerful-looking bay would bring somewhere in the $4 million-$5 million range.

"It was a good sale, but it's not like the price just ran away and went wild," he said.

Taylor Made, as agent, also consigned the two other January horses that brought seven-figure prices: the $1-million mare Roll Over Baby and her $1.1-million Unbridled's Song yearling colt.

Utah horseman David Plummer bought Roll Over Baby, a six-time stakes winner in Ohio. The 13-year-old daughter of Rollin On Over is the dam of Majorbigtimesheet (by Carson City), who captured the 1997 Westchester Stakes at Hollywood Park and one other added-money event. She also is the dam of the 3-year-old Unbridled's Song colt Werblin, who is undefeated in two career races.

"We liked her (Roll Over Baby) because we watched Werblin run at Santa Anita, and we thought her Unbridled's Song baby was the best yearling in this sale," Plummer said. "She fits our program very well. We'll be looking to try to breed her back to another major stallion."

New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace purchased Roll Over Baby's Unbridled's Song yearling for Aaron and Marie Jones of Oregon. Chace said the sturdy roan colt resembled his sire and looked like he would grow up "to be a nice, big horse."

Live Oak was the sale's leading buyer by gross, paying $3,960,000 for Desert Stormer and another mare, Jeano (also in foal to Kris S.). Plummer ranked second, spending $2,710,000 for seven horses. Other top buyers included Horse France, which paid $1,557,500 for nine horses; Chace, who invested $1,357,000 in 11 horses, and Pennsylvania-based Walnut Green, which spent $1,017,000 for 11 horses.

Live Oak, Plummer, and Horse France also were among the biggest spenders at Keeneland last November. Live Oak paid $4 million for three horses. Plummer invested $3,726,000 in 13 head. And Horse France spent $3,127,000 for 27 horses.

Plummer operates a commercial breeding and mare-leasing business called Classic Star. The foals produced by Classic Star's broodmare band are sold primarily as yearlings.

"We want to build up a broodmare band of 50-70 mares and breed them to the best commercial stallions that we can," Plummer said. "We have clients all over the country and all over the world.

"I wouldn't be buying horses like this if the market was way high," he continued. "I like to buy when the market is low because I'm trying to find the best value. I'm very bullish about the future of this industry. I see nothing on the horizon that is going to eliminate the need for states to have funds from pari-mutuel wagering, and I don't see any of the tax laws changing. I see people continuing to go to the racetracks and participate in all forms of gambling, so I'm very optimistic."

Domestic shoppers dominated the upper level of Keeneland's January market, purchasing 51 of the 63 horses that brought prices of $100,000 or more. The most expensive horse acquired by a foreign buyer was Our Dani, the dam of grade I winner You. She sold for $625,000 to Robert Nataf of Horse France. Nataf, whose clients include Coolmore Stud, said he was representing "a European syndicate."

William S. Farish's Lane's End consigned Our Dani on behalf of the University of Louisiana at Monroe (see story, page 296). The school's equine program received the winning Homebuilder mare as a gift from Dolphus Morrison of Alabama in 2000. The following year, You (by You and I) thrust her dam into the spotlight when she became one of the nation's top juvenile fillies by capturing the Frizette (gr. I) and Adirondack (gr. II) Stakes.

Our Dani sold at Keeneland while carrying a foal by In a Walk, a Chief's Crown stallion who also was donated to the university.

The participation of Japanese buyers declined in January. They bought at least 10 horses, and spent at least $762,000. Last year, Japanese shoppers purchased 16 horses for $1,689,000.

Taylor Made was January's leading consignor by gross receipts, collecting $10,476,800 for the 84 horses it sold. Included in that group were four of the sale's five horses that brought $500,000 or more. Taylor Made also was January's top consignor in 2001, with gross receipts of $5,218,800.