Stop the Presses (Cont.)

Continued from part 1

Ferguson also joined in the battle for the $3.7-million Scene Seeker, who is the first foal produced from 1998 champion older female Escena. He made his final offer at $3.5 million, brushing off the challenge of Lexington bloodstock agent Reynolds Bell. Then, bidding by phone, pharmaceutical executive Eugene Melnyk upped the ante to $3.6 million. There was a long pause. Bell waited for Ferguson to respond. When he didn't, Bell decided to fire one last shot.

"When you get up that high, the air gets pretty thin," said Bell, who was acting on the behalf of Richard Santulli and George Prussin's Jayeff B Stables. "It was a price that we were hoping we wouldn't have to go to, but we were prepared to go to. We think this filly is awful special."

Scene Seeker was bred by Guy and Diane Snowden, who sold her at Keeneland through Craig and Holly Bandoroff's Denali Stud. The Snowdens own the filly's dam, Escena, in partnership with Madeleine Paulson, and they get every other foal out of the mare.

Escena was bred and raced by Paulson's late husband, Allen, who died last year. She went through the 1999 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, where she brought a $3.25-million bid from Bell. He said afterward he was representing the Snowdens, who were the Paulsons' good friends. Last year, Madeleine Paulson revealed she is a partner in Escena.

Selling the champion's first foal "was exciting, absolutely," said Guy Snowden, co-founder and former chairman of GTECH, a worldwide operator of state and national lotteries. "We knew we had a quality filly from the time she was born. She was great, but then she got better, and better, and better."

Scene Seeker's price fell just $50,000 short of the Keeneland July filly record held by Alchaasibiyeh, who sold for $3,750,000 in 1984.


Led by Ferguson and O'Byrne, foreign buyers increased the money they spent at Keeneland in July. They invested $35,880,000, which represented 56.8% of the gross revenue. A year ago, they spent $32,530,000, accounting for 40.3%. This year, they purchased 31 (34.8%) of the horses sold. In 2000, they acquired 42 (32.3%). The average price of the horses they bought rose from $774,524 to $1,157,419.

The Thoroughbred Corp., owned by Prince Ahmed Salman of Saudi Arabia, ranked right behind Ferguson and O'Byrne on July's leading buyers' list in 2001, spending $5,650,000 for seven yearlings. They included a $2.6-million Saint Ballado -- Katies filly bred by the Joneses and consigned by Taylor Made. Salman's homebred Point Given captured the 2001 Preakness and Belmont Stakes (both gr. I). Also active was Irish bloodstock agent Paul Collins, who paid $1.4 million for two yearlings for Bobby Killoran. Collins' client lives in Ireland, but has business interests in England.

Japanese shoppers purchased only two horses for $1,050,000. Both figures were the lowest since The Blood-Horse began tracking Japanese activity in 1988. Last year, Japanese buyers paid $7,080,000 for 11 yearlings. French bloodstock agent Patrick Barbe, an adviser to the Yoshida family, blamed the struggling Japanese economy for the drop-off. A bad omen for Japanese participation at Keeneland was the recent Japan Racing Horse Association select foal sale, where gross revenue and average slumped by 14.8% and 20.4%, respectively.

"They had very, very good individuals," Barbe said, "but they were a little bit lacking in buyers."

Expenditures by North American shoppers declined sharply this year. They spent $27,332,000, which represented 43.2% of the sale gross. In 2000, they invested $48,202,000, accounting for 59.7%. This year, they acquired 58 (65.2%) of the horses sold; in 2000, they bought 88 (67.7%). The average price of their purchases fell from $547,750 to $471,241.

Even though he bought only one yearling, Bell was the leading North American buyer by gross. He was followed by Californians Robert and Beverly Lewis, who spent $3,485,000 for six yearlings. Melnyk, who hails from Canada but spends most of his time in Barbados, paid $2,575,000 for three yearlings, including a $1.25-million A.P. Indy -- Flat Fleet Feet filly. Elizabeth Moran of Brushwood Stable bought a $2-million Storm Cat -- Fitted Crown filly. New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace purchased a $1.9-million Unbridled's Song -- Rainbow Promise colt for the Joneses. And John Oxley, whose stable includes 2001 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Monarchos, acquired a $1.35-million Seattle Slew -- Cara Rafaela colt.

Also prominent among domestic shoppers were Californian B. Wayne Hughes, who spent $1.8 million for four yearlings, and the Snowdens, who bought two horses for $1.2 million.

In all, only 51 different foreign and domestic buyers were active. The total was an all-time Keeneland July low, dropping from 61 in 2000.

Satish and Anne Sanan's Padua Stables did not make a single purchase after topping the buyers' list for three consecutive years. Their daughter, Nadia, said the yearlings they wanted exceeded her family's budget.

The stock of Satish Sanan's company, IMRglobal, has fluctuated wildly in value, creating financial setbacks that have impacted his horse operation. IMRglobal was scheduled to finalize a merger on July 27 with CGI Group, a Canadian company.

This past spring, Sanan made changes in his financial relationship with Hall-of-Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who served as Padua's general manager. Lukas and the Padua group did not sit together in the Keeneland sale pavilion in July. Their seats were located across the aisle from each other.

Although Lukas was not as prominent as usual in July's bidding battles, he said: "I'm not as quiet as you think. I'm just not signing the tickets. Some of my clients are bidding on their own." He added he would train at least three of the Lewises' purchases.

In addition to the Sanans, there were a number of other Keeneland shoppers who did not buy a July horse, suggesting there is plenty of money left for yearling auctions later this year. Kenny Troutt and Bill Casner's WinStar Farm team looked but held on to their funds. Bob Hess Jr., representing the Fog City Stable of David Shimmon and Bill Bianco, was an unsuccessful bidder.

"I don't think the economy has impacted the Fog City Stable," Hess said. "The intention was to be here, but to be very selective and not to buy a horse unless we had to have it. We'll be stronger at Saratoga and Keeneland in September. We are 'big time' waiting for the Saratoga sale."