Keeneland September (Part II)

Two of the leading buyers during the select days, pharmaceutical entrepreneur Eugene Melnyk and British bloodstock agent John Ferguson, remained very active in the open sessions. Ferguson, who represented Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, paid $3,845,000 for 14 yearlings, raising his sale-topping totals to $31,520,000 for 45 yearlings. Melnyk invested $4,085,000 in 15 yearlings during the open sessions to finish the sale with 34 in all and gross expenditures of $15,115,000. He purchased the highest-priced yearling sold after the select sessions ended, spending $1.1-million for a Saint Ballado -- Stephanie's Road colt that sold on the auction's sixth day. The immediate underbidder was Florida horseman J.B. McKathan, who said he was acting on behalf of Richard Mulhall of The Thoroughbred Corp.

Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the colt was bred by Taylor Made Farm in partnership with Brian Kahn, a Taylor Made employee who works on the West Coast. The seven-figure yearling's dam, an 8-year-old daughter of Strawberry Road, finished second or third in three stakes at Emerald Downs and once raced for a claiming tag of $62,500 at Southern California's Santa Anita Park.

"She's a big, good looking mare, and physically she fit well with Saint Ballado," said Frank Taylor, whose family runs Taylor Made's Central Kentucky-based farm and sales agency. "You need to breed a mare with a lot of bone to Saint Ballado because he tends to sire a light-boned horse. This colt had a lot of bone, was perfectly balanced, and looked like a runner."

The buyers of the most yearlings during the open sessions were Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who made their fortune in the cellular phone business. Owners of Ramsey Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., they acquired 34 horses for $1,428,000. Plans call for reselling approximately two-thirds of their purchases at sales of 2-year-olds in training.

"I'm setting up a pinhooking operation for the first time," Kenneth Ramsey said. "I've bought mares in foal, yearlings, weanlings, and 2-year-olds. Last year, I think we claimed 70-some horses, and now I want to try something else. I'm not really doing this for monetary reasons, like most people. I just like to trade horses. I'm pretty heavily invested in the stock market, but that doesn't trip my trigger. It's kind of boring. I don't care anything about sitting there and watching the ticker tape run across the screen. I'd rather be buying and selling horses."

Other prominent buyers during the September open sessions included Californians Robert and Beverly Lewis, who paid $1,940,000 for 11 yearlings; Texan William L. Clifton Jr., who invested $1,886,000 in 11 horses; Chace, the New Jersey bloodstock agent, who spent $1,744,000 for 11 head; WinStar Farm, which paid $1,520,000 for seven yearlings, and Oklahoma oilman John C. Oxley, who invested $1,485,000 in five horses.

Dr. Barry Eisaman and his wife, Shari, who operate a Florida-based pinhooking venture, bought 26 horses in the name of Eisaman Equine during the open sessions for $980,500. Other pinhookers who were active included Becky Thomas, who purchased 11 yearlings for $891,000, and the Century Ventures VII partnership, headed by Mark Casse, which acquired 14 head for $767,000. Canadian pinhooker Cam Allard also was prominent, spending $819,000 for 14 head.

Like many pinhookers, following a rocky juvenile selling season in 2000, Casse has changed his approach to the business.

"I'm not buying as expensive a horse as I have in the past," he said. "I believe when a horse goes to a 2-year-old sale, it's more important how he performs. If he works well, his pedigree doesn't have to be quite so exceptional, and he doesn't have to be quite so exceptional as an individual (in terms of conformation)."

Even after the September sale's first week, Casse didn't find many bargains. "If someone brings in an exceptional horse, he still brings an exceptional price," he said. "That's the way the entire market is, whether you're buying weanlings, yearlings, or 2-year-olds. There's been a lot of complaints about the 2-year-old market being only good at the top, but that's the way everything is."

BEFORE THE HAMMER FALLS: Lane's End led all September consignors in terms of gross receipts, selling 180 horses for $53,874,300. The totals included 56 Brookside Farms yearlings that grossed $9,431,200...Eight yearlings sold by the estate of Paul Mellon through Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services grossed $1,807,200...Storm Cat ranked as the top sire, with 16 offspring averaging $1,401,750...Pulpit was the leading first-crop sire, with 18 progeny averaging $378,167...The average price for colts was $99,148, up 12.3%. Fillies averaged $75,518, an increase of 14%. Both averages were September records.