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Swift Temper - Belmont - 12.09.2009

Swift Temper: was bought back by Mark Stanley at $2.05m

  PICTURE: Matt Wooley/EquiSport photos 

Azeri tops difficult Keeneland opener

Keeneland November comparative figures ($)

 Year  Cat  Off  Sold  % sold  Aggregate  Average  Median
 2009  245  185  126  68  26,291,500  208,663  160,000
 2008  311  242  149  62  48,021,000  322,289  185,000

JUST months after Azeri was bought back at the Keeneland January Sale for $4.4m by the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, the 14-year-old mare turned heads again, this time selling through the same ring for $2.25m.

Her price was enough to top a difficult opening session of the Keeneland November Sale in Lexington, Kentucky, on a day when gross receipts and average plummeted by 45 per cent and 35 per cent.

The 2002 Horse of the Year, described as a US 'national treasure' by consignor John Sikura, is heading to Japan after Shunsuke Yoshida of Northern Farm signed the ticket on behalf of his father, Katsumi. Among those who also tried to purchase the mare was Tom Goff of Blandford Bloodstock, whose final bid was $1.6m.

"We didn't expect we'd be able to buy this mare," said Yoshida. "She is a beautiful mare of course, with a great race record."

Azeri was offered by Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency in foal to Distorted Humor. Her two-year-old colt, Take Control, was a record buyback at $7.7m at the 2008 Keeneland September Sale when Michael Paulson was still in charge of the living trust. The son of A P Indy is now in training with Bob Baffert after selling to Kaleem Shah for $1.9m at the Keeneland April Sale while her yearling filly by Giant's Causeway sold for $800,000 at this year's Keeneland September Sale. Azeri also has a filly foal by Ghostzapper, which is scheduled to be offered at next year's September Sale.

Although boosted by international expenditure, the opening session fell far short of last year's figures, which themselves suffered alarmingly from 2007.

The aggregate crashed 45 per cent to $26,291,500 for 126 horses sold while the average tumbled 35 per cent to $208,663. The median suffered least, dropping 13.5 per cent to$160,000. One bright spot was the clearance rate, which rose to 68 per cent although only 25 per cent of horses catalogued actually made it to the ring.

With Grade 1 winner Swift Temper bought back by Mark Stanley for $2.05m, Azeri was the only horse to change hands for seven-figures, compared to 11 last year.

"I think the sale was as expected," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "It was a very cosmopolitan buyers' list. We knew there would be strong overseas participation, especially on the mares, which is reflected in the top five prices; there was only one American buyer and the rest were either Australian or Japanese. Their economies have rebounded faster than America's economy has, and the rate of exchange is more favorable. Both countries have always admired the American thoroughbred and what it can do to (help) their own breed."

As the session drew to a close, Yoshida paid $900,000 for Loves Only Me, an unraced Storm Cat half-sister to Rumplestiltskin. The granddaughter of Miesque was sold in foal to Danehill Dancer. Yoshida ended the day as leading buyer with three horses bought for a total of $3.23m.

European money was evident with BBA Ireland spending $525,000 on twohorses and Larry Stratton, Tim Hyde, Stephen Hillen and Ecurie des Monceaux among those to purchase one apiece.

Missing from the buyers' list was John Ferguson, who spent $8.71m on the first day last year. Ferguson was reportedly attending a business engagement in Dubai, leaving Richard O'Gorman to act on behalf of Darley.

However, he only struck for one lot, a son of Bernadini who cost $250,000 near the end of the session.

Top five sale-toppers ($)

 Name  Covering Sire  Buyer  Price
 Azeri 14 m  Distorted Humor  Katsumi Yoshida  2.25m
 Loves Only Me 3 m  Danehill Dancer  Katsumi Yoshida  900,000
 Tears I Cry 5 m  Curlin  Vin Cox B/S  735,000
 Golden Dawn 5 m  Unbridled's Song  Stonestreet T'breds  700,000
 Callwood Dancer 5 m  n/a  James Bester, agent  675,000





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