Jane Lyon was already concerned with how her family's gorgeous Storm Cat colt would be received at the Keeneland September yearling sale and, after witnessing the opening-day declines, that fear only increased.
But the colt the Lyons always said was one of their best overcame market doldrums to produce the most spirited bidding war yet of the 2009 auction.
The Keeneland September yearling sale finally got its breakout horse Tuesday as Storm 'n Indian — the first foal out of champion Fleet Indian — sold for $2.05 million to agent John Ferguson on behalf of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
Storm 'n Indian was bred by Jane and Frank Lyon's Summer Wind Farm in Georgetown, the same operation that sold a sale-topping Storm Cat colt for $2.8 million to Ferguson at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale in August.
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Storm 'n Indian is from the final full crop by leading sire Storm Cat. But after seeing Monday's opening session fail to produce a seven-figure horse for the first time since 1996, the Lyons were admittedly "terrified" their star offering would become a bargain rather than a home run.
"Today it is probably more of a surprise than Saratoga was. This was a little scarier," Jane Lyon said. "We felt he was a superb colt, almost as good as the other Storm Cat in a different way, but we didn't know if there would be the kind of money for him at this sale as there was. Apparently they were here, and we could not be more thrilled."
Storm 'n Indian was one of three horses to reach the seven-figure mark Tuesday — and his journey to that point was a protracted one.
The opening bid was $100,000, and Storm 'n Indian slowly edged up to the $1 million mark after stalling briefly around $925,000.
"When you see the bidding hanging around at $925,000 you don't think it's going to $2 million," said Duncan Taylor of Taylor Made Sales, which consigned Storm 'n Indian. "It's not the old days where they are bidding in $500,000 bids."
Once the seven-figure range was breached, the bidding continued in $50,000 jumps, with Ferguson responding one last time alongside Sheikh Mohammed to prevail over representatives from Coolmore Stud.
"To breed a horse that looks like that is quite an achievement," said Ferguson, who also bought a half sister to champion Vindication for $1 million earlier in the session. "He was very athletic, a great mover and has a great pedigree. Hats off to Summer Wind Farm."
An A.P. Indy colt out of Grade I winner Madcap Escapade rounded out the seven-figure spending, selling for $1 million to Coolmore Stud.
While Tuesday produced some better individual prices than Monday's session — which saw its gross decline by more than 55 percent — overall numbers continue to fall.
The total gross of $58,756,000 is down 48.17 percent from the first two days last year, and the average of $264,667 and median of $215,000 have declined 29.96 and 28.33 percent, respectively.
Interestingly, the sharp reduction in gross is not due to a lack of participation from Keeneland's top buyer. Through the first two days, Ferguson has taken full advantage of the soft market to lead all buyers with 31 horses purchased — four more than he bought during the entire 2008 sale.
What is missing, however, is competition at the top end. Ferguson has had to spend only $13,460,000 on his purchases compared with $18,185,000 for 27 horses in 2008.
"That's not our fault," Ferguson said when asked about the reduced spending. "As they said yesterday, there has been a major readjustment and, at the end of the day, this is a business that other economic factors play a huge part in.
"It's tough for a lot of people. They paid large stud fees to breed these horses, and obviously this year is tough," Ferguson continued. "But if there is somebody who wants to get into the business, this is the time to do it because you can find real families at prices you couldn't do two or three years ago."
The sale continues Wednesday at 10 a.m.