Upstaging her more glamorous stablemates, Open Mind was sold to a Japanese breeder for $4.6 million at Keeneland Monday as Gene Klein ended the most successful short-term run by any racing owner with a dispersal auction of all 114 of his horses.
Open Mind, who after a 10-race winning streak has lost three in a row including a third-place finish in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Distaff at Gulfstream Park, will continue to race, according to an adviser to Kazuo Nakamura, the successful bidder on the 3-year-old filly. Wayne Lukas, who trains all of Klein's horses, said after the sale that he will continue to train Open Mind for her new owner.
Open Mind, last year's champion 2-year-old filly and the favorite to win this year's title for 3-year-old fillies, was expected to bring one of the top prices at the sale, but many bloodstock agents thought that Winning Colors, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, and Lady's Secret, a former horse of the year and currently in foal to Alydar, would bring more money.
Winning Colors, who has won only two of 12 starts since her 1988 Derby victory and who finished next to last in Saturday's Distaff, was sold for $4.1 million to Graham J. Beck, a self-made millionaire from South Africa who has bought four horse farms in this area since 1987, and an American partner whose name Graham would not disclose. He is believed to be Peter Brant, a Connecticut publisher and paper mill owner who has substantial racing and breeding interests.
Lady's Secret, who was voted horse of the year in 1986 and retired with $3 million in earnings, a record for a female, was sold for $3.8 million to Issam Fares, a Lebanese-born businessman who owns a 380-acre breeding farm here.
Beck, who was the underbidder on Lady's Secret, said that Winning Colors will be bred next year, but he added that the stallion hasn't been determined.
Klein's 114 horses, which according to sale conditions were offered with no option for him to retrieve them if they didn't bring pre-sale minimums, sold for $29.6 million, an average of $259,851 a head. The sales pavilion next to Keeneland race track, which has a capacity of 700 seats, was packed for the four-hour sale, part of a series of auctions here this week.
Klein, 69, is the former owner of the San Diego Chargers who once sold used cars on television as Cowboy Gene, saying that they were "cheaper by the pound than hamburger." In 1983, after Klein's wife, Joyce, decided to own a couple of modest horses in partnership with some friends, Klein hired Lukas as his trainer and they began invading Kentucky's richest horse sales with money in both fists.
Lukas would select the prospects and Klein would write the checks. Klein spent an estimated $40 million on bloodstock, but two years ago he began backing off at the sales and last June announced that he is leaving the business, saying he is burned out and hasn't had a vacation since he joined the Air Force the day after the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor.
Other big spenders came to Kentucky during the 1980s, including Robert Sangster from England, Allen Paulson from the United States and a host of oil- rich Arabs, and while they might have outspent Klein, none of them enjoyed the success he did on the track.
Klein's horses have earned more than $25 million, he was voted the Eclipse Award as leading owner three times and he won seven Breeders' Cup races. In 1986, Klein's horses broke the record for annual earnings with a total of $3.6 million, and the following year he shattered his own record with a total of $5.7 million.
Klein said that if Monday's sale went well, he would probably show a profit in the horse business. Lukas will get a percentage of some of the horses that were sold. But Klein's profit for the seven years is probably modest, since training expenses for a coast-to-coast stable sometimes reached $300,000 a month. Klein once said that it cost him $1 million a year just to fly his horses to their races.
With his wife taking pictures with a long-range lens from a seat near the back of the pavilion, Klein sat behind Lukas at Monday's auction and wrote down the prices of the horses as they were sold in intervals of about two minutes. Some of Lukas' clients--Brant is one--bought horses, but Lukas said he did no bidding himself.
"We did well," Klein said. "All of the good horses brought big prices, and the average horses sold for average prices. I had been hoping that the three mares would bring about $12 million and they brought $12.5 million."
On the Line was removed from the sale after suffering a serious leg injury at the start of Saturday's Breeders' Cup Sprint. On the Line, who may be sold privately, has been shipped to New York, where a veterinarian will attempt to save him for breeding.
Seven of Klein's horses sold for $1 million or more Monday--the three distaffers plus Fiesta Gal for $1.5 million; One of a Klein, $1.35 million;, Some Romance, $1.15 million, and Is It True, $1 million. Like Lady's Secret, Fiesta Gal and One of a Klein also are in foal to Alydar.
"The big surprise to me was the $950,000 that we got for the weanling filly by Alydar," Klein said. "If we had wanted to wait and sell her as a yearling, we could have gotten double that price."
Bob Levy of Philadelphia bought that weanling, the result of a mating of Alydar and Lady's Secret. Levy must also know that the filly will bring more, because he reportedly plans to sell her again at a yearling sale at Saratoga in August.
At the other end of Monday's price scale, some of Klein's horses sold for less than $10,000. One of the cheapest, at $4,000, was Cassie's Prospect, an 8-year-old broodmare in foal to Sovereign Dancer. Cassie's Prospect, who cost Klein $100,000, was the first horse he ever owned and was retired with earnings of $34,000.
"This was a good sale for Klein," said John Gosden, a former California trainer who has returned to his native England. "His good horses brought top prices and the junk sold like junk. But I'm predicting that he'll be back in the game in another couple of years."