Word filters around the horse sales pavilion at the Timonium fairgrounds about as quickly as it takes Fighting Notion to run six furlongs at Laurel Race Course.
"Did you see Hip No. 72? He's the reincarnation of his sire, Rollicking," said a bloodstock agent.
"Who's the best-looking horse in the sale? The Thirty Eight Paces colt out Classy And Quick," said a well-known trainer who shows champion conformation horses.
"Thank goodness Brian Mayberry [a California trainer] is here. There'd be no one to buy our horses if he didn't show up," said a leading seller.
By late Monday night, the results of Maryland's major sale of yearlings, a barometer of how things are going in the state's racing and breeding industry, shook out like this:
* The 273 yearlings that were sold brought $1,884,300, compared with $1,789,000 for 263 horses a year ago.
* The average price per yearling rose slightly, from $6,802 in 1991 to $6,902 this year.
* Prices ran the gamut, from $49,000 for the sales topper to $600 for the lowest-priced horse.
* Seven yearlings last year did not attract a bid. At least one bid was attained for every horse this year.
* In 1991, 25 percent of the yearlings failed to reach their reserve bid and were bought back by their owner. This year 17 percent of the horses were buy backs.
The result was a sale as strong as last year's auction and an indication that while regional breeders are not making a killing, they are holding their own.
"I think the sale could be termed a success," said Mason Grasty, executive vice president of Fasig-Tipton Midlantic, Inc., which conducted the two-day auction that started Sunday afternoon. "The depth was encouraging, since all horses attracted a bid and sellers got more of their horses sold."
Local bloodstock agent Donald Litz said: "There was a lot of activity the first night, when the select yearlings sold. People were trying to buy good horses, but they weren't spending their money foolishly. They want good value for their money. And that's one thing Maryland breeders have to supply more of -- horses at the $15,000 range and up. There is a demand for the horse that is a better risk and can make money."
Litz said he feels there is "understated optimism" that with creative use of simulcasting and the introduction of off-track betting in Maryland there could be a resurgence in the industry.
Rick Abbott, a Pennsylvania bloodstock agent, said the sale exceeded his expectations. His 39 yearlings grossed between $350,000 to $360,000.
"It mystifies me, considering the way the economy is," he said.
For the third time in the past four years, the Chanceland Farm of Bob Manfuso and Katy Voss sold the highest-priced horse. Chanceland sold a Waquoit colt for $49,000 and the second-highest priced yearling, a colt sired by Carnivalay, for $45,000.
Brian Mayberry, who has a 50-horse string stabled at Santa Anita, bought both horses for one of his principal clients, Mace Siegel.
Siegel, described as a California shopping mall mogul, is perennially the leading buyer at Timonium. This year he bought five yearlings for a total of $167,500 in partnership with his wife, Jan, and daughter, Samantha.
Although he races in California, Mayberry said has been coming to Timonium for about 20 years and has purchased more than a dozen stakes winners here.
"I think this is one of the best sales to come to," said Mayberry, who frequents auctions all over the country. "First of all, it's anticlimactic. All the major sales in Kentucky have already been held. Secondly, Maryland is an agricultural state and has a long tradition of raising good horses."