03/06/2002 1:00AM

$31,000 to $1.9 million: Pinhooked filly tops sale


POMONA, Calif. - The one-day Barretts selected 2-year-old sale, which last year appeared to be on the ropes, rebounded with a record-setting top price of $1.9 million for a Stormy Atlantic filly and financial gains across the board.

Saudi prince Ahmed bin Salman, seated in a private conference room across the hall from the bidding arena, purchased the Stormy Atlantic filly, who is out of the Seattle Slew mare Super Chef, outbidding Michael Tabor's agent, Demi O'Byrne. The final price of $1.9 million was a record for a filly at a 2-year-old auction. It also was an extraordinary pinhooking success for the California father and son team of J.R. and James K. Chapman, who bought the filly at Keeneland's September yearling sale last year for a mere $31,000.

The filly is from the first crop of Stormy Atlantic, a son of Storm Cat. The stallion stands for $6,000 at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla.

The new mark for a filly at a juvenile auction fell just short of the world 2-year-old mark for colts of $2 million, which has been met three times, at Barretts in 1999 and 2000 and at Keeneland in 1999.

The sale's revenue, average, and median were up. Scratches winnowed the catalog down from 167 to 121, nine fewer horses than were offered at last year's auction. Gross revenue rose 9 percent from last year to $10,950,000, while average climbed 6 percent to $150,000, and median jumped 29 percent to $90,000. The buyback rate, which hit 45 percent last year, fell to 40 percent.

"The market was very lively for horses that put it all together," Barretts president Gerry McMahon said as the sale wound down Tuesday evening. "In terms of action on quality, well-prepared horses, that was as good a sale as we've had here in a few years."

It takes only two people to make the bidding lively, and Hip No. 111, the Stormy Atlantic filly, attracted the right two. Tabor and Salman are dominant market forces in any pavilion, and their clash over the filly drove up the price rapidly. At $1.6 million, bidding slowed to $50,000 increments, but at $1.7 million Tabor and Salman went back to $100,000 increments. Finally, at $1.9 million, Tabor bowed out and left the filly to Salman.

Hip No. 111 breezed an eighth in 10.30 seconds at the first under-tack show, then followed up with a quarter in 21.80 seconds at the second. The times were good, but her way of going was better, said consignor James Chapman.

"She's like a machine," Chapman said. "She loses no motion. It's there, everything you'd want."

"What did I see?" Salman said. "Sharp Cat. Sharp Cat combined with Point Given."

Salman shrugged when asked about the record price. "It takes two to tango," he said. "When I saw my good friend Mr. Tabor here, I knew it would be a big tango. You can't have a budget."

Salman then repaired to the Chapmans' consignment, where the tall, lanky filly - dark bay with a small white star on her forehead and a spray of apple-sized dapples gleaming across her flanks - was on display for the prince and his entourage. The prince, clearly pleased with his record acquisition, nuzzled the filly's nose with his own.

James Chapman's father, J.R., first saw the filly at the Keeneland September sale and liked her for several reasons, including that he broke her sire, Stormy Atlantic. It didn't hurt that he thought she resembled her broodmare sire, Seattle Slew.

The Chapmans, who sell under the name of their Chapman Farms, also own Hip No. 111's dam, Super Chef, who is in foal to Afternoon Deelites, and a yearling full brother to the sale-topping filly.

The Chapmans, who also sold a $270,000 Siphon-Aerie colt, were not the only West Coast-based consignors to emerge triumphant from the Barretts auction. Havens Bloodstock sold a $440,000 In Excess-Video Menu filly to Jim Ingalls and a $410,000 Bates Motel-Chelly M. colt to The Thoroughbred Corp.; River Edge Farm sold a $280,000 Tale of the Cat-Jones Time Machine colt to Stanley Fulton and a Bertrando-St. Helens Shadow colt, a full brother to Grade 1 winner Officer, for $250,000 to J. S. Company of Japan.

The success of California consignors could play a critical role in the sale's future, if it attracts a larger group of homegrown pinhookers who consistently can put quality horses into the auction. But, as McMahon noted, the auction relies now on both local and East Coast sellers, and both need to succeed if the sale is to thrive.

A number of East Coast pinhookers also had good results here. Most obviously, Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock Agency, which has long been a highly successful seller at the Barretts March sale, sold a pair of $600,000 horses to The Thoroughbred Corp., a Gone West-Madame Sunshine colt and a Tale of the Cat-Cup of Honey filly.

"That's what we're looking for," McMahon said. "Our 2-year-old market is going back to the roots of the 2-year-olds sale, in which preparation and performance are the most important things to buyers.

"Clearly, buyers like to come here. This market is pretty well established among buyers, as long as we can keep bringing athletic horses into this ring. These buyers weren't kicking tires. They were serious; they were vetting. They were here to buy horses."