12/12/2008 1:00AM

Barretts condenses its sale calendar

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From the front office to the sales ring, Barretts sales in Pomona, Calif., will have a different look and feel in 2009.

Gerald McMahon, the organization's president since it was founded in the late 1980s, announced earlier this week that he is resigning, effective Jan. 3. A replacement has not been named.

Jim Henwood, the chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, which operates Barretts, said Thursday that Barretts executives Bill Baker, vice president and controller, and Kim Lloyd, vice president of sales, will direct the management.

In addition, Henwood confirmed that Barretts will conduct four sales in 2009, down from six in 2008. The summer horses of racing age sale in June and the October mixed sale have been eliminated. The four remaining sales will be the January mixed sale on Jan. 26, the March sale of selected 2-year-olds in-training on March 10, the May sale of 2-year-olds in-training on May 12 and the fall sale of preferred yearlings on Oct. 6.

The canceled sales were two of the company's weaker events. In 2008, the summer sale averaged $6,847, while the October mixed sale averaged $3,770. By comparison, the March sale averaged $178,027.

"We're ending up looking at four sales," Henwood said. "We want to make sure we put on a good show."

Henwood said the autumn yearling sale, which has produced disappointing results in recent years, could be positioned close to the California Cup on the calendar in an effort to draw the racing and breeding communities together for several days and spur interest in the sale.

"We're looking to better position the yearling sale," Henwood said. "We'd like to match that up with California Cup, possibly. All of that is not finalized. We need to work hard in improving the breeding stock in California, to make sure it stays competitive with the rest of the nation."

The resignation of McMahon was preceded earlier this fall by the resignation of Paul Ryneveld, the equine manager of Fairplex Park's September county fair race meeting. Ryneveld left Fairplex to accept the position of director of racing at Hastings in British Columbia. Henwood said some of the responsibilities of managing the sale company and the racing operation, which includes a satellite wagering facility and a year-round training center, could be merged.

McMahon, 57, said he is not retiring from the sport, but does not have specific plans for his future.

"I plan to take a little time to assess where I am," he said. "I'm not in a hurry. I've been doing the same job for a pretty long time.

"It's not because I'm burned out. I thought the timing was right because of my career and where the industry is and where our company is."

The March 2-year-old sale has become Barretts' signature event, which became a source of pride for McMahon.

"The most important thing is we have developed a creditable marketplace," he said. "We had top horses, top buyers, and top sellers."

Conversely, a weak bloodstock market in California and a poor economy has affected Barretts in recent years, contributing to the decision to cancel two sales. As he leaves Barretts, McMahon said breeders face a difficult time finding attractive prices for horses.

"It doesn't matter where you are, you'll face leaner time in the Thoroughbred auctions," McMahon said. "The dye is cast on that. Everyone is going to have to make smart decisions, cut costs, and make realistic decisions about the horses you own. Everyone is going to have to have a tight game plan."