03/24/2017 9:10AM

Barretts March sale usually worth the long haul for Eastern consignors


About 2,300 miles separate Ocala, Fla., the epicenter of juvenile consignors in North America, and Del Mar, Calif., the site of the Barretts March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

The Barretts sale is somewhat unique on the calendar in its ability to draw consignors from one coast to the other, with the vast majority of the catalog’s entries being handled by consignors in the East, most of them in central Florida.

Setting up shop so far from home draws on a wide variance of logistics to move staff, tack, supplies, and, most importantly, the horses themselves across the country.

For most making the trip, it all factors into the cost of doing business. Ciaran Dunne of consignor Wavertree Stables said the cost of flying a sale prospect to the Barretts sale is about $5,000, which he said was a relatively minor hit to take for a sale where the average sale price last year was $124,558.

“It’s one bid, or half a bid,” Dunne said. “One of the important things to do when you sell a lot of horses is to give them the opportunity to showcase themselves. Barretts has always been high on our list of priorities because we think we can separate horses out and maybe showcase them a little better, and that more than offsets the extra cost involved in going there.”

While the cost to ship a horse is a relatively minor expense on a potential six-figure offering, it doubles if the horse is bought back or scratched and has to make the return trip, without the sale revenue to offset it. Choosing horses who appeal to the marketplace and pricing them to sell can help prevent the extra expense.

“We’ll do a lot of our work at home,” Dunne said. “We’ll do our last work at home, we’ll X-ray them before we put them on the plane, so we don’t take anything out there where we radiograph them and it’s not going to work. Our clearance rate out there is pretty good, but that’s because we’ve eliminated most of the problems before we go out there.”

Clovis Crane of Crane Thoroughbred Services prefers to ship his horses to the Barretts sale by ground, covering about 2,600 miles from his Lebanon, Pa., farm. Crane initially flew his horses to and from the sale but found ground transport to be a cost-effective alternative after vanning his buybacks home showed a marginal toll on the cargo.

“We’ve learned from that that the horses come off the vans and they’re just fine,” Crane said. “The horses come back, and I’ve had to train them the day after because they feel so good.”

The lower cost of ground travel also allows Crane to send more horses to the Barretts sale than he would if they were shipped by air.

“It costs me the same thing to van six as it does to fly three, so I started taking six out there instead of flying three, and it just doubles my chances of selling horses,” he said. “That way, I can take a bigger, better group out.”