09/30/2004 11:00PM

Barretts sale appears hard-pressed to meet '03

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Last year, the Barretts October preferred yearling sale posted impressive increases in gross, average, and median figures.

In July, the sale was back in the news when Sterling Cat, who topped the 2003 sale for $160,000, won the $125,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Stakes at Del Mar.

At this year's one-day October preferred yearling sale, Barretts will offer 350 yearlings in a marathon session beginning at 11 a.m. Tuesday. While organizers are optimistic the sale can continue to show growth, the market for yearlings in California has shown mixed signals in recent months.

The Del Mar yearling sale had a record average of $48,228, but was marred by a buy-back rate of 48 percent of the 110 horses that went through the ring.

Last Tuesday, the northern California yearling sale in Pleasanton had disappointing figures. The sale, in its first year, averaged $6,874 for 130 yearlings, less than the $7,500 average that the CTBA, the organizing body behind the sale, had hoped.

McMahon expects Tuesday's sale to show growth, but expressed concern about the proximity of the Pleasanton sale.

"The sale up north may have taken a few buyers out of this market," said Gerald McMahon, general manager of Barretts. "There are a number of horses that sold for $20,000 there, and I would have liked those people to have been at this market."

The 2003 Barretts October preferred yearling sale averaged $13,619 per sale and had a median price of $9,500 on 236 horses. The average price showed an increase of 8 percent over the 2002 sale.

"I think that the core of the sale has moved up from last year," he said. "It's pretty balanced like it was, but we have 10 or so more quality yearlings that will be evident at the top of the market."

Quite possibly the top consignment comes from Golden Eagle Farm of Ramona, Calif. Of Golden Eagle's 14 yearlings, four are out of dams who were stakes winners or have produced stakes winners. Ten of the 14 are by General Meeting, including two well-bred fillies who will sell consecutively as Hip Nos. 209 and 210.

Hip No. 209 is out of Fiscal Year, the winner of the 1997 Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar. Fiscal Year is the dam of Yearly Report, the winner of four stakes this year, including the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico. Yearly Report is currently training for a start in the $150,000 California Cup Matron at Santa Anita on Oct. 16.

Hip No. 210 is out of Fitted Crown, the dam of stakes winners Excellent Meeting, Crown of Crimson, and Crowning Meeting. Excellent Meeting won seven stakes, all graded, and earned $1,402,396.

"You don't know where the top one will be, but if we can sell several more at $100,000 or up, that would be one measure of success," McMahon said. "The other is the median."

Last year, the median price grew 19 percent to $9,500.

"It will be hard to duplicate that, but I think a lot of breeders pointed for this sale," McMahon said.

The sale will be the first in Southern California since the conclusion of the 14-day Keeneland September yearling sale, which set a record for a gross of $324,904,300.

"Nationwide, the market has been very good," McMahon said. "This sale has more to do with California racing than anything else. We still have challenges there. We need owners to be successful."

* There were 17 California-breds sold at Keeneland last month, including a Gulch colt who was purchased by John Moynihan, agent, for $425,000. Bred by Rancho San Miguel, the colt was one of six California-breds who sold for $100,000 or more at Keeneland.