10/01/2009 11:00PM

Barretts sale may offer up some bargains

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After more than a year of diminishing results at horse sales throughout the country, consignors are braced for disappointment at Monday's California Cup yearling sale at Barretts in Pomona, Calif.

"It's a little scary," said Russell Drake, who directs the River Edge consignment.

"I don't think it's going to be pretty," said Sam Hendricks, who has a 35-horse consignment.

For buyers, though, there could be ample opportunities to grab a bargain in a one-day sale dominated by California-breds. The California Cup yearling sale is the most prominent yearling sale in California.

Promoters are hoping that the worst is behind the sale. Last year, the sale averaged $16,689, a 16 percent decline from 2007. With Monday's sale starting just days after the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale ended with a decline in average price of 36 percent, to $60,734, consignors and promoters are guarded.

"We took a hit last year," said Kim Lloyd, the vice-president of sales at Barretts. "Hopefully, it won't be as deep as it was as at Keeneland. How much money we have, we'll find out. I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy."

Even though the sale had a modest average last year, it has produced a few notable runners. Sunday's Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita has two sale graduates - Fairway Road (a $27,000 buy-back in October, and a $40,000 purchase at 2 in May) and Whispering Hush ($70,000 yearling). Whispering Hush's half-sister is Hip No. 127 on Monday.

Sunday's Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes has one sale graduate - Seattle Ruler (a $27,000 yearling), who won the Barretts Juvenile Stakes at Fairplex Park last month. Seattle Ruler's half-brother is Hip No. 248 on Monday.

Lloyd is banking on buyers taking an added interest in California-breds following the development of an incentive program launched on Wednesday that pays $20,000 to a California-bred horse who wins a maiden special weight at a Southern California Thoroughbred meeting. A bonus of $10,000 is available to the owner of a California-bred winning a maiden special weight in Northern California.

The bonus is designed to reward owners who run horses in better -class races. Aside from that, Lloyd said it will also help owners defray costs of getting horses to the races.

"I think the incentive payments have people's attention," Lloyd said. "The expenses are pretty difficult."

The first such bonus was earned on Wednesday, when Killer Bear, a Northern Devil colt, won a six-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita for owners Stephen Young and Steve Knapp, who is also trainer. Killer Bear earned $24,000 of the $41,200 purse and an additional $20,000 through the incentive program.

Of course, any horses bought on Monday will not earn such bonuses until next spring. There are 281 horses in the catalog of the one-day sale, which begins at 11 a.m. Pacific.

Drake is overseeing an 18-horse consignment for Marty and Pam Wygod's River Edge Farm.

"We've got some pretty nice yearlings in here, but who knows the way sales are going," he said. "I don't know how they'll do.

"If anybody is looking for a decent yearling that has good conformation and good balance, I think they'll sell pretty well. I think below that, it won't be that good. There are a lot of horses here."

Drake nominated a Benchmark-Common Truth colt, a Tribal Rule-Smooth Customer colt, and a Bertrando-My Sweet Barbara colt as three from his consignment that could attract support from buyers.

Hendricks, who has a consignment for a variety of clients, said a Benchmark-Eleanor Rose colt, a Bertrando-Shescominundone colt, and a Lemon Drop Kid-Victoria Ridge filly have caught her eye. The Lemon Drop Kid filly "could be my top horse," she said.

The Benchmark-Eleanor Rose colt is the dam's first foal. She won five races and earned $204,780 in a career highlighted by a win in the Work the Crowd Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.