01/28/2011 3:29PM

Barretts sale sees return of veteran buyer

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Dr. James Buell has come full circle in Thoroughbred racing.

Not closely involved in California breeding or racing on a year-round basis for more than two decades, Buell, 78, has been amassing a stable of yearlings and 2-year-olds in recent months that he plans to race in 2011 and beyond.

Monday at the Barretts January mixed sale in Pomona, Calif., Buell was the leading buyer, acquiring nine horses for $98,300 through his Kings River Ranch. He was also active at sales in Kentucky in 2010.

“I do intend to race a few,” he said on Thursday. “I was in the horse business many years ago. I got out of it. I live in Nevada so I’m kind of removed from the scene of activity. I’m getting along in years, and I enjoy the game.

“I thought I’d pick up a few young horses and hope to catch lightning in a jug. Every time you buy a young horse, you’re buying a lottery ticket, essentially.”

At the height of his involvement with the sport, Buell, a veterinarian, had a breeding farm in the Santa Barbara County town of Buellton. The farm stood Reflected Glory, the sire of Snow Chief. “I produced for the market,” he said. “Instead of growing the product and selling it to the end-user, I’ve become the end-user.”

His longtime involvement in the sport includes a position as a member of the board of directors at Del Mar, the one track where he is most likely to spend a day at the races. Currently, Buell spends considerable time at his Kings River Ranch in Orovada, Nev., which is north of Winnemuca. Kings River Ranch specializes in alfalfa and cattle. Buell also has cattle at Rancho Jonata, his farm in Buellton.

“The ranch in Nevada keeps me pretty busy,” he said.

Buell said his stable will “more than likely” be based in California, “if they’re good enough.” He considers attending Thoroughbred sales to be “kind of a hobby.”

The horses he bought at Monday’s sale were primarily yearlings from the River Edge Farm consignment, including a yearling filly by Unusual Heat for $25,000, a yearling colt by Unusual Heat for $21,000, and a Bertrando filly for $17,000.
He also purchased a Bertrando colt for $7,000, who was the first horse through the sales ring. For 2011, Buell says he will have seven 2-year-olds that are being prepared to race.

“Hopefully, we’ll have some luck with them,” he said.

River Edge Farm, which is also in Buellton, was the leading consignor at Monday’s sale, selling 35 horses for $239,500. Farm owner Marty Wygod said the consignment featured horses owned by River Edge clients who were boarded at the farm.

Wygod and his family have been dispersing their California-based Thoroughbred holdings in the last six months, relocating four stallions – Benchmark, Bertrando, Dixie Chatter, and Tribal Rule – to Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona, Calif., for the upcoming breeding season. River Edge had a consignment of broodmares, weanlings, and yearlings at Barretts last October. Wygod is consolidating most of his Thoroughbred holdings to Kentucky.

As a result, activity at River Edge Farm has slowed considerably, save for 25 Wygod-owned yearlings who were transferred from Kentucky to California recently, Wygod said.

“The winter was pretty harsh in Kentucky,” Wygod said on Thursday. “I decided to bring them to River Edge and raise them there. They were bred in Kentucky. They are the creme de la creme of our yearlings.

“We’ve got a few layups, a few 2-year-olds, and a few of our weanlings and yearlings. We’re not going to board and we’re not going to keep other people’s horses.”