01/18/2008 12:00AM

Barretts starts year with realistic mind-set

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Barretts conducts the first of its six sales for 2008 with the two-day mixed sale in Pomona, Calif., on Tuesday and Wednesday, an event that will be hard-pressed to repeat the success of 2007, according to the sale company's president, Gerald McMahon.

Last year, boosted by the dispersal of Granja Vista del Rio Stable, the sale's average price grew 21 percent, to $9,544, and the $560,000 price paid for the stakes-winning mare Selvatica set a sale record.

This year's sale, which features 524 horses, does not feature a dispersal of the same strength.

"I don't think we have a dispersal that will ring the bell," McMahon said. "This is more normal."

The sale is dominated by 224 broodmares and 145 yearlings. The broodmares include Delta Belle, by Mr. Prospector, who is being sold in foal to Good Journey. Delta Belle is out of Without Feathers, the winner of the Grade 1 Monmouth Oaks in 1987. The yearlings include Ministers Power, a half-brother to the multiple stakes winner Epic Power, who is by Ministers Wild Cat.

Barretts offers two mixed sales each year, in January and October; two sales of 2-year-olds in training, in March and May; a horses of racing age and 2-year-olds in training sale in June; and a yearling sale in the fall.

In 2007, five of the six sales at Barretts showed an increase in average. The May sale had a record average of $62,604, while the June sale, boosted by a small dispersal from Meadow Creek Farm, had a record average of $18,879.

"We've been kind of lucky to have some good dispersals," McMahon said. "It seemed like last year every sale had a component that was pretty exotic."

The only declining market in 2007 was the yearling sale, held in conjunction with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. The average price fell 21 percent from 2006, to $19,909.

The sale calendar ended with a strong October mixed sale, which had an average price of $9,740, an increase of 74 percent over 2006. The sale was boosted by a reduction of Golden Eagle Farm horses and a dispersal of holdings from prominent owner Stan Fulton.

McMahon said that the first sale of 2-year-olds in training, on March 12, will have a catalog of approximately 190 horses, down about 10 from last year. He said that is a reflection on the number of top-class horses available for that sale.

McMahon says predictions are hard to make for the 2-year-old market.

"The market is very selective, and those sales are kind of reflective of that," he said. "The March sale is always a high-wire act. The top performers and top-rated horses always do well.

"May is a middle market and has been pretty strong. It has kind of a little more depth because it doesn't have the expectations" of the March sale.

McMahon said the yearling sale is tentatively set for Sept. 30. The sale has a narrow window for potential dates, between the massive Keeneland September yearling sale and other autumn sales in Florida and Maryland.

"We're looking hard at it and trying to pick a date that makes sense," he said. "The calendar is chock-full. That market is a challenge because of the caliber of competition across the country for buyers.

"It's hard to know what effect Keeneland has on the market. Some people say if you sell before, they'll wait, and if you wait, the money will be gone.

"Racing here is really demanding, and a lot of local owners and trainers chose to buy at other market as opposed to here."