09/01/2008 11:00PM

The best sale he never made

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Bill Poston was in a state of disbelief as he watched his colt Southern Exchange leave the sales ring at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Company's auction of 2-year-olds in training last March.

A flashy workout and a few pre-sale compliments from potential buyers had led Poston to expect the horse to sell for a handsome price. Southern Exchange attracted little attention, though, and failed to sell when bidding stalled at $25,000.

Poston opted to keep the colt and race him with his wife, Vicki. Nearly six months later after that sale, it is safe to say that the colt's value has soared. After Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity, when Southern Exchange will attempt to win his first graded stakes and stretch his unbeaten streak to four, the value could reach the stratosphere.

"Now, I run into people all the time that tell me they wanted to buy him," Poston said.

Horses who are bought back at sales and go on to win races are nothing new, but for such a horse to be undefeated, a two-time stakes winner, and preparing for a Grade 1 such as the Del Mar Futurity is uncommon.

Southern Exchange has been surprising the Postons and trainer Greg DeGannes since he won his debut by 2 1/2 lengths in a maiden race over 4 1/2 furlongs at Woodbine on May 18. Southern Exchange followed with wins in the five-furlong Victoria Stakes on June 15 and six-furlong Colin Stakes on July 19. Southern Exchange has earned $212,942.

The Postons paid $10,000 to supplement Southern Exchange to the Del Mar Futurity. By any measure, it is a bargain investment to learn whether the Florida-bred colt is capable of competing with Southern California's finest 2-year-olds.

While the circuit will be new to Southern Exchange, the surface is not a major change. Woodbine and Del Mar both have Polytrack synthetic surfaces. If Southern Exchange runs well on Wednesday, who could be pointed for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, which will also be run on a synthetic surface. Southern Exchange will be deGannes's first starter in California.

"Traveling that far across the country was a question mark," DeGannes said. "If he is going to materialize into a Breeders' Cup-type race, we need to test the water."

Since the spring, Southern Exchange has surprised DeGannes with his training style. Typically, the colt jogs two miles one day after a workout or race. It is customary in Thoroughbred racing only to walk a horse on the day after a race or workout.

"I know it's a little unusual," DeGannes said. "He's just so full of energy.

"He came to me around Easter weekend. When we started to get him ready for his first race, he kind of telegraphed that he needs to do a lot. I start training a day after he works or runs. I don't want to mess with what works."

After the colt's maiden win, DeGannes, 45, knew Southern Exchange had stakes potential.

"It didn't surprise me in the least," he said. "He was always an athletic colt and a forward colt. It underscored my question of how he couldn't get sold at the March sale. He was precocious from the get-go."

The two stakes wins were similar in style. Southern Exchange stalked the pace to early stretch, took the lead and drew off to win by 4 3/4 and 3 1/4 lengths.

"He's not a need-to-lead type of 2-year-old," DeGannes said. "He's got a good turn of foot. You show him daylight, and he powers off his lead changes. One thing that's not apparent to most is how strongly he gallops out after the races. I don't think distance of ground, or two turns, will be a problem for him."

That has given Poston even more confidence about Southern Exchange's chances in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity.

"I was there at both of his stakes races," said Poston. "The way he gallops out, it's hard to pull him up. He's got that speed and it looks like he can go a bit longer. He deserves his chance at a Grade 1."

Poston, 61, lives in Murrietta, Ga., and is a home-builder in the Atlanta area. Working with bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, Poston buys yearlings and pinhooks some, racing the ones who do not sell.

Poston expected Southern Exchange to fetch about $200,000 last March.

"There was no interest," he recalled last weekend. "I don't know why."

He no longer cares. Wednesday's race is a more important matter.