09/28/2007 12:00AM

Brocklebank ready to buy and sell at Barretts

EmailBy Thursday evening, John Brocklebank had been back to his Utah home for two days, fresh from a two-week stay at the Keeneland yearling sale.

He said he had yet to take his suitcases out of the car. There was little need to. Brocklebank was scheduled to go back on the road this weekend, heading toward Pomona, Calif., for Tuesday's Barretts October yearling sale.

"Life in the fast lane, sometimes," he said jokingly.

Brocklebank will play a prominent role in California's premier yearling sale as a consignor. His B.C.3 Thoroughbreds operation with partner Shane Chipman has 27 yearlings in the sale, some consigned on behalf of outside clients and some being pinhooked.

Plus, Brocklebank plans to be active as a buyer. At the 2006 October yearling sale, he led all buyers, paying $405,000 for seven yearlings. Brocklebank bought the sale topper, a Cape Town filly, for $240,000. She was pinhooked to the Barretts March sale earlier this year and was purchased for $800,000 by John Ferguson, agent for Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

As a consignor, Brocklebank sold two horses for $112,000 last October, good enough to rank among the 10 leading consignors, a group led by Andy Havens.

"We tested the water a little bit last year," Brocklebank said of his 2006 consignment.

For this year's sale, Brocklebank said he expects to sell the horses that are being pinhooked.

"Those are going to be sold," he said. "We bought some in January and some privately. They are the sort of horses that I like and hopefully someone else will, too.

"I like Cal-breds, and the yearlings that we're offering are an awful nice group. We want to be as popular selling yearlings as we are with 2-year-olds. We've got some nice outside consignments, too."

Brocklebank nominated two fillies - one by Old Topper (Hip No. 75) and one by Swiss Yodeler (Hip No. 88) - as prominent members of his consignment.

As a buyer, Brocklebank has spent time on the Barretts website, inspecting photographs of yearlings to gain a preliminary opinion of the sale horses. He said he is the sort of buyer that prefers to see yearlings in person and not form an opinion from a pedigree.

"I'm a horse buyer and not so much a catalog guy, but it looks like on paper there are some good horses," Brocklebank said.

Last year's October yearling sale had an average price of $26,362, an increase of $50 from 2005, but showed a 19 percent decline in gross, to $4,336,900, and a 17 percent drop in number sold, from 207 to 171. The number of horses bought back reached 33 percent, or 108 of the 327 yearlings cataloged. In 2005, 26.8 percent of the yearlings offered were listed as not sold.

The sale is a joint operation between Barretts and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

Last Tuesday, the CTBA conducted its annual Northern California yearling sale, which saw lower-than-expected returns. The average at that sale fell 28.6 percent from 2006, to $5,843, and the gross of $1,351,600 fell 33.4 percent.

Those results, combined with mixed returns at the 2006 October sale, has led Barretts president Gerald McMahon to be cautious regarding Tuesday's sale.

"I don't really have a strong sense of whether we'll grow from last year's numbers," he said last week. "When you look at the overall marketplace, no one is predicting too much growth in yearling prices, especially in the regional market. You start with last year's number and hope you hit those.

"This is the market for a vast number of market breeders in California. Everybody is behind this sale. Trying to get improvement every year, if we can, is what breeders are trying to do and what we're trying to do."