05/16/2003 12:00AM

Cal. breeding: Rivals become partners in Barretts sale topper


Trainer Bruce Headley attended the Barretts May sale in Pomona last week more as an observer than a potential buyer. Jess Jackson, the founder and proprietor of the well-known Kendall-Jackson winery, traveled from his home in Sonoma, Calif., with the intent of buying a few racing prospects.

By the end of the sale on Tuesday evening, the two men had not only become acquainted, but were partners on the sale topper - a French Deputy filly purchased for $375,000.

After the bidding stopped, Headley, well known in recent years for his success with the top sprinter Kona Gold and the outstanding fillies Got Koko and Kalookan Queen, had bought the filly. He sought out the underbidder and met Jackson for the first time.

"We chased each other up the pole," Jackson said. "If we had known each other ahead of time, we could have gotten a lesser price."

Jackson also bought a share in a Holy Bull colt purchased by Headley and longtime clients Andrew and Irwin Molasky, who own Kona Gold.

Jackson described his purchases as the "rekindling of an interest" in racing and says he has followed the sport for decades.

"I've been out of touch for the last 20 years," he said. "Going back when I was younger, I saw Seabiscuit, Silky Sullivan, Swaps, Determine, many of the greats."

Jackson said his long-term interest is in breeding. He bought two others juveniles at the sale, paying $6,500 for a Red Ransom colt and $35,000 for a Polish Navy colt.

"I'm fully aware of what the game is," he said. "It's a pleasure side of my life and something I've enjoyed.

Headley surprised himself with his purchases. He visited the sale for social purposes more than business, but wound up helping the sale reach new milestones. The price for the French Deputy filly was a record for the May sale, which offers a more blue-collar catalog compared to the company's March sale.

"I love to look at the young horses and see the people that come in from very different places," Headley said.

When the French Deputy filly walked into a holding ring behind the sale pavilion, his objectives changed.

"I said, 'Look at this,' " he recalled.

Headley had not been present at Fairplex Park when the French Deputy filly worked a furlong in 10.50 seconds on May 5.

"Anyone likes fast workouts," Headley said. "I put more emphasis on conformation, body, and soundness."

The Kentucky-bred filly was consigned by Paula Capestro Bloodstock, agent, and was making her third trip to a sales ring. Purchased last September for $140,000 at Keeneland by Kathleen Schonefeld, the filly did not sell at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-year-olds in training sale in February when bidding stopped at $190,000.

A March foal, she is out of West Forty Two, a 9-year-old Forty Niner mare who did not race but has produced two winners. The second dam, West Turn, produced West by West, a five-time stakes winner and millionaire who finished 11th in the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

Headley said the French Deputy filly is at his barn at Santa Anita. A debut at Del Mar this summer is possible.

"I'll probably go along slow and get ready for Del Mar," he said. "I'm never in a hurry."

The two-day May sale finished with 236 horses selling for $7,186,600, an average of $30,452. The gross improved 12 percent from 2002, while the average increased 7 percent.

Seven of the 10 highest-priced horses were purchased on Tuesday. The top California-breds were a Smokester filly and a General Meeting colt, who each sold for $170,000 on Tuesday.

Sale company executives were pleased with the results, considering the 2002 May sale included two dispersals that featured older horses and lured additional buyers.

"I was surprised at how strong Tuesday was but we expected it to be a stronger day," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "Because last year's sale was enhanced by the dispersals, I thought we would have trouble making the comparison. I thought this would be a difficult sale."