09/26/2008 12:00AM

Expectations in check for Barretts fall yearling sale


California's fall selected yearling sale will be held at Barretts in Pomona on Tuesday amidst a rough season for yearling sales.

On a national basis, the Keeneland September yearling sale earlier this month showed double-digit declines in number sold and median and average prices. In August, the Northern California yearling sale in Santa Rosa had a 22 percent decline in average from $5,839 in 2007 to $4,536 this year.

Those declines have Barretts organizers and consignors concerned about how the market will fare on Tuesday.

"You have to be concerned about the trend at the lower end of the market," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "I would think it would be a buyer's market."

Barretts sponsors the sale in conjunction with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Those organizations have taken steps to make this year's sale more attractive, reducing the size of the catalog from 318 horses last year to 235 horses.

The 2007 sale was considered a disappointment by sale organizers. The average price of $19,909 was down 21.3 percent from 2006. For this year, consignors do not expect prices to rise.

"I think there is some good news and some bad news," said Andy Havens, whose 2007 consignment led the sale.

"Barretts has really addressed the market conditions and has reduced the number of horses significantly from last year. I think that's really the right thing to do, to support the upper level of the market rather than to expect the current situation to carry them with another 100 or 120 horses. I think they've assembled the right number."

But Havens does not feel that is enough to show increases.

"The reality of the market, after the sales we've had so far, we're going to have to anticipate some level of softness," he said. "They were off more in the lower ranges than the upper ranges. I don't think people will feel as quite as bullish. It's the general feeling of the economy.

"The market is still here. It's not gone. There are a lot of people still buying horses."

Last year, Havens sold the sale topper, a Friends Lake colt that was purchased for $150,000. Of course, he is hoping to achieve the same milestone with his 29-horse consignment.

"I have some better pedigrees than I usually have," he said. "I've got a Johannesburg [filly], Indian Charlie [colt] and a Medaglia d'Oro [colt] that are pretty strong horses for out here. They're Cal-breds and that ought to help. I'm really happy with the group that I have."

This is the third year that Tat Yakutis has offered a consignment at the fall sale through her Yakutis Enterprises, agent. Yakutis, who has a background in production of racing television programming, has a 13-horse consignment following the withdrawal of two horses.

She said her clients have lowered their expectations for the sale to some degree.

"There are going to be some serious bargains," she said.

Yakutis points to an In Excess filly as one of her more promising yearling. "She's a big, 980-pound In Excess filly," she said. "It's a nice group of yearlings. There are only four fillies. We're strong on the colt side."

Yakutis was on the backstretch at Santa Anita this week, lobbying support for her consignment. In her view the key to a successful sale will be the purchasing power of Southern California horsemen.

"We're hoping we get some positive response from those who said they'd attend," she said. "We're keeping our fingers crossed. I'm sort of the eternal optimist, but there is great caution. We'll kind of charge forward and do the best job presenting the horses. We hope we get a lot of local support."