10/04/2002 12:00AM

Expectations running high for Barretts Yearling Sale

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There are indications that prices may rise compared to last year at this week's Barretts October Preferred Yearling Sale in Pomona, Calif. Despite declines at major yearling sales in other parts of the country, the California market has done well this year. The Del Mar Yearling Sale in August had slight gains over 2001, finishing with a record average.

The Barretts Sale is the next major sale for the California market, and market conditions leave general manager Gerald McMahon optimistic that bidding will be active for the 321 yearlings that will be sold on Tuesday.

"We're pretty optimistic about it," McMahon said. "We're starting to see a real value on the California-bred program. I think it will be helpful. For the same reason, Del Mar was solid, we think this will be solid."

The 2001 October yearling sale had an average price of $10,037 on 222 sold, a gain of 17 percent from 2000. The sale topper last year was a $120,000 Bertrando colt, who was bred in California.

This year's sale features two unique consignors - the dispersal of 12 yearlings owned by the estate of Georgia Ridder and 14 yearlings owned by Golden Eagle Farm. Betty Mabee said over the summer that she plans to offer more horses at upcoming sales following the death of her husband, John, in April.

"The dispersal spices this up, so does the Golden Eagle Farm horses," McMahon said. "Those are the kind of breeders that can really help a sale. We think it's our best catalog."

In addition, there is a wide array of yearlings representing stallions whose first foals are yearlings. The list includes Comic Strip, Crafty Friend, Epic Honor, Event of the Year, Free House, General Royal, Lucayan Prince, Military, Mud Route, Old Trieste, Parade Ground, and Trail City.

There are two well-bred yearlings certain to attract attention. River Edge Farm has consigned a Southern Halo filly out of Private Persuasion, the winner of the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap in 1995. The Ridder dispersal includes a General Meeting colt out of Raw Gold, the winner of the Grade 2 Landaluce Stakes in 1995.

Aside from those consignments, McMahon said he saw positive signs at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Toward the end of that marathon sale, the average prices stabilized after falling considerably during the more prestigious select sessions. McMahon said the buyers who participate at the end of the Keeneland sale come from the same pool that could be active on Tuesday.

"It does set us up for a good market," he said. "If there is a wholesale decrease back there, it could hurt out here. I don't think it was easy to fill orders out there. I'm hoping that we're up a little bit from last year."

In the past, the sale has produced bargains. Lady George was bought for $2,500 in 2000 and was later named the champion 2-year-old filly of 2001. Last year, Magic Smoke was purchased for $3,500. She won the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park last June.

The yearling sale is the first of two events at Barretts in October. There is a mixed sale featuring breeding stock, weanlings, and horss of racing age on Oct. 28 and 29. This is the third year of the two-sale format, which McMahon does not envision changing.

"We're determined to keep this yearling sale to a one-day format," McMahon said. "We prescreened pedigrees and then moved some over to the mixed sale. To me, with the format of the Del Mar sale, followed by our preferred yearlings sale, it seems like breeders have good choices."