03/20/2007 11:00PM

Gross and median skyrocket, but so do buybacks

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POMONA, Calif. - Led by an Officer colt purchased by the Maktoum family for $1.4 million, Tuesday's Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training showed substantial gains in gross, average, and median over a year ago, but a high number of buybacks had sale organizers concerned.

In the one-day sale, 88 of the 199 horses cataloged sold for $19,340,000, an average of $219,773 and a median of $147,500. The gross increased 34 percent from last year, the average was up 42 percent, and the median grew by a whopping 84 percent over the 2006 sale.

There were 62 horses bought back, or 41 percent of the horses that went through the ring. There were 49 horses withdrawn. At the 2006 sale, 33 percent of the horses were bought back.

"The buybacks were a problem in general all day," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "I don't think I'm comfortable with buybacks above 30 percent, but that's the reality of the market."

McMahon said one factor that contributed to a high number of buybacks was greater expectations from consignors. The yearlings bought last year that were pinhooked to Tuesday's sale cost an average of $96,000, compared to an average of $69,000 in 2006, McMahon said.

The Officer colt that topped the sale was one of five horses purchased at the sale by John Ferguson Bloodstock on behalf of the Maktoum family.

The sale-topper breezed once in the pre-sale workouts, zipping a quarter-mile in 20.80 seconds on March 12, the fastest time at that distance. The colt did not record a time at Sunday's second training preview session.

Ferguson described the colt as "arguably one of the most attractive colts I've seen at a 2-year-old sale this year."

"His breeze time compared with some of the best horses that have breezed here over the years," he said.

Ferguson said that Sheikh Mohammed considered the colt a prospect for European racing on turf instead of dirt racing in the U.S.

"He looks like an athlete," Ferguson said.

The Officer colt was consigned by B.C.3 Thoroughbreds, agent. The colt is out of Rovie Wade, a 9-year-old mare by Silver Ghost. Rovie Wade did not start and has yet to produce a winner.

The colt was purchased for $190,000 at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale by Jimmy Gladwell's Ferguson Valley Ranch.

Ferguson said the colt will be based with trainer Saeed bin Suroor in Newmarket, England, this year.

Ferguson led all buyers in gross, acquiring five horses for $3,950,000. He bought the most expensive filly, paying $800,000 for a California-bred by Cape Town, and he paid $800,000 for a Stormy Atlantic colt. The Cape Town filly was purchased for $240,000 at the California October yearling sale last fall by Utah pinhookers John Brocklebank and Shane Chipman, who operate as B.C.3 Thoroughbreds, agent.

B.C.3 Thoroughbreds was the leading consignor by gross at Tuesday's sale, selling nine horses for $4,620,000.

B.C.3 Thoroughbreds consigned the three highest-priced horses at the sale - the Officer colt, a Johannesburg colt purchased for $900,000 by Zayat Stables, and the Cape Town filly.