03/05/2004 12:00AM

Haisfields dive right in at Barretts

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POMONA, Calif. - Audrey and Richard Haisfield made a splashy debut at the 2-year-old sales on March 2. They bought two fillies out of The Thoroughbred Corp.'s racing-age dispersal, $700,000 Atlantic Ocean and $510,000 Honest Answer, and they were partners with John Sikura in buying the dispersal's top seller, $1.35 million Cat Fighter.

The Haisfields appear to be a substantial new force among the buyers, and they're likely to be on the results sheet at more auctions this year. They are looking for 10 to 12 broodmares for a commercial breeding operation, according to their advisor, Mike Akers of Lexington, Ky.-based Dapple Bloodstock.

"They're looking for quality, not quantity," said Akers, who said that his clients have been studying horses "religiously and without any haste" in an effort to put together the best band of mares they can. "They'll probably be in the November market, and they're looking privately, as well."

The Haisfields, who have resided in California, recently bought E.K. Gaylord's 179-acre Kentucky property, Gaillardia Farm. The farm, located near Midway, sold for $4.5 million. The Haisfields have renamed it NeverTell Farm.

Audrey Haisfield said the couple's business interests lie primarily in commercial real estate, but their passion is horses. They have operated Rancho Que Sabe, an internationally known breeding farm for Peruvian Paso horses in the Santa Ynez Valley. The Haisfields will move about two dozen Peruvian Pasos with them to Kentucky, but their focus will be on commercial Thoroughbred breeding, Audrey Haisfield said.

"When you combine business and horses, you arrive at Thoroughbreds," she said.

The Haisfields have acquired shares in a number of stallions recently, including a majority interest in the hot young sire Doneraile Court, as well as in Distorted Humor and Seeking the Gold.

"Now we have to find the women to go with the men," Haisfield said.

Ferguson buys filly for record $2 million

The Barretts sale on March 2 produced a new world-record price for a juvenile filly when Hip No. 81, an Awesome Again-Sassy Pants filly, brought $2 million from agent John Ferguson. But the auction also featured two ghosts of world records' past, in the form of Atlantic Ocean and Morocco.

Atlantic Ocean and Morocco were both sold March 2 as part of a racing-age dispersal by the late Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. Atlantic Ocean and Morocco had previously set world records at the Barretts 2-year-old sale when Salman bought them. In 1999, Salman bid $2 million for the juvenile Morocco, a son of Brocco and Roll Over Baby, setting a mark that was equaled a month later at Keeneland's April sale and again the following year at Barretts March. Two years later, at the Barretts March sale's 2002 edition, Salman's $1.9 million bid for Atlantic Ocean made her the most expensive 2-year-old filly ever sold at auction.

Atlantic Ocean, now 4, went on to become a Grade 3 winner with $678,210 in winnings. Morocco, 7, never won a stakes and earned $133,640.

When they went through the auction ring at Barretts this time, the prices were far different. Atlantic Ocean sold for $700,000 to Audrey and Richard Haisfield, whereas Morocco brought just $14,000 from a partnership.

Weisbord optimistic service will fare better

Among attendees at the Barretts March auction was Barry Weisbord, whose members-only equine trading service EquineCommerce.com launched in early December.

Weisbord had a mixed assessment of the service's early months. He said he is confident that it will emerge as a major influence on the Thoroughbred marketplace, but acknowledged that its early months have been disappointing.

"We're lacking in listings," he said. "It's a long way from awful, but I'd like to be a little further down the road. The quality of the horses is not bad, but we do need more listings."

Weisbord said he's confident listings will increase as buyers turn their attention to quality offerings in the forum. Among recent listings were an A.P. Indy season, which sold for $325,000, and Island Sand, who did not sell through the service but went on to win the Busanda Stakes.

Weisbord said EquineCommerce.com plans to add foal- and mare-sharing to its product line in mid-March.