08/09/2001 11:00PM

A long-distance look at the Del Mar sale

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Becky Thomas has had great success at the Del Mar Yealing Sales, but she will be deliberately absent from the sale this week.

Thomas, the Florida pinhooker who operates Sequel Bloodstock, has acquired Arabian Light and Officer at Del Mar, resold them at 2-year-olds in-training sales, and watched them develop into stakes winners. Thomas saw both for the first time when they arrived at her farm in Ocala, Fla.

Thomas's assistant, Rudy Delguidice, has staked a claim on Del Mar as a working vacation, freeing Thomas to be at a sale in Saratoga this weekend.

"I'm banned from that sale," Thomas joked about Del Mar earlier this week. "I don't think Rudy would let me go."

Her absence is not a sign that Thomas is less than fully prepared for the two-day sale, which will begin at 7 p.m. Monday at the Del Mar HorsePark. The sale concludes on Tuesday. For weeks, Thomas has been poring over pedigrees and speaking with contacts.

"For me, the first thing is pedigree selection," she said, explaining her system. "We try to stick with the top sires - Memo, Bertrando, Smokester, In Excess, Avenue of Flags, and General Meeting, those kind that are the select type. They have to have something of a sire."

After an extensive look at pedigrees, Thomas narrows the list of prospects for Delguidice to inspect once he arrives on the sale grounds.

"We've been together for 14-15 years and we're interchangeable," she said. "When he describes something to me, it's like being there. We have so many horses as a frame of reference."

Delguidice, a former jockey, and Thomas speak frequently before the sale. They select a group for veterinary inspections, which will further reduce the list of prospects.

In some cases, Thomas will phone consignors to learn more about a yearling or prospective prices.

"If I value a horse at $50,000, I'll call the consignor and talk to them," she said. "Sometimes, they'll say, 'We've got a lot of interest and it should go for $100,000.' I put those on a vet's list if we're in the market for them."

Once the sale starts, Sequel Bloodstock may take home only two or three horses to prepare for the 2-year-olds in-training sales.

Last year, Sequel purchased three horses at Del Mar: a Candi's Gold colt for $80,000, an Honour and Glory filly for $75,000, and a $175,000 Bertrando colt.

"I do the pricing," Thomas said. "When Rudy bids, he's on the phone with me."

With successful pinhooks in recent years, Sequel has a tough act to follow.

In 2000, Thomas sold Arabian Light at the Barretts March Sale of 2-year-olds in training for $700,000 to Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. Arabian Light had been purchased for $60,000 as a yearling. On the racetrack, he won the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last October.

The $175,000 Bertrando colt purchased last year later was named Officer. He was sold at Barretts last March for $700,000 to Thoroughbred Corp. Unbeaten in two starts, he won the Graduation Stakes on July 25 and will be favored in Wednesday's Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

"We tend to pick out the kind of horses they like," Thomas said of the Thoroughbred Corp. "We like a big, rangier kind of horses. We've been lucky that they've shopped with us. It doesn't work on all of them. We don't bat 1,000 percent. We try to stay above average."

This year, Thomas is worried that the success of recent graduates will lead to higher prices at Del Mar, which makes buying more difficult for pinhookers.

"I think there will be greater attendance because of what we've seen coming out of that sale," she said. "The catalog looks great. The people we see at various sales feel they have their best consignments."