02/27/2004 12:00AM

Market trend, catalog bode well for Barretts

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Florida's two select juvenile auctions launched the 2-year-old sale season in extraordinary style, and the question now is whether the March 2 Barretts auction, which features a dispersal of The Thoroughbred Corporation bloodstock, can keep the boom going.

Earlier this month, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's auction at Calder rang up a sale-record top price of $1.6 million for a Wild Rush-Freudenau colt that Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum bought. It also recorded double-digit gains in gross, average, and median. Things got even stronger last week at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale, where the world record juvenile price, previously $2.7 million for Diamond Fury at the 2003 Barretts March auction, was blown away twice. Soon after a $3.1 million Stephen Got Even colt was sold, Sheikh Mohammed bought a Fusaichi Pegasus-Hidden Storm colt for $4.5 million. That contributed to across-the-board increases.

Now the market tidal wave is rolling to Pomona, Calif., and the Barretts March sale. And this year, the Barretts catalog has a little extra pizzazz, thanks to The Thoroughbred Corp.'s 53-horse dispersal.

"We're optimistic," Barretts president Gerald McMahon said. "You've got to be, based on what the market's done so far and the interest in our catalog."

McMahon gauges interest by requests for catalogs, workout videos, and credit, and he's expecting more buzz than usual this year.

The Thoroughbred Corp. horses will sell through the agency of Kristin Mulhall, whose father, Richard, is the longtime manager of the late Prince Ahmed Salman's Thoroughbred Corp. stable.

Catalog includes two graded stakes winners

The consignment includes a variety of racing-age horses, and the proven runners are sure to attract a great deal of attention. Among those are Grade 3 winner Atlantic Ocean, who topped this sale at $1.9 million in 2002, and Grade 2 winners Orville N Wilbur's and Cat Fighter. But even the stable's unraced horses have some outstanding pedigrees that could put them in demand.

Hip No. 22, a 3-year-old Storm Cat colt named Ancient Art, is a half-brother to Breeders' Cup Turf winner Johar, for example. And Hip No. 7, Safely, is a 3-year-old daughter of the late sire Unbridled and Grade 1 winner Oath - the kind of pedigree that makes an attractive broodmare prospect even if she never races. The Thoroughbred Corp. consignment also features Royal Walk, an unraced 4-year-old Mr. Prospector-Stone Flower colt who cost $3 million as a Saratoga yearling; Smart Again, a 4-year-old Awesome Again half-brother to Grade 1 winner Schossberg; Word of Mouth, an unraced 4-year-old Saint Ballado half-sister to Japanese champion Hishi Amazon; Fantastic Spain, a 4-year-old Fantastic Fellow half-brother to Spain; Illustrate, a 3-year-old Kingmambo filly out of Grade 1 winner Auriette; and Morocco, now 7, who set a then world record of $2 million at the 1999 Barretts March sale.

The Thoroughbred Corp. consignment is a windfall for the Barretts select catalog, but, on pedigree, many others in the book also appear strong. And that raises hope among sellers that the market can outperform its 2003 results.

Last year, the Barretts select 2-year-old market produced mixed results. Charles Fipke's $2.7 million record purchase was proof of something Barretts consignors have long known, that the California market is capable of flooding with major money for horses with the magic combination of physical perfection, graceful action, appealing pedigree, and workout speed. Despite the powerful bidding on Diamond Fury, which helped gross revenue rise by 12 percent, the 2003 Barretts market in general was even spottier than usual as buyers raised their hands only for the horses they thought had it all. The buyback rate, consequently, shot upward from 40 percent to 49 percent.

This year, the select juvenile market in general seems to be enjoying more strength top to bottom, but will Barretts enjoy the same theme? McMahon said he certainly hopes so.

"The market's really strong," he said. "It comes down to what kind of horses you have, and I'm hoping enough of ours meet buyers' needs."

The Barretts catalog relies on the annual influx of East Coast-based pinhooking outfits. In recent years, the highly selective market has raised questions as to whether those long-distance sellers would send their horses across country to an auction where the risk of losing money was high. But some of the East's biggest and most prosperous pinhookers are in the catalog again this year, a vote of confidence that California can still be the Golden State for sellers with an attractive horse. Among the Easterners making the trip this year are Eddie Woods, Robert Scanlon, Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock, Jerry Bailey, Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree agency, and Kip Elser's Kirkwood Stables, which sold the world-record $4.5 million colt at Fasig-Tipton Calder.

In addition, this year's Barretts catalog also has a large draft of California-bred or -based horses. Here is a sample of some of the more interesting sale entries, excluding The Thoroughbred Corp. horses noted above:

* Hip No. 85, an Out of Place half-sister to Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Adoration.

* Hip No. 99, an Exploit half-sister to Grade 2 winner Broad Dynamite.

* Hip No. 103, a Charismatic filly out of multiple stakes-winner Take Her to Heart.

* Hip No. 107, a Bernstein half-sister to $585,000 earner Subtle Trouble.

* Hip No. 114, an Afternoon Deelites half-brother to Grade 3 winner Traces of Gold.

* Hip No. 116, a Theatrical filly out of Chilean horse of the year Val Gardena.

* Hip No. 132, a Mt. Livermore daughter of Grade 2 winner Approved to Fly.

* Hip No. 140, a Lord Carson half-brother to Grade 2 winner Grey Memo.

* Hip No. 144, a Deputy Minister half-brother to Grade 1 winner Schossberg.

* Hip No. 149, a full sister to Grade 1 winner Siphonic.

* Hip No. 152, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Agincourt.

* Hip No. 165, a half-brother to champion sprinter Kona Gold.

* Hip No. 208, a Siphon half-sister to Grade 1-placed Talloires.