05/18/2007 12:00AM

May sale has second solid year

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After two consecutive successful years, the Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training, held last Tuesday in Pomona, appears to be gaining momentum on the roster of juvenile sales.

In 2006, the sale-topper was a surprising $2.5 million Red Bullet colt. The average that year reached a record $52,573.

This year's sale had a different complexion in that one horse did not dominate the event. The sale-topper brought $650,000, but the sale set records for gross and average ($62,604). There were 13 horses that sold for $250,000 or more, compared to four in 2006.

"Sellers are getting more comfortable that you can bring a horse here," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "The colt we sold last year for the sale-topper illustrated that."

This year, McMahon said, "we pretty much knew we had a lot more horses at the top of this market than we had before. The question was would we have buyers for them."

There were buyers, and many were California-based owners, including Dennis and Michael Narlinger's JMJ Racing, which bought the $650,000 Sky Mesa colt which topped the sale; Michael Moreno's Southern Equine Racing Stable of Louisiana, which has a presence in California; Marsha Naify, the president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California; and bloodstock agent Dennis O'Neill, the brother of leading trainer Doug O'Neill.

"California has been driving the whole [2-year-old] market this year," McMahon said. "Californians have been prominent at every market. We were concerned they would get their orders filled everywhere else."

Naify bought the sale's leading California-bred, a Tribal Rule colt, for $430,000. He was the lone California-bred among the 13 that sold for $250,000 or more. The unraced Red Bullet colt that topped the 2006 sale is a California-bred.

The Tribal Rule colt was consigned by Excel Bloodstock and had been purchased for $60,000 at the California October yearling sale at Barretts by consignor Bruno DeBerdt.

Barretts officials asked DeBerdt to put the colt in the more prestigious March sale, "but I didn't want him to be overshadowed," DeBerdt said.

Naify was advised on the purchase by trainer Bruce Headley, who described the colt as "the perfectly made horse that has the classic look."

"He has the correct conformation," Headley said. "I looked at him about five times."

The sale included scores of pinhooked yearlings, some of which did not sell.

Owner Brett Kelly bought back a Street Cry colt for $450,000 that he bought as a yearling for $18,000. Kelly later talked with trainer Neil Drysdale and said that the colt will be trained by Drysdale.

"I probably should have had him in the March sale, but the March sale didn't give him enough time," Kelly said.

A Booklet colt that was purchased for $500,000 last September was withdrawn in the hours before it was scheduled to be sold, according to consignor John Brocklebank. Brocklebank said it was unclear who would train the colt.

"There were a couple of little issues that were unclear on the horse's vet report," Brocklebank said. "They decided to withdraw him."

Brocklebank's B.C.3 Thoroughbreds led all consignors, selling 27 horses for $1,434,500.

The sale's success from the last two years is not likely to lead to a significant expansion for 2008, McMahon said. This year, there were 406 horses in the catalog, but 140 were withdrawn. There were 94 horses bought back, or 31.7 percent of the ones that went through the ring. Last year, 27.5 percent were bought back.

"It probably doesn't need to be expanded," he said. "The format is really good in terms of what it takes to market a horse after you get the breezes done."

McMahon said that some of the withdrawn horses could appear in the summer sale of horses of racing age and 2-year-olds in training on June 26.