10/02/2003 11:00PM

Mixed forecast for October sale

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Racetrack business has increased in California in recent months - and so has the cost of maintaining horses in training.

Those factors have made it difficult for the management of Barretts to project the results of Tuesday's October preferred yearling sale in Pomona.

"This is a critical year because of market conditions in California," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "I was happy to see the Del Mar meeting and Fairplex meetings do as well as they did. I think it will help the sale."

Furthermore, Fairplex Park will give horsemen a retroactive purse payment later this year, track officials said last weekend.

"That will help the market," McMahon said.

Conversely, the costs of keeping horses in training were cited as a contributing factor to a disappointing Del Mar yearling sale in August, which saw average prices decrease by 21 percent from the record 2002 sale.

A bill that would have raised the parimutuel takeout for exotic bets - from 20.18 percent to 20.68 percent - to help offset workers' compensation costs failed to reach a vote in the legislature last month and will not be heard again until January, at the earliest. The setback means horsemen must pay higher costs for insurance coverage at least until early 2004, a point that concerns McMahon.

"I would have loved to have that workers' compensation bill signed before our sale," McMahon said.

The 2002 Barretts October yearling sale saw average prices jump 26 percent, to $12,660, and gross increase by 22 percent. Three horses sold for $100,000 or more. The sale-topper was a General Meeting filly that sold for $165,000.

The October average is considerably less than what has been reached at the Del Mar sale, but McMahon said there is a niche in the market for an October yearling sale, even on a regional basis.

"The whole point has been to develop a good market for yearlings," McMahon said.

McMahon said he was disappointed by the average price of $34,506 at Del Mar.

"You have to worry about that, but on the other hand, there is less pressure in our market," he said. "That may be where people are more comfortable."

Tuesday's catalog features 346 yearlings in a sale dominated by California-breds.

In Excess, who leads the state's stallions in general earnings, has two colts and five fillies in the sale.

One of the fillies is out of the multiple stakes winner Above the Table, who earned $427,259. Consigned by Mary Knight, the filly is owned by Cindy Olsen and is Hip No. 201.

Three yearlings that were withdrawn from the Del Mar sale reappear in the Barretts sale, including a Carson City colt consigned by Creston Farms, agent. Selling as Hip No. 324, the California-bred colt is a half-brother to Hurrahy, a two-time stakes winner at Gulfstream Park who earned $375,957.

The others are an Avenue of Flags colt who is a half-brother to Starring Me, a Fairplex Park stakes winner; and an In Excess filly who is a half-sister to I'm a Jewel, the 1997 California Derby winner.

Andy Havens Bloodstock has the largest consignment, with 37 yearlings, including California-breds by Kentucky Derby winners Charismatic and Silver Charm.

Cardiff Stud Farm, agent, is selling 25 yearlings, including four colts and four fillies by freshman stallion Free House, who got his first stakes winner as a sire on Wednesday when House of Fortune won the Cover Gal Stakes at Oak Tree's Santa Anita meeting.