08/13/2009 11:00PM

Northern California yearling sale rebounds


Well, at least the sale wasn't down.

Tuesday's Northern California yearling sale at Pleasanton showed moderate gains over the corresponding sale at Santa Rosa in 2008.

The sale finished with 110 horses selling for a gross of $566,000, an increase 12 percent over last year. The average grew by 8 percent, to $5,145, while the median of $3,250 was up 30 percent. The increase in average price reversed two years of decline.

The sale is still far from its record average of $8,192 set in its third year, 2006, but was higher than the 2008 average of $4,761. The disappointing result that year had promoters with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association questioning whether to continue the event.

For this year, the sale was moved from Santa Rosa to Pleasanton, where it had been held in the past, and the response was favorable, according to CTBA executive director Doug Burge.

"What was encouraging was we weren't sure what to expect," Burge said. "The sale was very well attended by trainers and owners from both north and south. It's an open sale, so obviously the results are a function of the product brought to the sale.

"It was encouraging. It was good to go forward and not backward."

The sale topper was a Benchmark colt sold for $32,000 to Sierra Sunset LLC. Consigned by River Edge Farm, agent, the colt is out of the unraced Deputy Minister mare Brief Interlude and is a half-brother to Ran for the Dough. A California-bred filly, Ran for the Dough won 3 of 29 starts and $225,186. She was third, beaten a head, in the 2004 Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar.

Three other horses sold for $25,000 or more - a Perfect Mandate filly for $27,000, a Redattore filly for $26,000 and a colt by Tannersmyman for $25,000.

This year's sale offered a smaller catalog, 185 horses compared to 206 horses last year. The percentage bought back fell, from 39 percent in 2008 to 24 percent this year.

"The real positive, granted we did have less horses, was the gross was up," Burge said. "We had a drastic decline in number of buybacks. That's a significant turnaround.

"The consignors, going into the sale, were very surprised at how busy they were. Quite a few people did very well. Some maybe are not as satisfied."

Burge said the sale will remain at Pleasanton, closer to a core of owners and trainers who base their stables at Golden Gate Fields and Pleasanton.

"It was close to where the buyers were," he said. "It showed in the number of attendees."

Burge is hopeful that the uptick in business will carry over to the California Cup yearling sale at Barretts on Oct. 5. "I'm a little more optimistic than I was," he said.

By then, a bonus program paying $20,000 to the owners of a statebred that wins a maiden special weight on the Southern California circuit (and a $10,000 bonus in Northern California) should be in effect. The bonus is currently working its way through the state Senate.

The legislation would permit the CTBA to redirect part of the money it distributes to owners toward the bonuses. The bonus would be in addition to purse earnings and is seen by the CTBA as an enticement for owners to acquire better quality California-breds and race them in maiden special weight races and not maiden claiming races.

The bonus is scheduled to take effect with the start of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Sept. 30.