09/20/2007 11:00PM

Optimism meets reality at sale

EmailLarry Ullmann had a quick answer when asked to describe the eight horses he is offering in Tuesday's Northern California yearling sale at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

"I think I have the best consignment in the sale," he said. "I hope it goes well."

Ullmann, and his wife, Sheila, who operate as SLU Inc., have consigned the horses through Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif. The group includes six yearlings who have stakes-winning half-brothers or sisters or are out of dams who were stakes winners or stakes-placed.

For the Northern California yearling sale, the Ullmanns' consignment represents an important element of quality.

Sponsored by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the one-day sale was launched in 2004, and had its highest average price in 2006: $8,192. The 2006 sale grossed $1,351,600, with 165 horses listed as sold and 58 bought back. The 2006 average grew 8.6 percent over 2005. The sale-topper was a Benchmark colt sold for $72,000.

Ullmann is not predicting that he has the sale-topper in his consignment, but he expects his yearlings to greatly surpass the 2006 average.

"I've told a lot of people that I think I should get $120,000 to $130,000 for the horses," Ullmann said. "If it's a good horse, they'll buy it.

"I've supported the sale every year, and I hope it continues to grow," he said.

Like many California breeders, Ullmann is banking on success by those yearlings on the racetrack to help his bottom line. Yearlings may not sell for great sums in this state, but they can go on to earn significant purses, and therefore reward breeders with stallion and breeder awards.

At the 2006 Northern California sale, Ullmann sold the Perfect Mandate colt Run Brother Run for $40,000. So far this year, Run Brother Run has won two stakes - the Beau Brummel Stakes at Fairplex Park and the Everett Nevin Alameda County Futurity - and earned $101,707.

At Tuesday's sale, Ullmann is offering a half-sister to Run Brother Run by Royal Cat, an 11-year-old stallion by Storm Cat who stands for $3,500 at Old English Rancho. Ullmann said he owns a 50 percent stake in Royal Cat. Ullmann raced the yearling filly's dam, Aloha Mangos, by Bold Badgett, who placed in six stakes and earned $194,245.

"I'm betting on the family, and the family produces runners," he said.

Later in the sale, Ullmann is offering a colt by Cahill Road who is a half-brother to Amber Hill, a stakes winner of $261,143. He also is bringing a Royal Cat colt who is out of the stakes winner Takes Two to Mango, the dam of the stakes winner Two to Get Ready.

Ullmann has shifted his emphasis in recent years from breeding and racing to breeding, racing and sales. He owned Bold Roberta, a stakes winner who earned $449,704. She is now in Kentucky, in foal to Borrego, he said.

Ullmann, 74, lives in San Ramon, Calif., not far from Pleasanton. Retired from his former business since the early 1990s, he concentrates on his racing holdings, hoping that the yearlings he sells can be successful.

"I'm trying to breed, race and sell," he said. "If they go with the right people, I'll do all right. That's all you can do right now."

The sale has a catalog of 264 horses, but as of Thursday 21 had been withdrawn. The sale includes the first crop of yearlings by the stallions Cat Dreams, Champali, Islander, Jackpot, Joey Franco, Marino Marini, Momentum, Popular, Sky Terrace, Spinelessjellyfish, Tenpins, and Toccet.

One notable yearling is Hip No. 58, a full sister to the multiple-stakes-winning sprinter Vaca City Flyer, a winner of $460,550. The yearling filly is consigned by Mary Knight, agent.