06/25/2004 12:00AM

Racing-age horses go on block


After a decade-long absence, a horses of racing age sale in California reappears on the calendar with Tuesday's Barretts summer sale at Fairplex Park in Pomona. The one-day sale offers 75 2-year-olds in training and 48 horses of racing age.

With no recent history of such a market, sale organizers have modest expectations. Barretts president Gerald McMahon on Thursday said he expects the 123-horse sale to have an average price "in the teens."

McMahon said attracting 2-year-olds was emphasized for Tuesday's sale. Some horses of racing age that would fit in the sale have been sold privately by California horsemen and now race in cheap claimers at casino-racetracks such as Sunland Park in New Mexico, Mountaineer Park in West Virginia, and Prairie Meadows in Iowa, he said.

Many of those tracks have high purses for lower-level claiming horses.

"Years ago, we concentrated on horses of racing age," McMahon said. "That had been the market in place. But with casino-based racetracks across the country, it's difficult to get those horses."

Owners have been in a buying mood at Barretts this year.

At the 2-year-olds in training sale last month, the average price compared to the 2003 sale increased 22.5 percent, to $37,371, while the median grew 58.8 percent, to $27,000.

With fewer horses selling, and a reduction from a two-day format in 2003 to a one-day format this year, the gross fell 1.8 percent, to $7,053,000 for the 189 horses sold. In 2003, 236 horses were listed as sold.

"The market has been strong everywhere, but this is a new venue," McMahon said of Tuesday's sale. "You have to wait and see what buyers come."

Barretts hosted a 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age sale in May 1994. The sale saw 163 horses sell for $2.1 million, an average of $13,015. The 122 2-year-olds at that sale sold for an average of $14,769, while the 41 horses of racing age averaged $7,798.

The horses of racing age at Tuesday's sale range in accomplishment from unraced maidens, horses that have been competitive in claiming races, and horses that have been disappointments.

One of the promising horses of racing age is Bilo, a 4-year-old gelding who has not been worse than second in four starts. By Bertrando, Bilo won a six-furlong allowance race for California-breds on May 15.

Offered as Hip No. 5 is Rockin the Ship, who won the Gold Rush and Catalina derbies against Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses over 870 yards at Los Alamitos earlier this year and who was third in a $62,500 claiming race at Hollywood Park on Thursday.

Eclipse Award-winning owners Bob and Beverly Lewis are selling several high-priced purchases that have not lived up to expectations. The horses are consigned by Mary Knight, agent.

Being offered by Knight for the Lewises are: Contribute, a $775,000 yearling purchase in 2001; Special Offer, a $220,000 yearling purchase in 2000; Symbolic Times, a $240,000 2-year-old buy in 2002; Trial by Jury, a $900,000 weanling purchase in 1999; and Wild Meeting, a $165,000 yearling purchase in 2002.

None of them has been competitive in top-class races and three - Contribute, Trial by Jury, and Wild Meeting - have raced for claiming prices.

Right Proof (Hip. No. 4) and Broker B. Tee (Hip No. 80) have started in stakes this year. Right Proof was sixth in the $350,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park on May 8. Broker B. Tee was fourth in the Arizona Thoroughbred Breeders Association Sales Futurity at Turf Paradise on May 16.

Some of the juveniles will be exercised on Monday at a training preview at Fairplex Park at 10 a.m.

"If this sale were in the mid-teens it would be real good," McMahon said. "We're targeting $12,000 for 2-year-olds."