03/05/2003 1:00AM

Record $2.7 million paid for Barretts juvenile colt


POMONA, Calif. - The record price for a juvenile purchased at auction was shattered Tuesday when Canadian owner Charles Fipke paid $2.7 million for a Sea of Secrets colt at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

The colt was consigned by Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock. Thomas, along with partner Lewis Lakin, bought him for $30,000 at the 2002 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale.

Fipke, who is president of a diamond mining business in Canada, outbid Aaron and Marie Jones.

The final bid broke the record of $2 million, paid for two colts in 1999 and one in 2000.

The record purchase was the highlight of a sale that was marred by a significant number of buybacks. Of the 167 horses that went through the ring, only 86 were listed as sold.

The sale average fell 5 percent, from $150,000 in 2002 to $142,186, while the median plummeted 33 percent, from $90,000 in 2002 to $60,000. With a larger catalog, the number sold increased 18 percent while the gross receipts of $12,228,000 was an increase of 12 percent.

The 81 buybacks represented 49 percent of the horses that went through the ring. Last year, 40 percent of the horses offered were bought back.

The sale topper pushed Fipke to the top of the buyers' list, even though he bought only one colt. Sequel Bloodstock led all consignors with eight head selling for $4.11 million. Fipke, whose company is based in Kelowna, British Columbia, is an active owner and breeder who started Perfect Soul in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park.

The Sea of Secrets colt will be trained in California by Bob Baffert.

"I think he'll go a distance," Fipke said Wednesday morning while watching workouts with Baffert at Santa Anita. "I don't think he'll just be a sprinter."

Baffert said the colt will be turned out and will return to serious training in late spring. The schedule is similar to what Baffert followed last year with Atlantic Ocean, who cost a record $1.9 million for a juvenile filly at the 2002 Barretts March sale. She has since won four stakes races.

"They always say we're crazy after we pay so much," Baffert said. "He was the star out of the sale."

The colt is out of Swift Spirit, an 11-year-old mare by Tasso who won three races and $36,622. She is the dam of Friendly Spirit, a stakes winner at Hoosier Park. Sea of Secrets won one stakes race - the 1998 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita - in a 10-race career interrupted by injury.

In the days before the sale, the Sea of Secrets colt had attracted considerable attention because of his workouts and physical appearance. On Feb. 24, he breezed a furlong in 10.20 seconds. Last Sunday, he breezed a quarter-mile in 21.60 seconds.

"If we win a Grade 1, he's worth millions," Baffert said. "The breeding is Storm Cat on top and Fappiano on the bottom. He moves beautifully. It's my job to get the Grade 1."

Baffert said the colt will be sent to Florida for a brief rest.

"We'll kick him out," Baffert said. "His shins are a little tender. We'll give him some time, we'll regroup and then get him going."

Baffert had no recollection of the colt at last year's yearling sale.

"We were at that sale," Baffert recalled. "This horse grew up. I've seen 4,000 horses since then."

Baffert has been successful with horses purchased from Thomas. In 2001, he trained Officer, who was purchased by The Thoroughbred Corp. for $700,000 and later became a multiple stakes winner. He is now at stud in Kentucky.

Thomas said she had a reserve of $250,000 on the Sea of Secrets colt.

"The price sounds like someone is joking," Thomas said. "We've never seen anything like it and we've been doing this for a long time."

The Sea of Secrets colt was one of two horses that drew bids of seven figures. An El Prado colt who is a half-brother to Milwaukee Brew was purchased for $1 million by Stuart Tsujimoto and William Schettine from the consignment of Chapman Farms, agent.

Trainer Jim Chapman has owned horses in partnership with Tsujimoto in the past.

The El Prado colt's appeal was helped by Milwaukee Brew's victory in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap last Saturday.

Overall, Chapman Farms, agent, sold seven horses from an 18-member consignment for $2.35 million, ranking second on the consignors' list. The number of buybacks left Chapman discouraged.

"Nothing is selling in the middle," Chapman said. "Everyone is standing here looking at each other. I don't know why they weren't buying them here when they could vet them out."