08/12/2004 11:00PM

Sale expected to bounce back

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The success of Monday's Del Mar yearling sale hinges on consignments such as the 10 horses offered by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds.

Owned by Tom and Debra Stull, Tommy Town Thoroughbreds of Santa Ynez, Calif., will have four fillies and six colts in Monday evening's sale. If the market is strong for buyers, few, if any, of the Tommy Town horses will be returning to their central California farm. If the market is weak, some could race next year in the Stulls' black and gray colors.

Tom Stull says he expects the one-day sale to show growth from a disappointing two-day session in 2003, when average price fell 21 percent to $34,506. The sale had a record average of $43,770 in 2002. The median fell from a record $32,000 in 2002 to $25,500 in 2003.

"I'd be very surprised if it doesn't go up," Stull said. "It's a little more select."

Other consignors are equally optimistic.

"If my consignment is any indication, and everybody's horses are as nice as mine, it will be a good sale," said Gayle Van Leer, who is offering nine yearlings.

To appeal to buyers, the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association has made several changes this year. The venue was changed from Del Mar Horsepark to the racetrack, the sale was reduced from two days to one, and the number of yearlings cataloged was cut from 159 horses to 122. Ten horses had been withdrawn from Monday's sale as of Friday.

Last year, Tommy Town consigned four yearlings. Two were bought back and the others sold for $17,000 and $25,000. A colt bought back by the Stulls for $25,000, later named Top Money, won his debut in a $40,000 claiming race for statebred maidens at Del Mar on July 29.

This year, the Tommy Town consignment includes yearlings from California-based stallions such as Valid Wager and Old Topper, who stand at Tommy Town, and Kentucky-based stallions such as Boundary, King of Kings, and Smart Strike.

Stull said the farm submitted 25 to 30 yearlings for consideration and received 10 invitations.

"We want it to be known that we're selling, but we're not giving them away," Stull said.

The change to the sale format, along with the success of the Fasig-Tipton July sale in Kentucky last month, has led many to expect a stronger sale than last year.

The average at the Kentucky sale rose 23 percent, to $114,260. While the Del Mar yearling sale will have an average considerably lower than Fasig-Tipton, CTBA general manager Doug Burge said he was excited by the results of that sale.

"I think looking at that sale is an indication of what kind of sale we will have," he said. "They do get a large group of buyers and so do we. I'm very optimistic."

All but five of the yearlings cataloged in the Del Mar sale are California-breds. There are yearlings by top California stallions such as Beau Genius, Benchmark, Bertrando, Cee's Tizzy, Event of the Year, Free House, General Meeting, In Excess, Swiss Yodeler, and Valid Wager, but also by Kentucky stallions such as Awesome Again, Black Minnaloushe, Elusive Quality, Touch Gold, and Victory Gallop.

"The sire power is very strong," Burge said.

So are some of the broodmares. Rio Tejo, the 2003-04 California broodmare of the year, is the dam of Hip No. 59, a colt by Bertrando. The colt is a half-brother to stakes winners Giovannetti, Guillermo, and Rio Oro, and a full brother to Runaway Mother, a maiden winner who topped the 2001 Del Mar yearling sale at $200,000.

The Bertrando colt is owned by Rick and Michael Arthur and is consigned by Kathy Berkey Bloodstock.