03/01/2002 12:00AM

Sky's the limit for statebred babies


ARCADIA, Calif. - The influence of California-breds on the Barretts March sale of selected 2-year-olds in-training has grown in recent years beyond the big-ticket buys by trainer Bob Baffert and his leading client, The Thoroughbred Corp.

As California-breds have become more prominent on a national scale - two of them, Gourmet Girl and Tiznow, earned Eclipse Awards for their 2001 campaigns - the state has produced juveniles capable of earning a berth in the important Barretts sale, held annually since 1990.

"The major buyers are looking at them as national horses," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "I don't think there's a big difference anymore. They're looking for good horses. The better the breeding, the more acceptable they are."

In the past two years, Baffert and The Thoroughbred Corp. have bought a California-bred from the March sale and watched the prospect develop into a major 2-year-old stakes winner.

In 2000, Arabian Light was bought for $700,000 and later won the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Last year, Officer was bought for the same sum and won the Del Mar Futurity and Champagne Stakes.

There are 33 California-bred 2-year-olds in the one-day sale, which begins at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The group includes two colts and two fillies from the Del Mar yearling sale last August. Three other yearlings from that sale that were listed as not sold are also available as 2-year-olds.

The most prominent Del Mar graduate is an In Excess filly who was purchased for $70,000 by Susan Edlund last August. Consigned by Havens Bloodstock Agency, agent, the In Excess filly breezed one furlong in 10.10 seconds on Tuesday at Fairplex Park during the first of two training previews. The second will be held on Sunday.

Boosted by The Thoroughbred Corp. purchases, 17 California-breds sold for an average of $105,294 last year. There were 12 listed as not sold and 13 that were withdrawn.

Overall, the sale averaged $142,042.

"I don't believe we'll beat last year's average," McMahon said. "The profile of the sale is a little different."

In 2000, 18 California-breds sold for an average of $114,444. In 1999, the average was $81,688.

McMahon said Cal-breds have helped to fill a void caused by increased competition in the juveniles sales market. The success of sales in Florida and Kentucky has given consignors options other than a cross-country trip to California.

"When the sale started there was certainly a distinction between the select market and the local product," McMahon said. "It's been more difficult to get numbers on a national scale and horses from California have matured and done well."

Citing the national influence of California stallions such as Bertrando and Cee's Tizzy, McMahon said that buyers do not attach a negative stigma to a California-bred.

This year, there are California-breds by Anziyan, Benchmark, Bertrando, Confide, Crusader Sword, Dance Floor, Deputy Commander, Distorted Humor, Editor's Note, End Sweep, General Meeting, High Brite, In Excess, Memo, Mountain Cat, Saint Ballado, Sir Cat, Smokester, Swiss Yodeler, Tale of the Cat, and Vaudeville.

While some of those stallions do not stand in the state, their progeny are categorized as California-breds because the mares were bred back to stallions residing in the state in the year they foaled.

Ta Ta Be True retired

Ta Ta Be True, the winner of the $125,000 Pro or Con Handicap on Feb. 2, has been retired after sustaining a leg injury in the race, trainer Jack Van Berg said.

The injury was discovered after Ta Ta Be True was being pulled up. She did not return to the winner's circle.

Owned by breeders Josephine and Tony Resicgno, Ta Ta Be True won 5 of 28 starts and $354,069. She won her first stakes in the Pro or Con Handicap, which was run over a mile on turf for California-bred fillies and mares.

Previously, the 7-year-old Ta Ta Be True was third in the 1999 California Cup Matron and second in the 2000 Run for the Roses Handicap.