03/08/2002 12:00AM

Statebreds hot item at Barretts

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Boosted by a stronger-than-expected sale and recent success on the track, California-breds were in demand at the Barretts 2-year-olds in training sale last week.

Despite a cautious approach to this year's sale by the sale company and consignors, the one-day sale in Pomona last Tuesday showed an increase in gross and average price.

Of the 41 Cal-breds cataloged, 32 went through the ring and 17 sold for $2,001,000. The average price for Cal-breds of $117,705 was slightly higher than the 2001 average of $105,294.

Overall, 73 horses sold for $10.95 million, an average of $150,000. Last year's overall figures were 71 horses for a gross of $10,085,000, and an average of $142,042.

"Buyers didn't come here to kick tires," said Barretts president Gerald McMahon. "They were looking for horses. The key is buyers that are eager to keep playing.

"It's hard to categorize where horses belong. I don't think the average cost was as high. One or two had big pinhook prices. Overall, they didn't seem as expensive, but they brought more money."

Last year, five Cal-breds sold for $100,000 or more, a group led by Officer, who sold for $700,000. He was later named California-bred champion 2-year-old male, following a campaign that included wins in the Del Mar Futurity and Champagne Stakes.

This year, there were six Cal-breds that sold for $100,000 or more. The high seller, fourth on the overall list, was an In Excess filly who sold for $440,000 to Jim Ingalls.

Going into the sale, the filly had an attractive pedigree and an impressive workout, keys to a successful result at a 2-year-old sale. She is a half-sister to Cover Gal, the champion California-bred 2-year-old filly of 1999 and 3-year-old filly of 2000 who earned $600,700 in a three-year career.

On Feb. 25, the filly breezed one furlong in 10.10 seconds at Fairplex Park, the fastest clocking of the day.

Overall, three of the top 10 purchases were California-breds. The two Cal-breds colts who sold in the top 10 were consigned by River Edge Farms, agent. They were a Tale of the Cat colt named Heroic Tales, who was sold for $280,000 to Stanley Fulton, and a full-brother to Officer named And a Gentleman, who sold for $250,000 to the Japanese-based JS Company.

In 2000, River Edge consigned Officer to the Del Mar yearling sale where he sold for $175,000 to Becky Thomas's Sequel Bloodstock, who resold him at last year's March sale.

Fulton owns Sunland Park in New Mexico, near El Paso, a racetrack whose business has boomed in recent years largely because of slot machines. Fulton was active at the Del Mar yearling sale last year and has a small stable in Southern California with trainer Oscar Garcia.

Heroic Tales is by Tale of the Cat out of the stakes winner Jones Time Machine, who has produced the stakes winners Blue Jean Baby and Denim Yenem.

He is categorized as a California-bred because Jones Time Machine was bred back to Bertrando after foaling Heroic Tales.

The price was a slight disappointment to Russell Drake, the farm manager at River Edge.

"I kind of that he would have brought a little more, but he brought what he was worth," Drake said. "He looks like he'll be a nice colt. He'll look like he'll be fast early. The family hasn't been real active lately, but hopefully he'll change that."

And a Gentleman is expected to be exported. He was the only horse purchased at Barretts by the JS Company, which has been active in March in past years.

Those were the only two juveniles that River Edge sold from a consignment of five statebreds. Drake says he expects the role that statebreds play in the March sale to increase in coming years and that horses such as Officer and Arabian Light, a sale graduate in 2000 who went on to win a major stakes, have helped.

"I kind of think that after a few of these Cal-breds have run as well as they have, people are realizing you don't have to go to Kentucky to get one," Drake said. "You're better off to get one here and take advantage of those incentive awards. I think in the near future they could bring more money."