03/04/2004 1:00AM

Swissle Stick leads comeback of Cal-breds

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POMONA, Calif. - After a quiet year in 2003, California-breds were back in demand at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training, just as they were in the first few years of this decade.

The top selling statebred at the Tuesday sale was a Swiss Yodeler colt named Swissle Stick, who was purchased by Bob and Beverly Lewis for $600,000. Swissle Stick tied for the second-highest price in the 2-year-old portion of the sale. An Awesome Again filly led the sale at $2 million; a Pine Bluff filly sold for $600,000.

Overall, 18 California-bred 2-year-olds were offered, with 10 listed as sold for an average of $128,600. The 2-year-old sale averaged $173,772.

Eight California-breds were listed as not sold, for prices ranging from $27,000 to $110,000 for a Lemon Drop Kid filly. Seven California-breds were withdrawn.

In the dispersal of The Thoroughbred Corp., which preceded the sale, four California-breds were offered, but they attracted little support. A 2-year-old filly by Event of the Year led that group at $45,000; she was bought by a partnership.

The interest in California-breds was a turnaround from 2003, when only two statebreds sold for more than $100,000. Neither of the two reached the overall sale average of $142,126.

In 2000, Arabian Light, a California-bred by Fly So Free, sold for $700,000. Arabian Light later won the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. In 2001, Officer, a California-bred by Bertrando, also sold for $700,000. He later won the Del Mar Futurity and Champagne Stakes.

This year, two California-breds beat the average - Swissle Stick and a colt by Stephen Got Even, who sold for $200,000.

"If they have talent, have conformed and trained well, it doesn't matter where they come from," said Barretts president Jerry McMahon.

Swissle Stick had been widely discussed since the first preview workout session Feb. 24, when he zipped a furlong down the Fairplex Park stretch in 10.2 seconds. The inspections intensified after he worked a quarter-mile in 21 seconds on March 1.

Swissle Stick was one of three juveniles purchased by Bob Lewis, who sat with trainer D. Wayne Lukas throughout the auction.

"When he worked in 21 flat, he was well within himself," Lukas said. "He's legit. He's a big, rugged individual."

Lewis attended both training sessions.

"He worked so beautifully under tack both last week and yesterday," Lewis said Tuesday. "We figured we had to have him."

Lukas said Swissle Stick will join his Santa Anita stable and will be shipped to the Midwest later this spring.

Swiss Yodeler was the leading freshman stallion in California in 2002 and finished 2003 in 21st place on the state's overall sire list, with progeny earnings of $1,391,389. He stands for $7,500 at Pepper Oaks Farm in Santa Ynez.

Swissle Stick is out of Miss Soft Sell, who did not race. Miss Soft Sell is the dam of Don'tsellmeshort, who has won three stakes in the last year - the Graduation Stakes at Del Mar, the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex Park, and the California Breeders' Champion Stakes at the current Santa Anita meeting. Don'tsellmeshort was bought for $75,000 at the 2003 Barretts May sale and is in training with Dan Hendricks at Santa Anita.

Swissle Stick was consigned by Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables, agent for Ron Fein of Ocala, Fla. Swissle Stick was purchased by Fein for $70,000 as a weanling at the 2002 Keeneland November sale.

"He was gorgeous," Fein said. "He looked like a man. It was a gamble that paid off."

A New York native, Fein operates a 40-acre farm in Ocala with broodmares and weanlings

Dunne thinks California-breds will sell strongly at such sales because of the presence of lucrative restricted race such as the Sunshine Millions run each January at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita for Cal-breds and Florida-breds.

"We'll be looking out for them in the future," he said. "I think the Sunshine Millions is a big bonus. Anytime you can run for that much money in a restricted race it's an incentive."

Not all of the California-breds are staying in California. An Exploit colt purchased for $115,000 by Washin Shokai will race in Japan. The Stephen Got Even colt purchased for $200,000 by John Oxley will be based with John Ward, who races throughout the East.

"This California-bred is leaving California," Ward said.

Ward said he thought the California-breds "sold extremely well."

He said he passed on Swissle Stick because he would have wanted a strong female pedigree in case Swissle Stick developed into a stallion prospect.

Barry Schwartz, the chairman of the New York Racing Association, bought two California-breds through Buzz Chace, agent. He paid $100,000 for a General Meeting filly and $62,000 for a filly by Yankee Victor.

Chace said the fillies will stay with Eduardo Inda, who trains for Schwartz.

"He wants a few to have out here," Chace said.

The General Meeting filly is out of Our Golden Promise, who was stakes-placed at Barretts in 1995. The filly will be given 60 days off, Chace said.

"She has a little pedigree," Chace said. "She looks like a two-turn filly. She fits because she acts like a runner. Being a California-bred doesn't hurt either."