09/08/2006 12:00AM

Vessels tests new market


The comfort of being a leading breeder of Thoroughbreds in a regional market is no longer adequate at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, Calif.

This month, Vessels is testing the bloodstock market by offering seven California-breds in the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale that begins on Monday.

The Vessels consignment, offered through Eaton Sales, includes four yearlings sired by In Excess, the stallion who has established the farm as a leading Thoroughbred venue in the state, and three yearlings sired by Kentucky-based stallions.

Farm owner Scoop Vessels said the farm is "branching out" after years of consigning to the major Barretts sales in Pomona.

"We're basically just trying other markets," he said. "With the state of flux in racing in California and Keeneland being such a stable market, you need to think along those lines. You get a lot of buyers out there."

There are 35 California-breds in the Keeneland September sale - 18 fillies and 17 colts. There are several yearlings sired by stallions that stand outside of California.

The California-breds typically attract the attention of California-based buyers who are shopping for all sorts of horses, as well as buyers and pinhookers from other parts of the country.

Last year, buyers such as Omar Aldabbagh, pinhooker John Brocklebank, Hal Earnhardt, Royce Jaime, Nico Nierenberg, and Mike Pegram bought California-breds at Keeneland.

At that sale, a California-bred colt by Red Bullet, consigned by Darby Dan Farm on behalf of northern California breeder David Newcomb, sold for $190,000 to Dapple Bloodstock. In May, the colt was resold for a record $2.5 million at the Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training.

"We get a lot of California buyers who will purchase California-breds," Vessels said of the Kentucky sale. "The profit can be much better back there. Barretts does a great job, but I just want to test some other markets."

Vessels, which has an established history in Quarter Horse racing - the farm won the $1.9 million All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs with No Secrets Here last Monday - has been more active in Thoroughbred racing in the last decade. The farm's position has grown with the emergence of In Excess as a leading stallion in California. In Excess leads California stallions with four statebreds in the Keeneland sale.

Malibu Valley sends two to Keeneland

Selling California-breds in Kentucky is becoming an annual goal for Brian Boudreau, who operates Malibu Valley Farm in Calabasas, Calif. Last year, Boudreau offered three California-bred Distorted Humor colts at Keeneland that sold for $250,000, $230,000, and $140,000.

The results reached his expectations. This year, he has two California-breds on offer - a Hold that Tiger colt and a Sunday Break filly.

"If you have a good one, you can sell back there," Boudreau said. "They'll pay a premium for a California-bred at a Kentucky sale. When it goes to a California sale, the trainers look at the horses, but you don't get the owners and their agents like you do back there."

The Malibu Valley yearlings are consigned through the Taylor Made Sales Agency, which Boudreau says participates in the selection of the sale yearlings.

Boudreau frequently breeds his best mares to stallions in Kentucky, then sends them to California to foal. The mares represented by yearlings at Keeneland were bred back to California stallions In Excess and Marino Marini. In the future, those yearlings may be considered for the Keeneland sale, if they meet the sale's criteria.

"The worse thing you can do is to take a bad one back there," Boudreau said. "It has to be a good individual."