08/15/2002 11:00PM

Yearling market on even keel at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Boosted by the continuing benefits of a lucrative bonus and incentive program for statebreds, the California-bred yearling market held steady last week at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Del Mar yearling sale.

The two-day sale had record prices for average - $43,770 - and median price - $32,000. The gross of $4,289,500 for 98 yearlings was a drop of 6 percent from 2001.

While the Del Mar yearling sale does not approach the national importance of the Keeneland July or Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales, which had significant declines this year, it is a barometer of the health of the California breeding industry.

Nearly all of the yearlings offered in the sale were bred in California.

"It looked like an identical sale to last year," said Doug Burge, the general manager of CTBA Sales.

"Based on what we've seen across the country on select sales, we're pleased that we're on par from the record sale of 2001."

Burge said few changes will be made to the format for the 2003 sale. "The dates seem to be the form that we'll use in the future," Burge said.

Even though the sale offered 10 more yearlings this year than in 2001, there is no plan to expand the catalog greatly. The facility can accommodate 200 yearlings, and the CTBA wants to maintain a smaller number to avoid overcrowding in the small barn area.

"We could utilize 200 stalls if we had 200 select yearlings," Burge said. "We've been able to increase the value and demand for California-breds. We stressed quality."

This was the first year the sale was conducted on Sunday and Monday evenings, having been held on Monday and Tuesday evenings in recent years. The move was designed to position the sale on evenings following racing at Del Mar, which is three miles from the sale venue, the Del Mar HorsePark.

In two benchmark categories, the sale failed to hold pace with last year. In 2001, there were eight yearlings who sold for $100,000 or more. There were six this year. Last year, the buy-back rate was 25 percent, but that figure reached 31 percent this year.

"We'd like to see that between 20 and 25 percent," Burge said.

The buy-back rate was not a surprise to Mary Knight, who led all consignors, selling 13 yearlings for $600,000.

"I was a little disappointed in what some of them brought," Knight said. "It seems like a lot of nice horses fell through the cracks. It got very thin at times."

Prices were higher if Stan Fulton was bidding. Through NW Management, which signed tickets on his behalf this year, Fulton was the leading buyer for the second consecutive year.

Eric Anderson of NW Management said his company bought three yearlings for Fulton, of Las Vegas. Fulton, the leading buyer at the 2001 sale, owns Sunland Park, near El Paso. Anderson said another client, whom he declined to name, bought a yearling for $350,000 through NW Management.

Fulton paid $430,000 for three yearlings. Most of that was the $250,000 he spent on a Unbridled's Song filly consigned by Tom Stull's Tommy Town Thoroughbreds.

Two first-year stallions beat the average. Event of the Year, a millionaire on the racetrack, had five yearlings sell for a total of $270,000, an average of $54,000. Free House, a two-time California-bred horse of the year, had six yearlings sell for $269,000, an average of $44,833.

One of the biggest success stories of the auction was a Swiss Yodeler filly who sold for $100,000 to Nicholas Alexander. The filly was purchased as a weanling for $9,000 by consignor Julie Adair.

"It was a lucky pinhook," she said.

The leading males were a Bertrando colt bought for $150,000 by Mel Stute, agent for Bob and Beverly Lewis, and a Kentucky-bred Rahy colt bought for $130,000 by David Wilson.

"Other than the Rahy colt, this was a sale that showcased California-breds and that's what people are coming for," Burge said. "People that run in California come to the sale for this angle."DEL MAR, Calif. - Boosted by the continuing benefits of a lucrative bonus and incentive program for statebreds, the California-bred yearling market held steady last week at the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Del Mar yearling sale.

The two-day sale had record prices for average - $43,770 - and median price - $32,000. The gross of $4,289,500 for 98 yearlings was a drop of 6 percent from 2001.

While the Del Mar yearling sale does not approach the national importance of the Keeneland July or Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales, which had significant declines this year, it is a barometer of the health of the California breeding industry.

Nearly all of the yearlings offered in the sale were bred in California.

"It looked like an identical sale to last year," said Doug Burge, the general manager of CTBA Sales.

"Based on what we've seen across the country on select sales, we're pleased that we're on par from the record sale of 2001."

Burge said few changes will be made to the format for the 2003 sale. "The dates seem to be the form that we'll use in the future," Burge said.

Even though the sale offered 10 more yearlings this year than in 2001, there is no plan to expand the catalog greatly. The facility can accommodate 200 yearlings, and the CTBA wants to maintain a smaller number to avoid overcrowding in the small barn area.

"We could utilize 200 stalls if we had 200 select yearlings," Burge said. "We've been able to increase the value and demand for California-breds. We stressed quality."

This was the first year the sale was conducted on Sunday and Monday evenings, having been held on Monday and Tuesday evenings in recent years. The move was designed to position the sale on evenings following racing at Del Mar, which is three miles from the sale venue, the Del Mar HorsePark.

In two benchmark categories, the sale failed to hold pace with last year. In 2001, there were eight yearlings who sold for $100,000 or more. There were six this year. Last year, the buy-back rate was 25 percent, but that figure reached 31 percent this year.

"We'd like to see that between 20 and 25 percent," Burge said.

The buy-back rate was not a surprise to Mary Knight, who led all consignors, selling 13 yearlings for $600,000.

"I was a little disappointed in what some of them brought," Knight said. "It seems like a lot of nice horses fell through the cracks. It got very thin at times."

Prices were higher if Stan Fulton was bidding. Through NW Management, which signed tickets on his behalf this year, Fulton was the leading buyer for the second consecutive year.

Eric Anderson of NW Management said his company bought three yearlings for Fulton, of Las Vegas. Fulton, the leading buyer at the 2001 sale, owns Sunland Park, near El Paso. Anderson said another client, whom he declined to name, bought a yearling for $350,000 through NW Management.

Fulton paid $430,000 for three yearlings. Most of that was the $250,000 he spent on a Unbridled's Song filly consigned by Tom Stull's Tommy Town Thoroughbreds.

Two first-year stallions beat the average. Event of the Year, a millionaire on the racetrack, had five yearlings sell for a total of $270,000, an average of $54,000. Free House, a two-time California-bred horse of the year, had six yearlings sell for $269,000, an average of $44,833.

One of the biggest success stories of the auction was a Swiss Yodeler filly who sold for $100,000 to Nicholas Alexander. The filly was purchased as a weanling for $9,000 by consignor Julie Adair.

"It was a lucky pinhook," she said.

The leading males were a Bertrando colt bought for $150,000 by Mel Stute, agent for Bob and Beverly Lewis, and a Kentucky-bred Rahy colt bought for $130,000 by David Wilson.

"Other than the Rahy colt, this was a sale that showcased California-breds and that's what people are coming for," Burge said. "People that run in California come to the sale for this angle."