It used to be the industry's highest grossing juvenile auction. But the Barretts March select sale in Southern California has fallen on hard times in recent years. It has experienced growing difficulty attracting horses from major pinhookers on the East Coast. And it is no longer the favorite of the Japanese, who turn out in higher numbers for Fasig-Tipton Florida's Calder auction.
In 2001, Barretts sold its lowest number of horses ever in March. Its gross revenue declined for the fifth straight year, falling by 33.8%. In addition, its average and median posted sharp declines while its buy-back rate soared to its second-highest level ever.
For this year's edition on Tuesday, Barretts president Gerald McMahon has what he calls "moderate expectations."
"We're taking a real practical view of where we are with our catalogue and the position that we're in," he said. "Based on the markets we've seen so far this year, good horses will sell well, but I don't expect to match last year's average or gross. I don't think we've got as many heavyweight horses which influence that. You always hope somehow that we can get 65% of these horses sold, the ones that make it through this whole process into the ring. But it seems like that is a difficult thing to do in these 2-year-old sales."
As of Sunday, 24% the 166 horses catalogued for the Barretts sale had been scratched. And consignors were reporting that the number of buyers at the under tack shows and looking in the barns was small. But McMahon expressed satisfaction with buyer attendance, noting that there was a strong contingent of Japanese, including the Yoshida family, J.S. Company, and Dr. Yuki Hayata. Barretts scheduled its March auction for a week earlier this year, hoping to attract Japanese buyers on their way back from Fasig-Tipton Florida's sale in late February.
"We have enough buyers, but whether those buyers will spread out and whether the horses will suit their needs is yet to be determined," McMahon said. "The big question in this 2-year-old process is will enough horses be on the buyers' lists? It is a pretty small opening in terms of a consignment as to the percentage of horses that can go through the entire process and wind up on a number of different buyers' lists."
Said consigner Allen Jenkins of H.T. Stables on Sunday: "I surely would like to see more people around here looking. I thought we had a good (under tack) show today, and the few people who have been by have told me that they are seeing are good horses. They especially like the fillies. I don't feel bad about this sale yet. We have shown horses to people who are serious buyers."
The Barretts sale will start at 2 p.m. (PST) on Tuesday at the Hinds Pavilion at Fairplex Park.