California Yearling Sale Faces Challenge

Tucked between a weekend of Breeders’ Cup prep races and the California Cup showcasing the local product, California’s fall select yearling sale offers a slimmer but more select catalog than in years past.

The Sept. 30 auction, co-sponsored by Barretts and the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, has  235 in its catalog. That’s down from the 318 cataloged in 2007. While the sale has produced its share of graded stakes winners, the economy and decreases in other yearling sales have people prepared for similar declines.

“I can’t remember a more challenging environment,” said Jerry McMahon, president and general manager of Barretts. “The micro and macro economies are difficult. However, our primary market -- local owners and trainers -- are pretty interested in shopping at the sale.”

This is the fourth year that Barretts and the CTBA have combined to conduct the fall yearling sale, following the CTBA’s elimination of its traditional Del Mar summer yearling auction. While most of the yearlings are California-breds, the catalog includes several bred elsewhere, as well as sire power from both within and outside of California.

California’s leading sire, Unusual Heat, is represented by 11 yearlings in the catalog. His offspring have included sales graduates Golden Doc A, winner of this year’s Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I), and Lethal Heat. In addition to capturing the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II), Lethal Heat won two stakes at the recent Del Mar meeting.

Old English Rancho as agent has consigned 11 horses to the sale, including six by Unusual Heat. A daughter of Unusual Heat—True Melody, by Valid Appeal, is a full sister to Las Cinegas Handicap (gr. III) winner Lightmyfirebaby.

Other stallions represented in the catalog include Sky Mesa , Stormy Atlantic , Johannesburg, Bertrando, Dixie Union, Speightstown , Benchmark, Medaglio d’Oro, In Excess, City Zip, Holy Bull, Touch Gold, and Indian Charlie.

“We’ve concentrated on better quality,” said McMahon. “We hope that helps buyers find better horses.”

McMahon also noted that the Oct. 5 California Cup, which offers $1,325,000 in purses for Cal-breds, illustrates the money that state-breds can earn.

River Edge Farm Inc. as agent has several top offerings in the catalog. The farm, owned by Marty and Pam Wygod, stands Bertrando and Benchmark. Two colts by Bertrando, a son of stakes-placed Shy Pirate and another out of Witchy, have stakes-winning full sisters. A Benchmark filly out of stakes winner Blonde Fever hails from a long line of River Edge bloodlines, as Blonde Fever has also produced Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) winner Feverish and CTBA Marian Stakes winner Blonde Bounty.

Because of California’s breed-back rule, many horses sired by out-of-state stallions qualify for the Cal-bred incentive program. Havens Bloodstock Agency, which sold the 2007 sale topper, has Cal-breds by Johannesburg, Indian Charlie, and Medaglia d’Oro. Pegasus Stud has yearling Cal-breds by Dixie Union, Speightstown, and Touch Gold. Old English has a Cal-bred by Sky Mesa, and B.C.3. Thoroughbreds has one by Stormy Atlantic .

The bottom sides of the pedigrees also add many black-type names. Champion Brave Raj is the second dam of an Event of the Year filly from the Mary Knight consignment. River Edge’s group includes a half-brother to John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) winner Dancing Edie and a half-sister to stakes winners Rio Oro, Giovannetti, and Guillermo.

The sale will be held at Fairplex Park’s Hinds Pavilion in Pomona, Calif. It will begin at 11 a.m. (PDT).