Barretts president and general manager Jerry McMahon believes a more upbeat racing industry in California could boost business at the California yearling sale Oct. 2 at Fairplex Park.
"The racing circuits are doing very well, with full fields and a deeper horse population," McMahon said. "I think there's more optimism in Southern California than there's been for a long time, and the artificial surfaces seem to be at the heart of that. We're just hoping that the improved racing environment helps us sell more horses."
Barretts is working with the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association to conduct the auction for the third year in a row. In 2006, the average price remained stable, increasing less than 1% from the figure for 2005's inaugural sale. But the gross revenue and median price fell 17.2% and 5.9%, respectively, while the buy-back rate rose.
This year, shoppers will see higher-quality horses, according to Andy Havens, who has the largest consignment, with more than 60 yearlings cataloged.
"I have no reason to believe that it’s not going to be a decent California market," he said. "I do know that I've got more good yearlings than I've ever had here. There are a lot of real standouts, and in general, everything I've got has been very well prepared and is being presented well. If the quality of horses influences the market, this should be a very strong sale."
In addition to Havens' big group, the auction includes yearlings from the major reduction being conducted by Eclipse Award-winning Golden Eagle Farms. Two other prominent California-based breeders, River Edge Farm and Harris Farms, also have horses in the auction.
But another consignor, Mary Knight, is worried that the large supply of yearlings around the country will make it more difficult than usual to find new homes for the auction's horses.
"The market is absolutely saturated with product," she said. "Only the horses that have it all -- that scope, that X-ray, that have the pedigree and the looks -- are the ones that are selling well. Everything else is a disappointment to the consignor. I think it's going to be a tough sale."
The auction begins Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. (PDT). There are 317 yearlings in the catalog (Barretts doesn't assign hip no. 13 to any horse), 30 of which had been scratched as of Sept. 30.