El Oficial, Barretts sale topper, during his pre-sale workout.

El Oficial, Barretts sale topper, during his pre-sale workout.

Max Morse

Gross, Median, Average Soar at Barretts March Select Juvenile Auction

Barretts enjoyed hefty increases in the gross revenue, average price, and median price for its March select sale of 2-year-olds in training Tuesday in Southern California. But the buy-back rate increased significantly, rising from 33.1% last year to 41.3% this year. In another sobering development, 56% (112) of the 200 horses cataloged were bought back or withdrawn.

"There were plenty of success stories and quite a few failures," said Barretts president and general manager Jerry McMahon, describing the select juvenile market as "a high wire act." He said the auction attracted more buyers this year along with more veterinarians. As a result, according to McMahon, the scrutiny of the horses intensified, with the 2-year-olds having to get past "a gauntlet of veterinarians" before buyers would decide to purchase them.

The 88 horses sold grossed $19,340,000 and averaged $217,773. The median was $147,500. Compared to last year, when 93 horses were sold, the gross rose 34.4% from $14,361,000. The average shot up 42.3% from $154,419. And the median soared 84.4% from $80,000.

Those key business figures were partying like it was 1999. The 2007 gross, average, and median were the highest for the sale since that year when the comparable figures were $20,688,000, $255,407, and $170,000, respectively.

El Oficial, a sturdy, muscle-bound colt with a lot of bone and a gleaming bay colt, was the sale topper at $1.4 million Tuesday. Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock manager, John Ferguson, purchased the son of Officer, calling him "the nicest 2-year-old that I've seen at the sales this year." He said the colt would join Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin racing string in Europe.

The immediate underbidders were Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan and his client, wine mogul Jess Jackson, who stood outside the sale pavilion and signaled their interest through a window. "They got us," said Moynihan of Ferguson and the Darley contingent. "He was the most athletic horse in the sale."

El Oficial is the third foal out of the 9-year-old unraced Silver Ghost mare Rovie Wade, who is a half-sister to 1999 Hawthorne Derby (gr. IIIT) winner Minor Wisdom and to another added-money winner, Sabathani. Other members of the family include Canadian champion Choral Group.

Florida pinhookers Jimmy and Martha Gladwell, in the name of Ferguson Valley Ranch, purchased El Oficial for $190,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. Utah-based pinhookers John Brocklebank and Shane Chipman of B.C.3. Thoroughbreds consigned the colt to the Barretts auction. The Gladwells decided to give El Oficial to Brocklebank after he did the bidding for them on the colt at the Keeneland sale because they were eating lunch.

The Gladwells assist Ferguson in selecting horses for Sheikh Mohammed at sales of 2-year-olds in training. Jimmy Gladwell said he and his wife give a list of the horses they own to Ferguson because "it's only fair" before each juvenile auction and that Ferguson doesn't tell them if he is planning to bid on any of them before the horses step into the sale ring.

"We liked the colt very much; we're real happy," Jimmy Gladwell said, "We thought he would bring between $800,000 and $1.5 million."

John Ferguson was the auction's biggest spender, paying $3,950,000 for five horses. Ferguson's most formidable bidding rival at other auctions, Irish agent Demi O'Byrne of the Coolmore Stud team, didn't attend the Barretts sale or buy a horse.

- Sale Leaders