"I looked at 15 or so -- maybe 20 -- yearlings this afternoon, and I thought it was a very creditable collection of horses," said California bloodstock agent Rollin Baugh on Sunday. "This is not a new venture; these are sophisticated people. They watch the world, so I think it should be fine."Two sessions of foals will follow the yearlings on Tuesday and Wednesday.Japanese breeders traditionally have sold their young horses as foals instead of waiting until they are yearlings. But a growing number of Japanese buyers and trainers have become familiar with yearling auctions in recent years by attending such sales in the United States and Europe.
Monday marks the first time since 1998 that the Japan Race Horse Association (JRHA) has conducted a yearling auction, and breeders in the Land of the Rising Sun are anxious to see whether the organization's second attempt will go over better than its first at the Northern Horse Park. The JRHA inaugurated its select auction ventures with both foals and yearlings eight years ago, but only 18 of the 47 yearlings offered were sold. The yearling portion of the sale was dropped in 1999, but the JRHA continued to hold a foal auction annually."Our fingers are crossed," said Shunsuke Yoshida of Northern Farm, which sent members of its staff to Eaton Sales in Kentucky and Arrowfield Stud in Australia last year to learn the finer points of yearling sale preparation.The JRHA has catalogued 170 yearlings for the auction, including offspring from the first crops of Mineshaft and Falbrav. One horse that is attracting a lot of attention is a Pivotal colt out of North American graded winner Veil of Avalon (by Thunder Gulch), who is a half-sister to Japanese Horse of the Year Deep Impact (by Sunday Silence).