Barretts' March select sale of 2-year-olds in training had three strikes against it, but didn't go down swinging Tuesday in Southern California. Instead, it produced two seven-figure horses, reduced its buy-back rate, and maintained its gross revenue while suffering only a moderate decline in average price. But the median price experienced a significant setback."We lost a major buyer (with the recent death of Bob Lewis); we had a smaller catalogue; and there wasn't as much depth in the catalogue as last year, so I'm very happy," said Jerry McMahon, Barretts' president and general manager. "We survive to fight another day."According to McMahon, the success of last year's March sale graduates at the races saved the day for Barretts. They include grade I winner and top Triple Crown hopeful Brother Derek and grade I winner Wild Fit, who finished third in Sunday's Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I)."In the absence of those performances, I think we would have suffered a lot," McMahon said. "I think they are mostly responsible for the number of buyers that were here and were interested. Without those horses running, I think it would have been tough sledding."Barretts reported 93 horses were sold for a gross of $14,361,000, an average of $154,419 and a median of $80,000. The gross was up slightly from 2005's total when 88 horses were sold. The average fell 5.4%, from $163,188 last year while the median slumped 15.8%, from $95,000. The buy-back rate dropped from 39.3% in 2005 to 33.1%.A strapping Distorted Humor colt named Cowtown Cat was the most expensive horse sold, bringing $1.5 million from Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm, which stands Distorted Humor in Kentucky. Mark Maronde, who works for WinStar, signed the sale ticket. Accompanying him was WinStar president Doug Cauthen."We feel that Distorted Humor is a great sire, and we thought this was the best 2-year-old that we've seen at the sales this year," Maronde said. "It was an obvious choice for us to jump in and buy him. We thought this horse looked a lot like Flower Alley (who is trained by Todd Pletcher and is a grade I-winning son of Distorted Humor), and we hope he's as good as of a horse. You don't get the opportunity to buy this kind of horse too often, and we felt like we needed to give it every chance. We didn't have this kind of money, necessarily, to come buy 2-year-olds with, but when he breezed and we saw what he could do, we got on board. Truthfully, I thought this horse could have been a $2-million or $2.5-million horse. We thought we would just go strong in the beginning (of the bidding), but we don't buy this kind of horse usually at auction. It's certainly the highest-priced horse I've ever bought. But I loved the horse, and I loved the spot I was in, and I'm tickled to death to be involved with him. He's a horse with a lot of substance and a lot of presence. There wasn't anything that I didn't like about him. I thought he was the best mover in the sale."A Kentucky-bred chestnut, Cowtown Cat was the fourth-to-last horse sold in the Barretts auction. He is the first foal out of the winning Storm Cat mare Tom's Cat. His second dam, Shouldnt Say Never, was an added-money winner that placed in a grade III event. Other members of Cowtown Cat's family include graded winners Barberstown, Bodacious Tatas, Crafty But Sweet, Dewan Keys, and Eleven Pleasures. The colt worked quarter mile in :10 1/5 prior to the sale.
"His trainer will be determined later," Maronde said. "He'll go back to our training center in Louisville (Ky.). We'll get him up to a half mile (breezing). At that point, Elliott Walden, who is our racing manager, will make a decision about where we willsend the horse. Todd Pletcher certainly would be a likely candidate, but we use quite a few trainers. That's not my decision to make."Gulf Coast Farms Bloodstock, a commercial venture spearheaded by Jerry Bailey of Florida and Lance Robinson of Utah, bred the colt. They bought Cowtown Cat back for $135,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale even though the colt was listed in the auction's records as being sold."I'm not really surprised," Bailey said of Cowtown Cat's price. "If you had asked me a month ago, I would have said I didn't have those expectations, but it all worked out and as people lined up on the horse, he looked like he could potentially be a sale topper. You don't know before you come to the sale what's going to happen, but he's been as good as we've had all year. It was a lack of nothing wrong. He just did everything right. There were no problems."The Barretts sale's other seven-figure horse was a $1.2-million Exploit -- Carson Jen colt that Egyptian brewing mogul Ahmed Zayat purchased from Florida pinhooker Murray Smith, agent. Sobhy Sonbol, who described himself as an associate of Zayat, signed the sale ticket. Bob Baffert said afterward that he would train the striking, nearly black colt. Gulf Coast bred the colt and sold him as a yearling. Smith purchased him for $100,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August yearling auction.Barretts March Select Two-Year-Olds In Training Leading Buyers, Consignors, and Sires