One big obstacle that Barretts will have to overcome in 2006 is the loss of one of its major buyers, Bob Lewis, who died recently. Last year, Lewis was the auction's biggest spender, paying $3,875,000 for five horses. The group included the $1.9-million sale topper, What a Son, who became a grade II winner.
Barretts' March select sale of 2-year-olds in training produced mixed results a year ago, with the gross revenue increasing while the average and median prices dropped. But the performance of the horses sold there has been consistently outstanding. Graduates include Brother Derek, a grade I winner that is among the leading Triple Crown hopefuls, and Wild Fit, another grade I winner who finished third in Sunday's Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I). Their success, according to Barretts president and general manager Jerry McMahon, is helping attract buyers to this year's edition of the auction, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. (PST) Tuesday at Fairplex Park in Southern California."Momentum is good in terms of important buyers checking in, and maybe last year's book attracted them here," McMahon said. "Many really good buyers have been on the grounds and looked at horses. John Ferguson, Demi O'Byrne, and their vets have been here. It's been a little disruptive with the weather -- rain and cold off and on for several days -- so there hasn't been a steady period when there were a lot of people here at one time. They've been coming and going. One minute you're out in the barn area and you see Bob Baffert. Then he's gone, and the next minute you see John Sadler or Neil Drysdale. Everybody seems to be working their way over here, but at different times."In another positive development, the sale's juvenile class of 2006 has been fast, turning in plenty of fast works. On March 5, eight horses were clocked in :10 for an eighth of a mile. Threee -- a Distorted Humor -- Bridge to Cross filly named Undercover Angel, a Carson City -- Cochet Cochet colt named City Snitch, and a More Than Ready -- Lady Bellaghy filly named More Than a Lady -- were from the barn of Jerry Bailey."My expectations are always going to be reserved after last year," Bailey said. "We had all kinds of horses vetted, and it wasn't a good sale. But maybe the fact that all those good horses came out of that sale has made some people think, 'Hey.' I'll be disappointed if we don't sell some horses well because we've got some that previewed well and have vetted well."Danzel Brendemuehl of Classic Bloostock was less cautious in her outlook."I think the sale is going to do well this year," she said. "There are lots of buyers, and the horses that worked well are being well-received and getting looked at."