Improved Racing Climate in California Could Help Barretts Juvenile Auction

Following a world record Thoroughbred auction price of $16 million for a Forestry colt in South Florida, the select market for 2-year-olds in training moves to Southern California for Tuesday's Barretts March sale at Fairplex Park. Will Barretts' auction be lost in the shadows of such a climatic event or will the excitement about the all-time high help increase demand for juveniles in the Golden State? In the opinion of Barretts president and general manager Jerry McMahon, the world record won't have much impact, positive or negative.

"I don't think it's really relevant to our market here; it's just something that happened," he said. "I don't think it will have any effect on us except that it will make an interesting topic of conversation going into the sale."

According to McMahon, the most important trend in South Florida, in terms of predicting what might happen at Barretts, was that "the market was strong for a good horse. That's always a good sign," he said. "But the buyers are still very selective. While we do have some horses like the ones at Calder in our sale, we have a lot that won't bring as much money. We have more variety, with more mid-range horses."

The enthusiasm of buyers in California for those mid-range horses could be a key factor in determining the strength of the Barretts market. And there is a reason to be optimistic in McMahon's opinion.

"The atmosphere in Southern California is so much better than at this time last year," McMahon said. "Santa Anita has had a great meet, and the purses are high."

There also are signs that Barretts could attract a more diverse buying group from out of state. Barretts' 2005 graduates performed impressively. They include grade I winner and top Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prospect Brother Derek and another grade I winner, Wild Fit.

"We've had a good representation of international buyers already, including French agents and English agents; there are three or four we haven't seen in a while," McMahon said. "More people are looking at our sale and taking it seriously this year."

There are 183 horses catalogued, and McMahon described their quality as "pretty solid." The number is down from last year, but the Fasig-Tipton and Ocala Breeders' Sales. Co. select juvenile auctions in South Florida in February also had smaller books.

The 2005 edition of the Barretts auction produced mixed results. The gross revenue increased, but the average price fell 6.1% from the previous year while the median price declined 5%.

This year's Barretts sale begins at 2 p.m. (PST) Tuesday at the Hinds Pavilion.