by Eric Mitchell, The Blood-Horse
The Barton family has two goals as they've been shopping for mares at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. They want mares with the potential to continue raising the profile of their freshman sire and grade 1 winner Champ Pegasus , and they want those mares carrying foals by higher-profile Kentucky sires that can bolster the ranks of California-breds.
Their search this year has been tougher than anticipated.
"We came two days earlier this year to start buying," said Kate Barton, the youngest of Richard and Beth Barton's six children and the family's racing manager, on day eight of the 12-day sale. "Yesterday, we only came away with two open mares. It was really hard yesterday. It is still pretty crowded here, and it's competitive."
Last year, the Bartons bought 46 mares for an average price of $4,600. The top price they paid was $18,000 for a Ghostzapper daughter named Tart's Knickers, who was in foal to Airdrie Stud's Cairo Prince . This year they've had to stretch. Their top purchases so far include a $25,000 Songandaprayer mare named Shoes to Match (in foal to Cairo Prince) and three $20,000 mares—the Dynaformer daughter Our Rafaela (in foal to Will Take Charge ), Mighty Frio by Pulpit (in foal to Air Force Blue ), and Pleasure Cruise, a Pleasantly Perfect mare in foal to Tapiture .
The family has bought 18 mares so far through Nov. 15 for an average of $9,194.
"Every day we are trying to see what the market is doing and what we can afford and what fits our program. Every day it changes," said Barton.
Still, Barton said she is quite happy with the mares they have purchased and is particularly pleased to have mares in foal to Cairo Prince, Three Chimneys Farm's Will Take Charge, and Darley's Animal Kingdom .
"I look pretty hard at the covering sire and what those foals can bring to the California market," she said. "I wanted a couple of mares in foal to Cairo Prince last year, got them, and loved their babies. I also have loved how well the Cairo Princes sold at the Keeneland September sale this year, so I was surprised we got the mare we wanted this year. Animal Kingdom I've liked for several years, and Will Take Charge is one of the sires I saw last year and loved and was hoping to get a mare in foal to him but couldn't do it. I think if we can make these foals Cal-breds that will make them more marketable, because the program is strong."
Already longtime participants in the California breeding and racing market, the Bartons recently upped their investment in the Golden State by acquiring the former Magali Farms in the Santa Ynez Valley. The farm, a little less than 200 acres, is now home to their 225 broodmares and four stallions—Champ Pegasus (who will stand for $5,000 in 2018), Atticus($3,500), Coil ($2,500, the property of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman), and Dads Caps (private).
While steadily upgrading the quality of mares going to their stallions is also a goal, don't look for the Bartons to suddenly start shopping heavily in Book 1 or Book 2 of a sale like Keeneland November. Richard Barton in particular loves the hunt for value and the patience in waiting for the right mare at the right price has paid dividends.
He paid $4,700 at the November 2015 breeding stock sale for unraced Diva's Tribute (Henny Hughes) in foal to Strong Mandate . The mare's second foal by Jimmy Creed was Spectator, who won the 2017 Sorrento Stakes (G2) and was third in the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1). They also bought Tiz a Mistress (Cee's Tizzy) for $1,000 out of the 2011 Barretts January sale. Her first two foals were winners and her 2010 Ministers Wild Cat colt is multiple graded-placed, grade 3 winner Tiz a Minister.
"My Dad won't leave his spot in the pavilion the entire day; he will be there from 9:30 in the morning until the last horse goes through the ring," Barton said. "He won't get up in case he misses something. This is his favorite thing to do, and his favorite time of the year to come watch these mares. He loves waiting for that good deal to go through the ring."