By Jessica Martini, TDN:
Longtime California owner Richard Barton, who consolidated his breeding operation at the former Magali Farms in Santa Ynez last summer, purchased over 30 mares at the 2015 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale with the intention of supporting his family’s stallion Champ Pegasus. One of those mares was Diva’s Tribute (Henny Hughes), who Barton purchased for $4,700. Then five, the unraced mare had a weanling filly by Jimmy Creed and she sold in foal to Strong Mandate. The filly went on to become graded stakes winner and multiple Grade I placed Spectator, while the Strong Mandate colt will go through the sales ring as hip 281 during Tuesday’s opening session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s April Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds.
“We were excited about Strong Mandate and wanted to have a few from his first crop,” Barton’s daughter and racing manager Kate explained of the mare’s appeal. “And we did really like that she was by Henny Hughes. It fit our program to bring her out to California to bring her to our stallion Champ Pegasus. It turned out nicely.”
The plan was originally to sell the colt as a yearling, but some setbacks which now seem fortuitous saw him rerouted to the 2-year-old sales.
“When we were doing yearling evaluations last year, we really liked the colt,” Barton, whose father is founder of the cardboard packaging company California Packaging, said. “We were going to enter him in the summer for the July sale at Fasig-Tipton and we just had a few little setbacks with him, so we decided to wait with him. And then Spectator made her debut and so we were definitely waiting then.”
Racing for breeders Rick and Sharon Waller, Spectator began her career with a 5 1/4-length debut romp at Santa Anita in June. She won by that same margin when taking the GII Sorrento S. in her second trip to the post at Del Mar in August. She concluded her juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the GI Del Mar Debutante and was most recently second in the Apr. 7 GI Santa Anita Oaks.
Hip 281, who has been with Niall Brennan in Ocala since last September, worked a furlong in :10 1/5 during Tuesday’s second session of the under-tack preview of the April sale.
“I was really happy with his work,” Barton said. “I was thinking he would work :10 flat or :10 1/5, so he did really well. He’s a big horse, so you have to take that into consideration. I’ve heard such great things about him from Niall. He thinks he will continue to improve and he will be better on dirt. He said he was a really good, smooth honest colt.”
The Bartons have enjoyed success purchasing mares on a strict budget in Kentucky and shipping them west to California. The family’s 35 purchases at the 2015 November sale averaged just $5,463 and the highest-priced purchase was $25,000.
“When we are bringing out these mares and foaling these Kentucky-sired Cal-breds, I think we have an advantage in the marketplace here because people are looking at these Kentucky sires that are eligible for the state-bred bonus program,” Barton said. “So that’s an advantage for us. And we’re maybe able to get away with a little bit of a weaker page or what-have-you. I think with the sheer numbers that we do have, we are bound to get lucky with a few updates here and there. And a few times we’ve gotten lucky with some good updates like Spectator.”
Diva’s Tribute produced a filly by Champ Pegasus in 2017 and a colt by the stallion, who stands at Barton Thoroughbreds for $5,000, this year. Spectator’s success prompted a return trip to the Bluegrass for the mare.
“The mare is back in Lexington,” Barton said. “She is going back to Jimmy Creed.”
As for future plans for the mare, Barton continued, “It would be nice to continue to have a mare like that in our band since she’s only eight. But I can’t say for sure what we are going to do yet. It depends on the rest of the year. We are just really excited to have her right now.”
The Barton broodmare band numbers some 200 head and most of the sales horses are offered at the yearlings auctions. The family branched out in the juvenile market for the first time this year. In addition to the Strong Mandate colt at OBS, Barton Thoroughbreds offered a handful of 2-year-olds at the Barretts Spring Sale.
“This is the first year we’ve had horses in the 2-year-old sales,” Barton said. “We normally just focus on the yearling sales. Especially with the Strong Mandate colt, it was a timing issue. It was hard to find the right sale when he was ready and we wanted to give the colt the ultimate chance to succeed.
“At Barretts, we just wanted to try it out and see if we could get Champ Pegasus babies out to other people and give them a chance to show themselves on the training track,” she continued. “The results were ok. It was one of those things where we didn’t know if we would keep the horses ourselves or sell them and we ended up putting through the sale the more precocious ones. I think it was a learning experience. We’ll maybe have to change how we evaluate in the future to sell there.”
Barton said the family’s new base in Santa Ynez has helped move the breeding program forward.
“It has been great,” she said of the new farm. “It is so nice to have a centralized operation and I think it will help to improve our evaluation of our babies through their different stages where we can look at them weekly or monthly and it’s not a big to-do. It’s been great to have everything in one spot.”