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L.A. Fair Buys Auction Firm

July 13, 2002|Lance Pugmire

In a purchase that provides for flexibility in its future horse racing business, the Los Angeles County Fair Assn. on Friday bought controlling interest of Barretts Equine Limited, which conducts five annual thoroughbred auctions at the Pomona Fairplex.

Terms were not disclosed. The agreement between James Henwood, the fair's president and chief executive, and Fred Sahadi, Barretts Equine Sales owner, follows the California Horse Racing Board's decision last month to reject Henwood's request to move the 63-year-old fair meet from Fairplex Park to Santa Anita.

By acquiring majority control of Barretts, Henwood has removed a restriction that could have complicated either expansion of the five-eighths-mile track in Pomona or a continued effort to move the 17-day September horse racing meet to Santa Anita. Henwood said he has not dropped the idea of a relocation but insisted he has no intention to fold, move or resell the auction.

"That's all speculation, but [Henwood] has paid a significant amount of money and it makes good sense he will maximize our value," said Jerry McMahon, Barretts president and chief executive.

Barretts, which has existed since 1990, offers its most prestigious auction--of 2-year-olds in training--each March. In 1996, five horses from the Barretts auction ran in the Kentucky Derby.

"The real motivation of this purchase was to put the auction under a single ownership group, which will allow the business to better advance and expand," Henwood said.

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