Just a month prior to the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale, veteran horseman Eugene Melnyk made a decision to change his business model to reduce the emphasis on his breeding program and subsequently requested to sell the majority of his broodmare band during the Feb. 11 auction.
Following the sale, which saw the four top-priced horses come from that 28-horse offering, both Melnyk and Phil Hronec, manager of Melnyk's Ocala-based Winding Oaks Farm, realized they had made a profitable choice.
Fifteen of the 28 Melnyk horses brought six-figure prices during the one-day auction, including sale topper Pool Land, who fetched a staggering $900,000. In the end, the dispersal horses were sold for a gross of $6,871,000, an average of $245,393, and a median of $235,000.
"(The results) went way over mine and Mr. Melnyk's expectations," said Hronec, adding that several potential out-of-state and local potential buyers made the trip to Winding Oaks before the sale to inspect the horses.
Taylor Made Sales Agency, which served as consignor for the dispersal, informed Hronec that once on the Fasig-Tipton sale grounds, the top 10-priced mares in the dispersal were shown at least 80-100 times each.
"Mr. Melynyk, what he was able to put together, was very nice," said Mark Taylor of Taylor Made. "Not only did they perform on the track, but they're beautiful mares also. Sometimes you'll see mares who ran very well but don't look all that great. All of his look great and ran great."
Two of the biggest surprises came when multiple Canadian champion Sealy Hill, who was expected to sell for between $250,000-$300,000, fetched $590,000 from Nat Rea's Regis Farms; and Pool Land, who was appraised at around $500,000, topped the sale at $900,000 when purchased by Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation.
"I was really gratified when it was all over, because it takes a lot of work and time to build up a (broodmare) band like ours," said Hronec. "It was bittersweet getting rid of them, but you feel really good after it's over that all the hard work and time didn't go for nothing. Everybody recognized the mares looked terrific and it was a good bunch of bloodlines you don't always see in sales. The proof was in the pudding."
Counting Winding Oak's 46 2-year-olds, 26 yearlings, and a sizable group of horses in training, Melnyk still owns between 170-180 horses. "We have no plans of selling anything else right now and probably won't," said Hronec, adding that Melnyk also kept two of his favorite mares, Mahogany Lane (by A.P. Indy) and Harmony Lodge (by Hennessy), for sentimental reasons.
In the coming years, Hronec said Melnyk's plan is to increase his participation in the yearling and 2-year-old sales in order to continue replenishing his racing stable.
"We've bred a lot of good horses, but Eugene got a big kick out of buying horses like Graeme Hall and Speightstown and then watching them go on and win graded stakes," said Hronec. "He felt it was time to change the business plan, and I think he made a good decision."