The tough times in the Thoroughbred auction business might not be over, but the results of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co’s March select sale of 2-year-old in training provided evidence that there is a light at the end of the long, dark tunnel of financial suffering.
The two-day auction ended in Central Florida March 17 with an increase of 10.6% in average price and an upswing of 16.8% in the median price. The buy-back rate declined to 27.8% from 42.5% in 2009.
“It gives me hope,” said Florida pinhooker Tony Bowling of All In Sales. “I thought I was going to have to go into plumbing or carpentry for a living, but it was tremendous. There were buyers here for every part of the market. There were buyers here buying $25,000 to $50,000 horses; there were buyers here for the top horses; and there were buyers here for the middle market horses. I hadn’t seen a sale in two years where there were buyers for all aspects of the market.”
The 171 juveniles that sold grossed $18,341,000 and averaged $107,257. The median was $80,000. The number sold decreased 17% from 2009, but the gross fell only 8.2%.
“It was the best sale I’ve seen in a while,” said Dan Hall of Kentucky-based Hidden Brook. “Obviously, the buyers showed up, and they were willing to spend money. I think everybody might have been tentative, waiting to see where the bottom of the market was. But with the economy starting to get better, everybody is getting a little more comfortable. You tend to get a little more confidence when you feel like everything is heading back up.”
A muscular, well-balanced More Than Ready filly topped the auction, bringing $525,000 early in the second session. Steve Young, a New York-based bloodstock agent and former trainer, signed the sale ticket for the chestnut juvenile March 17 in Central Florida, but declined to reveal who would own her.
“They said, “Don’t say nothing,’ and I don’t know who is going to train her,” Young said. “For these people, I tried to find a good filly in Miami (at the Fasig-Tipton Florida select juvenile auction), and we fell on a bunch of colts that we got outbid on. I came up here, and I thought she was the nicest filly in the sale.”
Patrice Miller of the equine consulting firm EQB was the immediate underbidder.
The sturdy filly is a half-sister to 2006 Indiana Derby (gr. II) winner Star Dabbler, who finished second in the same year’s King Bishop Stakes (gr. I); Run Production, who captured the 2002 Comet Stakes at the Meadowlands; and the winner Bay Head King, who finished second in the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park and third in the Fred “Cappy” Capossela Stakes at Aqueduct in 2001. All three were sired by Saint Ballado. Their dam, Meadow Silk (by Meadowlake), scored in the 1992 Cottonwood Stakes at the Woodlands.
“She’s a very special horse,” Young said. “I hope’s she’s brave and lucky and that she’ll do well. She trained good on the dirt track at the farm, and then she came here and trained as fast on a synthetic track as any horse in the sale. She’s got grass possibilites, and she’s out of a Meadowlake mare that has already thrown three horses that could run.”
Jerry Bailey Sales Agency, agent, consigned the filly. Florida horseman Jerry Bailey and Utah horseman Lance Robinson are the principals involved in Gulf Coast Farm, which bred her in Kentucky.
“She brought a little bit more than we thought she might bring in this day and age, but we knew she was going to sell well,” Bailey said. “She had numerous full vets (veterinary exams)—like a dozen—and it seemed like all the right people were on her. They kept telling us she was probably the best filly in the sale with some pedigree. She’s a real classy filly. She handled the whole deal really well and had an excellent breeze. We’re pleased.”
The filly worked an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5.
The OBS March auction’s high-priced colt, a flashy, powerful-looking son of Giant's Causeway , also sold during the second session, and he was the auction’s second most expensive horse. Hidden Brook, agent for Paul Pompa Jr., purchased the chestnut juvenile, which is a half-brother to three added-money winners, including 2008 Irish champion Heart Shaped (by Storm Cat) and 2000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner A P Valentine (by A.P. Indy).
Pompa was a member of the partnership that raced champion Big Brown , who captured the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Hidden Brook purchased Big Brown for Pompa for $190,000 at the 2007 Keeneland April juvenile auction.
“He’s a classic-looking kind of colt; he’s a two-turn-looking horse,” said Hidden Brook’s Dan Hall of the $425,000 colt. “It’s Paul’s goal to get back to the Derby, and he (the colt) is that type. The price was right about where we thought.”
Bowling’s All In Sales consigned the colt, which worked an eighth of a mile in :10 3/5 and is out of the winning Alydar mare Twenty Eight Carat. All In Sales purchased him for $220,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale from Eaton Sales, agent. Bowling said David McKathan was his partner in the colt, which was bred in Kentucky by Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable.
“I think they got a lot of horse for their money,” Bowling said. “They got a very, very good buy, but I was happy. You’ve got to happy when you make $205,000 on a horse even if you did go out on a limb. That’s the most horse we’ve ever sold in our lives for that kind of money. Naturally, we would like to make all we can, and there’s a lot of money here, but it looks to me like there’s kind of a ceiling on the prices.”
The results for the second session included a gross of $9,685,000 for the 84 horses that sold. The average was $115,298, and the median was $80,000. The buy-back rate was 27%.
"I think the general feeling is that we've seen the worst of it, and we're trying to creep our way out of the situation," said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. "Nobody is expecting large increases, but we've seen movement in the right direction in the average, median, and the buy-back rate, and we've seen people willing to buy horses in different price ranges."