Lance Robinson and Jerry Bailey had only four horses in their consignment at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training, but they were attracting a steady stream of prospective buyers early in the afternoon of March 15, the day before the auction started in Central Florida.
“We usually have a bigger group than this at a lot of sales, but with just a handful of horses, look how busy we are; it’s been like this all the time,” Robinson said. “We’ve talked to people from Canada, Texas, California, and the Southeast. There is a diversified group of buyers here, and if they find what they want, I think they’ll spend their money."
Several other consignors also were having to hustle to meet the demands of enthusiastic shoppers, and that was a good omen for the March sale, which has the largest catalog among the five major select juvenile auctions that are conducted each year in the Sunshine State, California, and Kentucky. There are 340 horses in the book, but as of March 15, no fewer than 70 already had been scratched. Even so, there were still plenty of juveniles to choose from, many of which needed to appeal to shoppers seeking middle market stock if they wanted to find new homes.
“I’m not as concerned about my top horses as I am about my middle market horses,” said Mike Mulligan of Leprechaun Racing “I’ve always been reasonable about the horses that didn’t jump through all the hoops, and I’m just hoping there are enough buyers in the $25,000 to $70,000 range to make those horses get traded and move on. We’re getting shopped hard enough for it to be that way, but we’ll just have to see what happens.”
The under tack show was held over the weekend (March 13 and 14) after being delayed by heavy rain and lightning, so the start of the two-day auction’s March 16 opening session was moved from 11 a.m. (EDT) to 2 p.m. to give buyers more time to make their selections.
“We had a lot of shows yesterday (March 14), and we had buyers looking all last week” said Dean De Renzo of Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbeds. “Elliott Walden (of WinStar Farms) has been here, and so have (New York-based trainer) Linda Rice and (New Jersey bloodstock agent) Buzz Chace. The one thing I’m happy about is that all of our horses are getting shown, not just two or three, so maybe the buyers are doing a little more homework and won’t all fall on the same horses.”
Eclipse Award-winning trainers Steve Asmussen and Todd Pletcher were among the shoppers inspecting horses the day before the auction started. Other potential buyers on the sale grounds included California-based trainer John Sadler and Kentucky-based trainer John Ward.
“It’s a good time to buy,” Ward said. “I think everybody is being realistic. The sellers are more realistic , and the buyers are more realistic. Everybody’s kind of reached a middle ground. There’s balance in the market, and when there’s balance, there’s a better chance that everybody will come out happy.”