The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February select sale of 2-year-olds in training suffered downturns in its key business figures of gross, average price, and median price for the second year in a row. But there were some bright spots in the results for the auction, which was held Feb. 16 in Central Florida.
The 8.4% decline in the average was an improvement from 2009, when the statistic plunged 33.7%, and this year three horses sold for $400,000 or more apiece, exceeding last year’s price peak of $340,000. The buy-back rate fell slightly, from 39.6% in 2009 to 38.9%.
Taking the biggest hit was the gross revenue, which dropped 35% after falling 29.3% last year. But the big setback wasn’t too surprising because the sale’s catalog of 160 horses was 20% smaller than the 2009 book, which listed 200 juveniles. The number of horses sold, 66, was down 29% from last year’s total of 93.
“Certainly, there was strength at the top; there was money for the right horses and they brought a fair price,” said Tom Ventura, the general manager and director of sales for OBS. “The results show that the market is a little bit polarized right now. The higher-priced horses helped boost the average, but the median dropped and that kind of was a revealing statistic. But I wouldn’t read too much into results of this sale. Only 108 horses went through the (sale) ring. I think the fact that there are people with money out there willing to buy horses at the level of almost a half-million dollars is promising, but we hope there is a little more depth to the market as we start to offer more horses.”
The gross of $6,414,000 was the smallest amount generated by the February auction since the total of $6,248,500 for the 142 horses that sold in 1994. The average of $97,182, was the smallest since the $82,118 average in 1998. And the $66,000 median was at its lowest point since the $65,000 middle market figure in 1999.
A flashy Tiznow colt was the most expensive horse sold, bringing $475,000 early in the auction. Chuck and Maribeth Sandford purchased the dark bay or brown juvenile, which is the second reported foal out of 10-year-old winning Tale of the Cat mare Six Pack Sally, who finished second in the 2003 Joseph Buckelew Stakes at Monmouth Park. The colt, which has four white feet, worked an eighth of a mile prior to the auction, using a quick, efficient stride to cover the distance in :10 1/5.
"We’re trying to put together a nice stable, and that was the colt we came to buy," said Chuck Sandford. "We just got into the horse business last June, and we're trying to do the right thing like a lot of other people. To get into it at this level is just like a dream come true. It's a terrific industry, and I've met some real nice people. Today was the epitome. I was not going home without him."
The Sandfords, who live in Illinois, own Bag Maker, a company that prints a variety of different types of bags used for promotional purposes. One of their horses, a 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt named Jambonied, finished second in a six-furlong maiden special weight event at Gulfstream Park Jan. 23. The colt is trained by Patrick Byrne, who also will condition the $475,000 juvenile.
Bo Hunt consigned the Tiznow colt, which was purchased by Carl Bowling’s Straightaway Farm, agent, for $55,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale from Eaton Sales, agent.
“I wasn’t too surprised by the price,” Bowling said. “I had gotten offers of $300,000 to $350,000 to take him out of the sale (and sell him privately), but I wasn’t going to take him out of the sale. I wanted to put him through the sale, and I had said that he would bring $375,000 to $500,000 even in this sale and this economy. If you’ve got what the wealthy man wants, he’s going to buy it. There’s no shortage of money if a wealthy man wants something. The best horse still sells well.”
According to Bowling, when the colt was a yearling, the way he walked left a lot to be desired.
“Bo was with me (at Keeneland), and I said, 'I’m going to buy him',” Bowling remembered. “I figured I was going to get a good deal because everybody was talking about him being a little crooked in the front end. I told Bo, ‘When I ‘blacksmith’ him, he’s going to be correct; he’s just set backwards.’ That’s the only reason I got him for what I did. He was a little immature, and he really came on after that and matured really well. We had to dosa little corrective work on his feet, and when we set him right, he walked like a champ. Bo couldn’t believe it.”
The colt also ran like a champ, displaying a quick, efficient stride in his work over the OBS track’s synthetic Safetrack surface and recording a fast time even though he broke off early. Hunt prepared him for the sale at the Nelson Jones Training Center.
“A lot of your Tiznows are real big, powerful horses," Bowling said. "This horse leans to the Tale of the Cat side; he’s more refined and smaller. He stands maybe 15.2 (hands) right now. He’s just a light-hitting-the-ground, easy-on-himself type of horse. He did the :10 1/5 so easy it was unreal. He loves to train. The best part about him is his mind. He gets rattled over nothing. He did not turn a hair going through this sale out here in the walking ring. He did not sweat a drop. He just walked around like the boss, and went in there and didn’t get excited about anything. He didn’t jump, kick, buck, or get silly because of the noise. He just walked like a gentleman, sold, and went back to his stall. He really is the right kind. I personally was not going to let him bring less than $300,000 to $350,000.”
Bowling said he might be a partner with the Sandfords in racing the colt.
A Yes It's True colt sold for the second-highest price of $425,000, going to trainer Amy Tarrant of Hardacre Farm. W.D. North Thoroughbreds, agent, consigned the chestnut 2-year-old.
"He's one of the nicest horses of the sale, that's for sure,” Tarrant said. “He wasn't even on our short list, but when I saw him (for the first time), it was an instant connection. I said, ‘I am falling in love now. I'm going to go to four ($400,000) on this colt, maybe five ($500,000).’ I think I got the nicest horse in the sale."
“He’s big and rangy, with a huge, gigantic walk,” she continued. “Everything about him, I loved. There is something about the horse that is special."
Tarrant planned to turn the colt out for about a month. She also purchased a $250,000 Rockport Harbor–Truart filly at the February auction.
The colt is the second foal produced by the 8-year-old Cat Thief mare Debit Or Credit, who finished second once in five career races. Debit Or Credit is a half-sister to three stakes winners, including Alke (by Grand Slam), who scored in the 2004 Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park and finished second in the 2002 Iroquois (gr. III) and the 2003 Southwest Stakes and the 2004 Gulf News Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I). Debit or Credit also is a half-sister to the winning stakes producer Debt Free.
"I thought he was well received,” said W.D. North of the $425,000 colt. “We were thinking four hundred ($400,000), and he brought a little more than that.”
North purchased the colt for $53,000 at Keeneland last September from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent for White Fox Farm. White Fox bred the colt in Kentucky. The 2-year-old worked a quarter mile in :21, sharing the fastest time for that distance at the February auction's under tack show with a Songandaprayer —Rainbow Promise filly and a Harlan's Holiday filly that sold for $400,000 to Let’s Go Stables.
“She was a standout to be honest with you,” said Let's Go's Bryan Sullivan. “She vetted great, she looked great, and she came out of her work great. She worked so well that she looked like she could be an early horse, maybe a Keeneland horse. She could probably be a nice 3-year-old as well.”
Sullivan and Kevin Scatuorchio are the managing partners of Let’s Go.
Todd Pletcher will train the dark bay or brown filly, which was produced from the 14-year-old American Chance mare Burn Brightly, who captured the 2000 Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn Park and finished second or third in four other added-money events.
Burn Brightly also is the dam of Dream of Angels (byTrippi), who scored in the Jack Price Juvenile Stakes at Calder Race Course, the Middleground Breeders’ Cup Stakes at Lone Star Park, and the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in 2006. Burn Brightly also produced the winner Good to Be Seen (by Montbrook), who finished second in the 2009 Jack Price.
Bred by Ocala Stud in Florida, the filly was consigned to the auction by the farm. Mike O’Farrell, the president and general manager of Ocala Stud, is the chairman of the board of OBS.
"We thought she sold extremely well, especially in today's economic situation," O'Farrell said. "She's fast, very sensible, has a great mind, and shows a lot of class. We hope they do well with her."
(Carlos Medina contributed to this story.)