The looming war with Iraq did not diminish the enthusiasm of buyers at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select auction of 2-year-olds in training Tuesday. The sale got off to a strong start in Florida, posting significant increases in gross revenue and average price over last year's first session.
"I'm pleasantly surprised, but not startled," said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. "We had a lot of buyers here, and we had a lot of activity prior to the sale, which made us feel like we were going to have a good sale. The upper end horses did well, and enough of the mid-range horses got sold to keep our buy-back percentage at a reasonable level. With the climate that we're in financially and politically, we've got to be pleased."
The 137 horses sold grossed $9,635,000 and averaged $70,328. Compared to 2002, the number sold and gross were up by 39.8% and 54.0%, respectively, and the average increased by 10.2%. The median price of $50,000 equaled last year's figure. Meanwhile, the buy-back rate fell from 39.1% last year to 34.4% this year.
"The market is solid," said consignor Robert Scanlon. "I don't think (the talk of) war has had any effect. Before that speech (by President Bush) came on TV the other night, everybody was in town already, so they weren't going to leave." The people here are very focussed on the horses."
Topping the session was an American Chance filly that was purchased for $350,000 by Team Valor's Barry Irwin, who was bidding over the phone. She is the first foal produced from the 9-year-old stakes-placed Stalwart mare Sweet and Lowdown. The filly's consignor, Mark Casse of Moonshadow Farm, bought her for only $40,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale.
"She has as good a walk as any horse you'll ever see, and that walk carries onto the racetrack; she has a great way of going," Casse said. "She also has a great neck and shoulder. She has great length; she's fast; and she looks like she'll carry it (her speed) some. And she's a Canadian-bred, which makes her eligible for a tremendous racing program."
Casse trains Canadian champion Added Edge, owned in part by Team Valor.
"I called Barry a couple nights ago about the filly, and said, 'Barry, I have one you really should own; she's the real deal.' And I sent him the videotape (of her workouts)," Casse said. "But I didn't know for sure if he was interested. If she goes to Canada, I would hope that I would get to train her."
During the under tack shows preceding the sale, the filly breezed an eighth of a mile in :11 and a quarter in :21 2/5, one of the fastest works at that distance.
A Salt Lake filly sold for the second-highest price of $320,000 to Carl Lizza of Flying Zee Stables.
"I thought she would go for around $220,000," Lizza said. "(Trainer) Stanley Hough was over there, and I think he wanted filly probably as much as we did. We shook him off a couple of times, but then he came back. I thought she was the nicest filly in the sale. She's a very strong, powerful-looking filly. Her action in her workout was just superior."
The filly breezed a quarter in :21.0, the fastest time for that distance. Lizza said she will be trained by Patrick Biancone.
The filly was produced from the 7-year-old unraced Affirmed mare Checkerspot, who is a half-sister to added-money winner One Fine Shweetie (by Shuailaan). She was consigned to the sale by Albert Davis of Old South Farm. Albert purchased her for $40,000 at the 2002 OBS August yearling sale.
The sale's second and final session is scheduled for Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m. (EST).