Showing continued strength in the middle market seen at Keeneland September and the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s fall mixed sale opened Monday with solid gains in both average and median. Monday's session, the first of two consignor preferred sessions, realized an average of $13,643 -- a 23.8% increase over last year's comparable figure of $11,019. The median, $9,500, posted a healthy 35.7% gain over last year's median of $7,000.
There was also strength for the young sire Exploit. The son of Storm Cat was the sire of the session-topping weanling and the covering sire of the session-topping mare. Exploit, whose first foals are yearlings, stands at Taylor Made Farm near Nicholasville, Ky. His stud fee in 2001 was $30,000.
Buy backs this year numbered 60, or 28.5% of the horses offered -- a figure that was favorable to last year's buy-back mark of 31%.
For the session, 150 weanlings and mares were sold for $2,046,400. Last year, 204 horses were sold for $2,247,800. There were fewer horses this year because the sale started with the 98-horse phase II of the John Franks dispersal.
The Franks dispersal was the only down portion of the full-day sale, as 60 of his horses were sold for $130,800, making for an $2,180 average. Seventeen of the horses were withdrawn from the sale and 21 failed to generate a bid. Topping the Franks portion of the sale was the nine-year-old are Turn My Ship, who brought a final bid of $11,500 from Kentucky horseman Doug Arnold. The daughter of Northern Flagship is the dam of grade III stakes-placed My Turn Kissin and was sold in foal to Franks stallion Littlebitlively.
"There were some upper horses, both mares and weanlings," said Tom Ventura, general manager and director of sales for OBS. "We hope we can maintain those numbers. It seems the market is relatively strong in the middle."
Consignors were optimistic before the sale as viewings on Saturday and Sunday before the sale began were many. They also reported a larger-than-usual contingent of Kentucky buyers on the grounds.
High prices for a weaning and mare came just eight hips apart in mid-afternoon. The top-priced weanling went for $78,000, while the top mare brought a final bid of $82,000.
The weanling, a son of Exploit, is out of the 12-year-old mare On With the Music, who is the dam of three-time California stakes winner Musical Gambler. Consigned by Lou Gurino's Celebrity Farm, agent, the weanling was purchased by Gurino's aunt, Roberta Pentaleri. Pentaleri, of Queens, N.Y. whose nom de course is Red Storm Stables, already owned half of the weanling and also owns half of the mare.
"I was very nervous, because so many people had come to see her," Pentaleri said after the sale. "I watched all day Saturday and Sunday and there were a lot of people looking at him."
Pentaleri said her limit on the horse was $80,000, so she only had one more bid in her.
The top-priced mare was purchased by a Korean consortium called C&C International. Fully Approved, a striking, still-racing-fit 8-year-old mare is by With Approval, out of the Rock Talk mare Pebble Patter. On the track, Fully Approved won nine times while racing from ages two through seven. She is foal to Exploit on a May 19 cover.
C&C International is represented by Jay Bang, agent, for the Korean Thoroughbred Breeders Association. They were the leading buyers at last year's sale. The horses will be sent to Korea Horseland, on the island of Cheju. Bang said he plans on buying 23 mares at the sale, and with his top-priced bid, noted that that was mare number nine.
Consigning the top-priced lot was Brent and Crystal Fernung's Journeyman Bloodstock. Journeyman Bloodstock also sold a Let's Go Blue mare (in foal to Artax) for $68,000 and a Yes It's True weanling for $61,000.
"I had a good feeling before the sale that they would sell well," Brent Fernung said. "I've never seen a bad market for a good horse. That weanling filly had been walked to death and scoped four or five times."
The second consignor preferred session begins Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. EDT. The sale continues with two open sessions Wednesday and Thursday.