Rubbing his eyes, Randy Hartley tried to stop the tears from flowing. His voice cracked with emotion as he described what it was like to sell a son of Dehere for $1,050,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select auction of 2-year-olds in training. "A horse like this is everybody's dream," Hartley sobbed. "Oh gosh, this is just unbelievable!" The muscular chestnut ridgling, with powerful-looking dappled hindquarters, established a record for the highest-priced juvenile ever sold at an OBS sale. He also distinguished himself as the most expensive 2-year-old offered at public auction, so far this year. Even more important to Hartley and his partner, Dean De Renzo, was the huge return on their investment the transaction represented. They had purchased the ridgling for only $50,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale. "I walked around the corner of the barn and had a little cry," De Renzo admitted. "If he had brought $450,000, I would have been ecstatic. But so many people wanted him, and they just kept going." While improving the financial fortunes of Hartley and De Renzo, the seven-figure price for the ridgling also provided a big boost to the OBS March auction, helping lift it to a better performance than many horsemen expected. The average price increased less than 1%, but that was still enough to improve on last year's sale record. Meanwhile, the decreases in gross revenue and the median price were moderate. To Tom Ventura, the OBS director of sales and general manager, the results were more than satisfactory, considering they were preceded by bad business omens. First came the plunge in the American stock market, which was followed by financial setbacks in other parts of the world. Then heavy rains pounded Central Florida, making it difficult for prospective buyers to inspect horses the day before the OBS March auction started. "With all the uncertainty, especially in the financial markets, I thought it was a good sale," Ventura said. "And the million-dollar horse was obviously a thrill. We were hoping to maintain what we had last year, and I think we accomplished that with our average." The key business trends for the two-day auction, which was conducted March 20 and 21, were as follows:
- Number sold: Down 13.6%, from 250 in 2000 to 216 in 2001.
- Gross revenue: Down 13.4%, from $17,518,000 to $15,166,000.
- Average: Up 0.2%, from $70,072 to $70,213.
- Median: Down 7.3%, from the sale record of $55,000 to $51,000.