Even though the biggest spender for the previous two years says he isn't coming, Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. officials are still hoping business improves during Tuesday's select juvenile auction at Calder Race Course. The OBS director of sales and general manager, Tom Ventura, has seen some positive signs leading up to the first major event of the 2-year-old selling season.
There have been a lot of prospective buyers looking at horses in the Calder's barn area since the sale's first under tack show on Jan. 26, according to Ventura. In addition, "we're sending out at least as many videos (of the show) as we did last year," he said. "And by the time it's over, we may end up sending out more."
Another reason for optimism is the recent upswing in the Thoroughbred marketplace.
"The (yearling and breeding stock) sales in Kentucky have been good, and we've also had good sales at OBS, so I think there will be more activity at the 2-year-old sales," Ventura said.
The big question is what effect leading buyer Mike Gill's absence will have on the OBS Calder market. Gill said he would boycott OBS Calder and Fasig-Tipton's Calder sale because of a dispute with racetrack management. In 2003, Gill purchased 27.4% of the horses sold at OBS Calder and accounted for 22.8% of the auction's gross revenue.
"We'll miss him," said Ventura, adding that he hoped Gill would participate in other OBS juvenile auctions not held at Calder. Gill has mentioned the possibility of shopping at other juvenile sales.
The OBS Calder sale is considered a good barometer of the middle market for 2-year-olds in training, but it can produce some big fireworks. Last year, Chapel Royal became the most expensive juvenile ever sold by OBS when he brought $1.2 million. The son of Montbrook went on to become a graded winner.
In all, 117 horses were sold in 2003 for a gross of $12,733,000, an average price of $108,829, and a median price of $75,000. Compared to 2002, the gross declined 2.4% while the average and median dipped 4.9% and 16.7%, respectively. The buy-back rate was 29.5%, a welcome decline from 2002's figure of 34.9%.