OBSC Open Sale: Strength in the Middle

With all major yearling auctions this year experiencing declines in average prices as more horses were offered for sale, some concern going into the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s open yearling sale Sept. 21-24 was not surprising.

A key question was whether there would be enough money for the more than 1,000 yearlings offered, given that OBSC’s one-day select yearling sale Sept. 20 had followed the pattern set by Fasig-Tipton sales in Kentucky and Saratoga.

The open sale concluded Aug. 24 with 778 horses sold during four sessions, producing gross sales of $9,047,400, a 0.8% decrease from the $9,127,500 generated in 2006. The open-session average of $11,629 was a 4.3% increase over last year, while the median price was up 7.7% to $7,000.

Analysis of horses sold at OBSC’s open sessions indicates decreased demand for top- and bottom-priced yearlings when compared with the 2006 sale. Consequently, the weakness at the top and fewer lower-priced horses being sold compacted the market’s strength in the middle price range.

Only two open sale yearlings went for more than $90,000 this year, compared with five in 2006. In the next-lower price range, six horses sold for $70,000 to $89,999 this year, compared with two in 2006.

OBSC sales director Tom Ventura said the top of market weakened because horses pinhooked into the sale at that level generally brought less than the 2006 top pinhooks. As a result, the sector immediately below the top gained in number sold and percentage of gross receipts.

“Compared with last year, the very high-end pinhooks will be reduced this year, and that in turn knocks everybody down in the price range,” Ventura said.

There was also a cutback in the number of horses sold at the lowest price range. Last year 326 open sale yearlings sold in the lowest range (up to $4,999). This year that figure fell by 13.8%.

Ventura said bidding was very competitive this year, partially due to a greater number of “end-users” (owners rather than agents) attending the sale. The sale also benefited from having more European buyers.

“The more players we have, the healthier it is,” Ventura said. “Based on our history, there is good value to be had at this sale, so we are attracting more and more end-users.”

Some European buyers, said Ventura, have had success buying yearlings at OBSC and then reselling them in 2-year-old sales overseas the following year. Also, the sale has proven particularly popular with Italian buyers who eschew the upper end of the market but find value in the middle market, he said.

With one major yearling sale finally showing increases in average, the hopes of consignors may be somewhat buoyed going into the marathon Keeneland yearling sale Sept.10-25. – Ron Mitchell

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