The times were slower during the under tack show for this year’s Ocala February select sale of 2-year-olds in training, and that was by design, according to sale company officials. Maintenance changes, they said, reduced the speed over the auction firm’s track, which has a synthetic Safetrack surface, and the results pleased both buyers and consignors participating in the sale, which was held Feb. 16 in Central Florida.
In 2009, three horses tied for the fastest breeze at an eighth of a mile, each covering the distance in :9 3/5. They were among the 21 juveniles that posted times under :10. This year, no juvenile worked faster than :10. The fastest quarter-mile time fell from :20 2/5 (recorded by three horses) in 2009 to :21 (posted by three 2-year-olds) this year.
“We’ve learned how to manage the track a little better when it gets very cold, and we made an effort to tone it down a little bit,” said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. “We’re cutting (harrowing) it about an inch deeper from last year (2 ½ inches compared to 1 ½ inches) on a daily basis, and we’re also doing a more in-depth cut that we call ‘power harrowing’ at four inches. We didn’t get more radiographic issues because of the track last year, but maybe there was some more body soreness associated with it, so we think this is better for the horse and everybody seems to agree with us.”
Consignor Niall Brennan, who is an OBS director, was pleased with the auction firm’s decision.
“The track was wonderful under the (cold and rainy) conditions; it was consistent all day long,” Brennan said. “Last year. we did have some sore shins and things like that at the sales here, but this year, so far, we haven’t had any issues at all. If horses breeze in :10 and :21, that’s plenty fast, and buyers can see their action a little better because they have more of a nature rhythm (to their stride). When the horses come home sound and happy, everybody is a winner. Nobody wants to buy a horse with really sore shins that breezes in :9 3/5.”
New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, who purchased four horses for $505,000 for clients, believed the slowdown in times was positive.
“There weren’t any :9 3/5s, but we don’t need them,” he said. “The horses went over the track well, and the main thing is they did it without injury. I think it probably worked well for everybody.”
Three horses sold during the February auction brought $400,000 or more apiece, blowing past last year’s price peak of $340,000. The sale’s gross, average price, and median price all were down, but the setbacks had nothing to do with the slower workout times, according to OBS chairman Mike O’Farrell.
“I wouldn’t say what went on in the marketplace that was negative had anything to do with track. It (the track) was a positive,” O’Farrell said. “It was easier on the horse, and I think the buyers appreciated it and the consignors appreciated it.”