By Michael Compton
The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s juvenile sale season kicks off on Tuesday, March 12 with the first of two sessions of the March selected sale of 2-year-olds in training in Ocala, Fla.
A total of 345 juveniles have been cataloged for the sale. With the under tack previews in the books and high levels of traffic in the barns, OBS officials and consignors are optimistic heading into the opening session.
"I'm looking forward to the sale," said Tom Ventura, president of OBS. "Interest has been high. Conditions were ideal for last week's under tack preview. The horses showed themselves well, and the barns have been busy with traffic.
"One advantage that this sale has is that it's not just quality pedigree and physicals but we have quantity as well. That is a big plus for all of the out-of-town buyers," he added. "We have plenty of top graduates to advertise and that also helps. It's the stakes-winning graduates that keep buyers coming back here."
Gracing the cover of the March catalog is Plum Pretty. The daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was acquired by John Fort's Peachtree Stable for $130,000 from consignor Kirkwood Stables, agent, out of the March sale of 2010. Plum Pretty went on to capture the 2011 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and the following year's Apple Blossom (gr. I) en route to career earnings of more than $1.6 million.
OBS March graduates Itsmyluckyday and Revolutionary are making their respective marks on this year's Kentucky Derby trail. WinStar Farm's Revolutionary, winner of the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct on Feb. 2, sold last year for $235,000 out of the Niall Brennan Stables consignment.
Itsmyluckyday annexed the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfsteam Park on Jan. 26 for Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa. The 3-year-old Lawyer Ron colt was sold by Eisaman Equine, agent, for $110,000.
Dean DeRenzo of Hartley/DeRenzo Thoroughbreds is encouraged by the traffic he has seen in the barns. The outfit sold six juveniles at the sale last March for $1,430,000.
"I see a lot of new faces," DeRenzo said. "The grandstands were pretty full for the previews. I believe we have been showing a little stronger than last year. Showing for three days can be challenging, but the buyers that have done their homework keep coming back to observe the horses. They are keeping a watchful eye over the horses they like and everyone seems to be enthused. Most of the top trainers are here or have someone here on their behalf. I don't think there's one missing.
"Two-year-old graduates dominated the races last year," he added. "Buyers are buying with confidence, and the fact that the new buyers in the game are comfortable starting at the two-year-old sales feels good. It should be a good sale."
Niall Brennan, the third-leading consignor at last year's March auction selling 11 head for $1,175,000, also expressed confidence in the market and the catalog.
"The March sale really starts the buying cycle," Brennan said. "Buyers seem to get more comfortable following the March sales because they get a chance to see the freshman sires establish themselves and set a standard with their first 2-year-olds going through the ring. I'm very positive going into the sale. There was some momentum established at Barretts last week. It's always good to see a decent market in California. This is the first sale on the East Coast, and there will be even more buyers here, plus it's a two-day sale.
"There are plenty of nice horses to choose from in this catalog," Brennan added. "These days there are a lot of smart owners who buy these horses at the yearling sales and put them through rookie camp. There is tremendous competition for the ones that stand up well to the training and blossom at the right time."
In 2012, the OBS March sale boasted the highest percent increases in average (32%) and median (43%) of any select 2-year-old sale. According to Blood-Horse statistics, last year's OBS March sale accounted for 40% of the combined gross revenue of the select sales in 2012—the highest of the four select sales—taking in receipts of nearly $25 million with 181 juveniles changing hands.
DeMeric Sales, agent, led all consignors at last year's offering selling 23 juveniles for $1,969,000. Lane's End Bloodstock topped all buyers, taking home seven head for $1,675,000. Frank Fletcher Racing Operations bought the sale topper, a War Front colt out of the Harris Training Center consignment, for $800,000. Named Boss Man Rocket, the colt broke his maiden at Fair Grounds Jan. 11 in his fourth career start.
Both sessions of the sale this week begin at 11 a.m. (EDT). The sale will be streamed live at www.bloodhorse.com/obs.