On the eve of the largest Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s June 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age sale in history—boasting a catalog of 1,216 head that is nearly 63% larger than last year's offering of 748—OBS president Tom Ventura is subscribing to the notion that the record number is a sign of strength.
This year's auction will be held June 17-20 at the OBS sales complex in Ocala, Fla. Each session begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT and will be streamed live at bloodhorse.com/OBS.
"With the smaller foal crop, I think it (the larger catalog) shows confidence in the market and confidence in selling a horse here at OBS," said Ventura. "The sale season has been strong for us so far. The only question with this sale is the uncertainty of the market absorbing 400 more horses and how it will respond to that."
Ventura enters the four-day June sale with cautious optimism.
"I'm pleased with the buyers I've seen here," said Ventura, taking time out from inspecting this year's sale line-up the morning of June 16. "We certainly have the buyers for the upper-end horses here. The Korean buyers are here and they will buy a fair number of horses, so I think that will keep things active.
"In general, I think consignors are placing their horses where they can best showcase themselves," Ventura added. "They are placing them by the calendar, not whether it's a select or an open sale. The barn area gives me the feeling that we'll be OK, but it remains to be seen."
Consignors, while hopeful buyers will respond to the substantially larger offering, are also adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
"It's difficult to come up with a solid feel for what's going to happen because we're in uncharted territory here," said consignor Brent Fernung of Journeyman Bloodstock. "We'll have to wait and see. What we've found the last seven or eight years is the bigger sales do better than the smaller ones. I think there were a lot of people that didn't get horses in April and it's hard to imagine you could sell 1,200 head and have some buyers get shut out, but it happened to quite a few people (at the April sale). My gut feeling is they'll be back for this sale.
"If you have a good horse you'll be OK,' Fernung added. "The strength of the market will be determined by the middle market horses."
During the six-day under tack preview, which concluded June 14, two youngsters shared honors for the fastest eight of a mile breeze, each dashing the distance in :09 4/5.
Hip No. 228, who breezed during the second session on June 10, is a strapping Benny the Bull colt consigned by Harris Training Center, agent.
"You never think they are going to go in :09 4/5 and that's never the plan, but he's a really nice horse," said Robert Harris. "This is the first sale he's been in and he trains like a good horse. He's been forward all along. We're excited about him."
Hip No. 836, a filly by Macho Uno consigned by Old South Farm, agent, recorded her co-bullet work during the fifth session on June 13.
"It always surprises me a little bit when they work in :09 4/5, but I can't say I was surprised by her time," said Albert Davis of Old South Farm. "She is real kind."
Harris Training Center also consigns the sale's fastest horse at a quarter of a mile, hip No. 1070, a son of Scat Daddy who sped the distance in :20 1/5 during the under tack finale June 14.
"He's a nice horse," Harris said. "We know he is a gifted, fast horse, but nobody would ever expect to go in :20 1/5. The important thing is he did it the right way. He was very professional."
Scat Daddy is also the sire of hip No. 1025, a bay filly who breezed the fastest three furlongs of the preview on the last day, stopping the timer in :32 2/5 for consignor Gayle Woods, agent for Phaedrus Flights LLC.
"Everyone seemed pleased with the way we handled the under tack show and stretching it out over six days," said Ventura. "We had the flexibility to deal with the rains. It worked out. The track did its part and stood up to all the rain like it's meant to do. I think the under-tack show went very smoothly."
The growth of the June sale has happened in lockstep with the success of recent graduates.
"The June sale has made tremendous strides the last few years," noted Ventura, "both in terms of the quality of what was offered here and in what the horses have accomplished on the racetrack."
Starship Truffles emerged from the 2011 sale to win the 2013 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder Casino & Race Course and earn nearly $450,000.
Goldencents, a graduate of the 2012 June Sale, has banked more than $2.2 million, winning last year's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), both at Santa Anita Park, and was a sharp second off a long layoff in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes day.
Also selling in 2012 was multiple stakes winner and graded stakes-placed Sky High Gal, a two-time stakes winner this year and most recently victorious in the Mizdirection Stakes at Santa Anita.
Last year's sale produced Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) and Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Wildcat Red, who has earned $690,850 to date.
The 2013 June sale topper Conquest Top Gun marched into stakes company in May, fresh off a maiden win in April at Keeneland and set the pace in Woodbine's Marine Stakes.
Despite giving way grudgingly in the late stages, losing by a neck in a photo finish, the son of Pioneerof the Nile was awarded his first stakes win via disqualification.
Conquest Stables, along with trainer/adviser Mark Casse, bought the horse for $525,000 out of the Eddie Woods consignment. The purchase price established a new June sale mark, eclipsing the previous sale record price of $350,000 paid for an Elusive Quality colt sold in 2012.
In addition to a record sale topper, last year's June sale also set new standards in gross, average and median prices.
A total of 447 horses sold last year from 576 head offered, registering gross sales of $14,682,700. The sale average was $32,847 and median price was $20,000.
Eddie Woods led all other consignors at last year's sale, selling 22 of 24 offered for $1,370,000. Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables followed, selling 29 of 35 for $1,261,100.
Conquest Stables was the leading buyer last year, purchasing six head and spending $1,365,000.