Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables has led all consignors of 2-year-olds in training in gross sales for consecutive years. The Ocala, Fla.-based operation generates results with quantity and quality.
From 143 head offered in 2013, Wavertree sold 120 for more than $15.9 million. The prior year Wavertree sold 99 2-year-olds for more than $13.2 million. With another strong class of juveniles to present to buyers this year, Dunne's confidence is soaring.
"On paper, this is the strongest group we've ever had," Dunne said. "We are very fortunate to have clientele that place so much trust in us. We have magnificent stock again this year. The thing with good horses is they are easy to train. It's been fun watching them progress this winter."
Dunne says he senses a shift in the industry heading into this year's 2-year-olds in training auctions.
"This is the first time in several years that we're going into the sales optimistically, not tentatively," he said. "There is a bit of a buzz back in the sales scene. People want to own horses again. In talking to owners and trainers, there is pep in their step. We have some new owners in the game and trainers are picking up new clients. It feels as if there is more confidence and less trepidation."
Among Wavertree's 2013 graduates are promising 3-year-olds Vinceremos, Mexikoma, Diamond Bachelor, Big Guy Ian, and the undefeated filly Onlyforyou.
Vinceremos, campaigned by Twin Creeks Racing Stables and WinStar Farm, captured the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs Feb. 1 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
From the first crop of Pioneerof the Nile , Vinceremos sold to Twin Creeks for $340,000 at the 2013 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale. He broke his maiden Jan. 4 at Gulfstream Park and then proved a game winner over stablemate Harpoon in the Sam F. Davis in his initial stakes start.
"We were always very high on him," Dunne said of Vinceremos. "Once he started training we knew right away that he was a nice one. All the reports I received from Twin Creeks showed that they liked him all along. He does only what he has to do to win. The main thing about him is his willingness to relax and rate. It's not all speed with him."
Mexikoma kicks off his 2014 campaign in an optional claiming event at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park, a race also featuring Big Guy Ian. Both are sons of Birdstone and both were sold by Wavertree at the OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training last April.
Sold to MNDRS for $55,000, Mexikoma went on to finish sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park after breaking his maiden by 14 3/4 lengths at Delaware Park in only his second start last September. He has been working steadily at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., for his seasonal bow. Rick Mettee trains the Florida-bred for Team Valor International.
Big Guy Ian sold for $375,000 to trainer Michael Dilger, agent. Racing for Anstu Stables Inc., Big Guy Ian won a maiden special weight at one mile at Gulfstream Park Jan. 25 in his second start.
"These horses exemplify what we are trying to do with our program these days," Dunne said. "They are two-turn, classic-type horses. That's what the market is demanding."
Glencrest Farm's Onlyforyou was offered by Wavertree at last year's Keeneland sale but was withdrawn following a below par performance in the breeze show. Bought by Phase II Thoroughbreds for $115,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September sale, the daughter of Malibu Moon is perfect in three starts for trainer Todd Pletcher heading into the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 22.
"We scratched her from the sale when she didn't perform like we expected," Dunne related. "She always had the look of a big two-turn filly. She just didn't have her best day at the breeze show."
Onlyforyou has certainly made amends for her less than stellar breeze at Keeneland. She broke her maiden at Aqueduct Racetrack last November and has since rattled off two additional wins, including a facile score in the Forward Gal Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 25.
Wavertree also sold Diamond Bachelor last year. The $570,000 Barretts March sale graduate won the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf at Del Mar and finished second in the Zuma Beach Stakes on the lawn at Santa Anita for owners Diamond 100 Racing Club, Mrs. Susan Magnier, and Robert Trussel, and trainer Patrick Biancone.
Diamond Bachelor subsequently finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita in his first dirt start. In his 3-year-old debut, he set the pace before fading to finish fourth in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) won by Candy Boy Feb. 8 at Santa Anita.
Dunne has shipped 15 head to California for the Barretts sale of selected 2-year-olds in training March 3, and he is eager to get the sale season underway.
"We're hoping to get started on the right foot," Dunne said. "We have a strong group of horses with great pedigrees. We've worked hard to spot them in the right places and keep the top ones apart from one another. Hopefully we'll be rewarded. We're very excited about the group we have."