With winter storm watches in effect in some parts of the country, buyers attending the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's winter mixed sale Jan. 22-24 in Ocala, Fla., can count on moderate temperatures and a sale catalog featuring more than 800 prospects of all ages.
Encouraged by barns humming with traffic two days ahead of the start of the first OBS auction of the year, consignors and sale officials are banking on the momentum of a resurgent marketplace to continue.
"I think we have a good week in front of us," OBS president Tom Ventura said. "We hope to pick up where we left off in October."
The winter mixed sale begins its three-day run with a consignor preferred session (Hip numbers 1-254) Jan. 22. A horses of racing age session (Hip numbers 255-459), offered for the third consecutive year, will follow Jan. 23, and an open day (Hip numbers 501-850) closes out the sale Jan. 24. All sessions are slated to begin at 10:30 a.m. EST.
"It's going to be a good sale," said Brent Fernung of Journeyman Stud. "I'm cautiously optimistic. I expect it will be better than last year's sale."
Journeyman Stud's consignment of 33 head includes horses of racing age, broodmares, and short yearlings.
"There are plenty of opportunities to buy racehorses in today's market," Fernung said. "I took $300,000 to the Keeneland November sale to buy four horses, and the market there was just brutal if you were buying horses. I wound up buying four horses, but not the four that I had planned on, and I had to settle for a little less pedigree.
"The market remains strong, and I expect it will continue."
Richard Kent of Kaizen Sales also expects the market to maintain its current course.
"The January sale at Keeneland was phenomenally strong in the middle market," Kent said. "We're seeing tremendous support at that level. There is a market now for the mares that we struggled selling three or four years ago."
Among the prospects on which Kent is high in the Kaizen consignment include Hip 184, a D'wildcat mare named D'Country who sells in foal to Soaring Empire , and Hip 203, named Genuine Class, an unraced Birdstone mare who is a half sister to graded-stakes winner Cigar Street from the family of two-time Horse of the Year Cigar.
"There isn't a better-bred horse on the grounds," Kent said of Genuine Class.
Francis Vanlangendonck of Summerfield Sales believes holding the annual OBS Day of Champions races (Jan. 21) the day before the winter mixed sale, and offering a section devoted strictly to horses of racing age, will pay dividends in the auction ring.
"I think it's a definite advantage," Vanlangendonck said. "It's difficult for prospective buyers, me included, to attend a sale and not buy something. And that's great for us. As far as the market goes, I expect more of the same. Anything with commercial value should sell well."
Included in the horses of racing age portion of the catalog are 35 2-year-olds, 102 3-year-olds, and 68 older horses.
At the optional under tack preview for horses of racing age Jan. 20, Hip 440, a 3- year-old filly by Bernstein consigned by Hoppel's Horse and Cattle Co., agent, traveled three-eighths of a mile in :32 2/5 to post the fastest work at the distance.
Recording the fastest half-mile of the preview was Hip 393, Action Adventure, who stopped the timer in :46 4/5. Consigned by Wes Carter, the 5-year-old gelding by Outflanker is a half brother to stakes winner Come Fly Away.
"Having the optional under tack show has worked out very well," Ventura said. "It's beneficial to consignors who have horses that haven't started yet or haven't started in a while."
Glenstal Abbey, consigned to the sale by Niall Brennan Stables, agent, is a 3-year-old colt by Bernstein out of the Pulpit mare Megachurch. From the family of grade I winner General Quarters, Glenstal Abbey won his career debut in a maiden special weight at 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf at Gulfstream Park last December for trainer Christophe Clement. He is entered in the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes.
Wondrous Wager, consigned by Shadybrook Farm (Michael Yates), agent for B-5 LLC, is a gelded son of Stevie Wonderboy out of Pocketbook Passion, by Siphon, and is a half brother to two winners. Also entered in the OBS Championship Stakes, Wondrous Wager finished second for a $32,000 tag at Calder Casino & Race Course in his most recent outing.
Raising Passion, consigned by TdM Sales (Tristan and Valery de Meric), agent, is entered in the filly division of the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes. The daughter of Limehouse broke her maiden last October in a maiden special weight event at Calder and has won or placed in three of five lifetime starts for owner Soldi Stable and trainer Gilberto Zerpa.
Falling Sky, last year's winter mixed sale-topper at $425,000, exited the horses of racing age session and promptly captured the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) at Tampa Bay Downs just weeks later for his new connections, Newton Anner Stud, James Covello, and Joseph Bulger. Falling Sky was consigned to the 2013 sale by Off the Hook and was purchased by Justin Casse, agent.
The winter mixed sale features 258 short yearlings by such proven sires as Discreet Cat, Exchange Rate, First Samurai , Into Mischief , Leroidesanimaux, Macho Uno , Majestic Warrior, Stormy Atlantic , and leading Florida-based stallions Two Step Salsa and Wildcat Heir.
OBS will get the festivities started with its annual OBS Champions Day Jan. 21. This is the first year the OBS Champions Day of races will be held prior to the winter mixed sale.
"Moving the races from before the March sale to the winter mixed sale helps condense the March calendar a little," Ventura said. "It also nicely complements our horses of racing age portion of the catalog and the progress we have made there. The other benefit is horsemen get a chance to test their 3-year-olds around two turns early in the season.
"We have a nice group of horses set to sell this week. And we're looking forward to kicking it off with the races."