By Michael Compton
Considering the record results posted during the opening session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training, an encore on day two of the four-day auction might have seemed like a lot to ask.
Following another round of spirited bidding April 23, however, an encore is precisely what sales officials got.
For the second consecutive day, key economic indicators bore out the strength of this year's robust juvenile market.
For the session, 208 horses grossed $13,091,500, compared with 207 selling for $8,855,000 at the corresponding session in 2012. The average price was $62,940, up 47.1% compared with $42,778 a year ago. The median price of $40,000 rose 33.3% from $30,000 last year.
"We had high hopes coming into the sale," said Tod Wojciechowski, OBS director of sales, "but the first two days have definitely exceeded our expectations. The action has been great. We hope it will continue. I believe there are still a lot of good horses left to be sold and plenty of people still here to buy them. I have no indications that it will slow down."
The buy-back rate was 14.4% in the second session; it was 14.8% on the second day last year. A total of 26 horses sold for $100,000 or more compared with 17 in the same session in 2012.
"The sale has been very strong thus far," said OBS president Tom Ventura. "We're extremely pleased with the results. After a day like this, I only hope we have enough momentum left for the rest of the sale."
Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds, fresh off consigning the sale topping $1.6 million Bernardini colt sold to agent Steven Young on behalf of Robert LaPenta at Fasig-Tipton's juvenile at Palm Meadows last month, the Ocala-based outfit brought a second standout Bernardini colt to market in Ocala.
With agent Reiley McDonald on the phone bidding on behalf of Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable and trainer Mark Casse representing Conquest Stables inside the sale pavilion, bidding on the strapping colt named Prince Bernardini see-sawed back and forth. Ultimately, the colt, consigned as Hip No. 572, was hammered down to Brushwood for the princely sum of $900,000.
"Hopefully, we'll see both of these Bernardini colts at the Kentucky Derby (Presented by Yum! Brands, gr. I) next year," said Dean De Renzo standing alongside Randy Hartley moments after the top-priced horse of the session departed the ring. "Both of the colts did everything right. They are equally fantastic. We're thrilled that they both went to the types of connections that will give them the opportunity to run in the big races."
The $900,000 price tag is just shy of the OBS April record established in 2004 when a Distorted Humor colt consigned by Niall Brennan for the Estate of John Franks brought $975,000 from John Ferguson, agent for Sheikh Mohammed.
The session topper is a half-brother to stakes winner Prince Rooney and stakes-placed V.I.P. Princess. Bred in Kentucky by Robert Gentry Family Partnership, the colt was produced from the Deputy Minister mare Rooneys Princess, who is out of champion older mare and Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) winner Princess Rooney.
"When you've got a horse with a pedigree like that who performs well on the racetrack and is impressive at the barn, you have certain expectations," said Ventura. "Horses like that usually become your buzz horses."
Acquired by Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds for $225,000 out of last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga August sale from the Gainesway consignment of, Prince Bernardini worked a flashy eighth of a mile in :10 at the under tack preview.
"He's an amazing horse," De Renzo said prior to the sale. "He's a big, gorgeous horse. Everything fits. When we bought him as a yearling, we were prepared to a go a lot higher for him. We thought we got a heck of a buy with him. He's landed the right way for us."
The second-highest price of the day was Hip No. 548, a colt by High Cotton who brought $600,000 from West Point Thoroughbreds and St. Elias Stable. Out of the Aloha Prospector mare Keikik, the colt is a half-brother to stakes winner St. Louis City. The colt worked a quarter of a mile in :21 1/5 at the under tack preview and was consigned by Ocala Stud.
"He is a beautiful horse," said West Point Thoroughbreds' Terry Finley who indicated that Bill Mott will train the colt. "We've seen horses by High Cotton run well all over the country. These are the kinds you look for.
"The market is really strong," he added. "It's been strong all year."
J. Michael O'Farrell Jr. of Ocala Stud was pleased with the transaction.
"He's a big, stout colt," O'Farrell said. "Of course, you never expect a horse to sell like that. Obviously, we're pleased. I think they got a real nice horse. He has been nothing but class with us. We set him down to work two weeks before the breeze show and he worked faster in that breeze than he did in the preview. He worked so fast that first time we worked him that we had to back off of him because we didn't want to do too much with him. We skipped the next week with him."
Bred by the University of Florida Foundation, the Florida-bred colt is the result of a breeding in which the season to Ocala Stud stallion High Cotton was donated to the school by the farm.
"We give seasons to the University of Florida program every year," O'Farrell said. "We got a call from the university one day and we were told that they had a couple of nice weanlings by our stallions, so we bought them. The colt did everything right and he looks the part. He has a lot of presence and never missed a day."
Hip No. 483, a colt from the first crop of Two Step Salsa consigned by Eisaman Equine, agent, sold to Conquest Stables LLC (Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell) for $420,000.
Produced from the stakes-placed Pioneering mare Homesteader, the colt breezed an eighth in :10 at the under tack show. Eisaman Equine bought the horse from its breeder, Manuel Andrade's Get Away Farm, for $20,000 at last year's OBS August sale.
"I thought he was a great mover," said trainer Casse. "His gallop out was phenomenal. It was so good I thought I had messed up. I had to check with a couple of other people. A good gallop out time is :23 1/5 or :23 2/5. He galloped out in :22 3/5 and I had him out in :32 3/5 and :47. The only other horse I've ever seen do that was Delightful Mary.
"I know he's by a first crop sire," Casse added, explaining the decision to purchase the colt, "but he seems to have a lot of class. We're always looking for good horses, good two-turn horses and this horse might be limited to a mile but he looks fast. Plus, Dory loved him. The Eisamans sell good horses, and I'm comfortable buying from them."
Top price for a filly was the $290,000 successful bid of Dominic Brennan, agent for Highland Yard, LLC, for a daughter of Ghostzapper consigned as Hip No. 560. The bay filly, consigned by Price Thoroughbreds (Andro and Tracey Price), agent, was produced from Koko Pop, a daughter of A.P. Indy whose dam was grade I winner Got Koko. The Prices had purchased the filly from the consignment of James M. Herbener, Jr., agent for breeder Stonestreet Thoroughbreds for $47,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Eisaman Equine led all consignors on the day, selling 14 for $1,465,000. Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds followed, selling threefor $947,500. Brushwood Stable's single purchase of the $900,000 Bernardini colt led all buyers.
The sale continues April 24 at 10:30 a.m. (EDT). The sale can be viewed live at www.bloodhorse.com/obs.