Hip #342, colt, War Front - Henna, by Horse Chestnut, brought $800,000 to top the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Hip #342, colt, War Front - Henna, by Horse Chestnut, brought $800,000 to top the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Joseph DiOrio

Strong OBS March Sale Posts Record Median

The average rises 33% during the juvenile auction in Central Florida.

The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training concluded its two-day run with a spectacular show of financial fireworks.

A War Front  colt commanded $800,000 to top the auction March 14 in Central Florida. In addition, a Tiz Wonderful colt  brought $525,000 and a Leroidesanimaux colt sold for $490,000 to surpass the opening session’s most expensive juvenile, a $485,000 Empire Maker filly named Ado.

“This sale has been phenomenal,” said consignor Robert Harris. “OBS did a wonderful job putting a good group of horses together. The depth of quality here has been super and because the catalog was smaller, the supply has been more in line with demand. The demand has been way up here,” he added, gesturing with his hands, “and the supply has been down here.”

The final results for the auction, which OBS director of sales Tod Wojciechowski described as “crazy good,” included a gross of $24,819,500 for the 179 horses that were sold. Even though the number sold was down 24.5% from last year, the gross remained about the same with an increase of less than 1%. The average price of $138,656 and median price of $105,000 increased 33% and 50%, respectively. The median was a record for the auction, surpassing the former mark of $100,000 in 2008.

The buy-back rate, meanwhile, declined slightly from 26.2% to 25.4%.

“The consignors stepped up and brought some quality horses here this year,” Wojciechowski said. “A number of times this the week we heard comments from buyers saying this was as solid a group of horses as they’d seen in a while. But I don’t think it was just that we had a goood group of horses; (another factor was that) people were wanting horses. There was a desire here for them. Certainly there is some sort of sense that the economy is better and there obviously also is a demand for racehorses.”

Several shoppers and consignors attending the OBS March auction mentioned increases in purses in important racing jurisdictions such as California and New York as being incentives for people to acquire 2-year-olds.

Harris and wife, Mary, in the name of their Harris Training Center near Morriston, Fla., consigned the sleek War Front colt for Cherry Valley Farm, which is associated with the Hancock family’s Kentucky-based Claiborne Farm. Frank Fletcher of Arkansas purchased the dark bay or brown juvenile. Fletcher also was the buyer of the Claiborne-bred Ado, another member of the Harrises’ consignment.

“I didn’t think this one was going to be that expensive, but it (the price) just kept going up,” said Fletcher, whose competition for the War Front colt included Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan. “I bought this horse to try and win the Arkansas Derby (gr. I); that’s my goal. I love to buy in Ocala; I’ve been buying here for many years. I’ll be back in April.”

The Kentucky-bred colt is the first foal out of the unraced Horse Chestnut mare Henna, who is a half sister to Pomeroy (by Boundary), who captured four added-money events, including the 2004 King’s Bishop (gr. I) and 2006 Forego (gr. I) Stakes. He worked an eighth of a mile in :10 during the OBS March auction’s under tack show.

Fletcher gave Donato Lanni, the bloodstock services director for Kentucky-based Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, the credit for selecting the colt.

“I didn’t have anything to do with it,” Fletcher said. “He (Lanni) picks them out and he looked at everything here. He spent a week here, I guess. When he tells me they’re what I want, that (buying) is what I do. I take the best advice I can get.”

Said Lanni of his recommendation to Fletcher to buy the colt: “Claiborne has bred a lot of nice horses over the past years, and War Front (who stands at Claiborne) is the (hot) horse. He’s a good stallion and he produces really good racehorses. He (the colt) has a good female family.”

Fletcher didn’t attend the first day of the OBS March sale, letting Lanni handle the bidding then, but the big spender showed up for the second session.

“When I was getting on the plane, I told him (Lanni), ‘If I’m not here, you can bid up to $475,000,’ ” Fletcher said. “So, if I hadn’t been here, I never would have seen the horse. If I had left (the sale) 30 minutes ago, it would have saved me a lot of money.”

Like Ado, the War Front colt arrived at Harris Training Center from Kentucky last summer.

“He was another one of those outstanding Claiborne horses, and we’re honored to train for them with their tradition and the way they raise them; all we did was just stay out of his way,” Robert Harris said. “He is just a really, really nice colt. He went out there on the racetrack and worked great. He came back to the barn and stood up to all this rigamarole --  (walking) up and down, up and down (so buyers could look at him move). He vetted well and we were really hoping for good things.”

Moynihan, acting on behalf of Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, held off California-based bloodstock advisor Bob Feld in the bidding to buy the strapping $525,000 Tiz Wonderful colt, which is a member of his sire’s first crop. Stonestreet, when Banke’s late husband, Jess Jackson, was alive, raced Tiz Wonderful, who was a grade II winner. According to Moynihan, Stonestreet still owns an interest in the young stallion, which stands at B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky.

“He is a beautiful horse,” said Moynihan of the dark bay or brown colt. “He looks a lot like him (his sire). He worked beautiful (covering an eighth of a mile in :10); he came back (from the workout) beautiful. He looks like a big, two-turn horse. Barbara said it was like going to a basketball game and seeing your kid dunk for the first time.”

The colt is a half brother to the winner Admiral Rocket (by Successful Appeal ). Their winning dam, Foolish Kiss (by Kissin Kris), finished second in the 2002 Memorial Stakes (gr. II) at Fort Erie in Canada. She is a half sister to grade III winner Saintly Prospector (by Sunny's Halo) and stakes producer Eliza Rose (by Sunny’s Prospector.

Hickstead Farm bred the colt in Florida.

“I’m ecstatic; that horse sold as well as he could for a first crop sire, I think,” said Paul Sharp, who consigned the colt to the OBS March auction as agent. “Believe me, that price well exceeded what our anticipation was coming into the (select 2-year-old selling) season.”

Sharp’s training operation is located near Williston, Fla.

“I saw him (the colt) last May in the pasture,” he said, “when I went to look at the horses of Bryan and Melodee Hicks, who bred him. I got to see him move and stuff, and I really liked him.”

Dapple Stud, agent, consigned the colt to the 2011 OBS August yearling auction.

“When he showed up in the sale, he had turned into a really nice horse, with good balance and all the parts you would want,” Sharp said. “I hate to sound like a cliché, but he was everything that you could want. I put a price on him and I was close. I bought him for $82,000 (in the name of Buttonwood Bloodstock). I partnered up with some people and here we are.”

Hickstead Farm retained an interest in the colt, according to Sharp, and IC Thoroughbreds and Robert Hopkins joined the partnership.

“We’ve been talking about this horse since Christmas because he had been showing us all the promise of a great horse and some great horsemen here really liked him,” said Sharp. “He is 16.2 and ¼ hands.”

The colt was so popular with shoppers that their veterinarians examined the colt’s throat endoscopically 19 times, and “that definitely was record for me,” Sharp said.

Deuce Greathouse, agent, acquired the $490,000 Leroidesanimaux colt from Eddie Woods, agent. Produced from the Sefapiano mare Humoristic, who won the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Violet Stakes (gr. IIIT), the chestnut juvenile is a half brother to the winner Easy Crossing (by English Channel ).

Bradley Thoroughbreds purchased the colt for $70,000 from Three Chimneys Sales, agent, at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton October yearling auction. Prior to the OBS March sale, he worked a quarter mile in :21 1/5.

Also during the second session, Alex Liebling bought back a Dixie Union -- Desnuda colt for $650,000. He and his wife, JoAnn, had purchased the handsome bay for $185,000 from Burleson Farms, agent, at the 2011 Keeneland January horses of all ages auction. Harris Training Center consigned him to the OBS March sale.

"I just couldn't let him go," Alex Liebling said.

The 84 horses that were sold during the second session grossed $12,580,000.  The average was $149,762 and the median was $110,000. The buy-back rate was 27.6%.