Colt; Smart Strike - Dixie Holiday by Dixieland Band, sold for $400,000 to top the opening session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Colt; Smart Strike - Dixie Holiday by Dixieland Band, sold for $400,000 to top the opening session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Joseph DiOrio

Average, Median Rise in OBS March Opener

Buy-back rate declines to 28.7% from 41.1% last year

The Ocala  Breeders’ Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training got off to a promising start in Central Florida as the average and median prices rose from a year ago and the buy-back rate declined significantly.

As usual, shoppers were enthusiastic about the best horses on offer, but they also showed interest in the lesser stock as numerous 2-year-olds found new homes at prices below $100,000 March 16.

“It’s a darn good horse sale,” said consignor Shari Eisaman of Eisaman Equine. “Horses are selling, and everybody is making a little bit of money. We can’t buy diamonds, but we can buy groceries making this kind of money, and I’m happy with groceries.”

The gross revenue for the 87 horses sold during the first session was $8,656,000. The average was $99,494, and the median was $75,000. Compared to 2009’s first day, the number sold and gross dropped 23% and 20%, respectively. But the average grew 3.9% while the median rose 7.1%.

The buy-back rate declined to 28.7% from 41.1% last year.

“There was a good feeling going in,” said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. “There was a lot of positive feedback from both ends. The buyers thought we had a decent group of horses, and the consignors were relatively busy. It was a little bit hard to read because we condensed everything (after heavy rain and lightning delayed the under tack show), so you don’t know if that was a factor. But as it turned out, it was a very good sale. There were horses sold in several different price ranges, and it wasn’t top heavy at all.”

A regally-bred Smart Strike  colt topped the session, bringing $400,000 from Donato Lanni, the bloodstock services director of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms. He bought the colt for Kaleem Shah after fighting off trainer Barclay Tagg and Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, whose clients include wine mogul Jess Jackson.

“This horse has a lot of class, and he’s got a great disposition,” Lanni said. “He carried himself well, and he obviously worked well. He’s a well-bred horse, and he’s got a stallion’s pedigree. The price was fair; it’s what we thought he was going to bring.”

Lanni said the bay colt reminded him a lot of champion and grade I winner Lookin At Lucky , who is a top prospect for this year’s Triple Crown and also is a son of Smart Strike. Lanni said he helped Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert find Lookin At Lucky for Mike Pegram, who purchased the colt for $475,000 from the Jerry Bailey Sales Agency, agent, at last year’s Keeneland April juvenile auction. Baffert conditions Lookin At Lucky for a partnership involving Pegram and also will get the $400,000 Smart Strike colt to train, according to Lanni.

“This colt is like ‘Lucky’ because of his demeanor and his attitude,” Lanni said. “He’s a really laid-back horse, and he’s real classy. I hope Bob likes him.”

Produced from the 16-year-old winning Dixieland Band mare Dixie Holiday, the colt is a half-brother to Holiday Runner (by Meadowlake), who scored in the Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Fashion Stakes at Belmont Park in 2002. Holiday Runner is the dam of Seventh Street (by Street Cry), who captured the Apple Blossom (gr. I) and Go for Wand (gr. I) Handicaps at Oaklawn Park and Saratoga, respectively, in 2009.

Niall Brennan Stables consigned the colt for his breeder, Peter Blum.

“We’re very happy to sell him for $400,000; I valued him in the $350,000 to $500,000 range, but you’re never sure,” Niall Brennan said. “Obviously, the buyers were there and wanted him, but I think it was a very good buy. This horse has all the pedigree in the world, and he’s just very impressive on the racetrack. He’s really a performer. Everything about him is exceptional – his professionalism, his demeanor, and his balance. He’s not an overly big horse on the shank, but he’s a big horse on the racetrack.”

The colt breezed an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5, sharing the fastest time for the distance with four other juveniles during the first session of the auction’s under tack show March 13.

Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables was the first session’s biggest spender, paying $735,000 for three horses.