OBS March Sale to Test Market Depth

The auction is the largest of the five major select sales of 2-year-olds in training.

The catalog for the Ocala Breeders’ March select sale of 2-year-olds in training is smaller. There are 340 horses in the book compared to 523 in 2009. But even though the number is down, the March auction still remains the largest of the five major select juvenile sales that are conducted in California, Florida, and Kentucky each year.

The auction’s latest edition, scheduled for March 16-17 in the Sunshine State, will give consignors a better idea about the depth of the market, which has been stronger so far in 2010 at the very top. At other levels, there has been less demand, so buy-back rates have remained high with more than 35% of the horses returning to their sellers at the OBS February and Fasig-Tipton Florida select auctions.

“There is still money out there for the very nice horse,” said consignor Niall Brennan. “The horses that look to be the cream, they’re going to find homes. There is going to be plenty of competition for them.”

At OBS in February, three horses sold for $400,000 or more apiece, surpassing 2009’s price peak of $340,000. The sale-topping price for the Fasig-Tipton Calder auction rose from $1.6 million last year to $2.3 million.

At the 2009 OBS March sale, the most expensive horse brought $450,000 and 78 horses sold for $100,000 or more each. Traditionally, the majority of offerings in the auction have been middle market horses that attract people who have more limited disposable income than the captains of industry.

“People can come here with a budget and get a horse,” Brennan said. “Unfortuantely, the buyers we’re lacking right now are the lawyers, the accountants, and the working guys, who come and spend $100,000 on two or three horses each year. There are less people for the middle market horses, plenty of which are good, decent, useful horses.

"You have to be concerned because at the end of the day, it’s all about supply and demand, and there still are more horses availaible than there are buyers. We’re hoping the sale will be OK, but we’re not expecting any miracles here. The reality right now is that there is a market for quality stock, but anything less than that people don’t seem to want.”

The OBS March auction begins at 2.pm. (EDT) on its first day and 11 a.m. (EDT) on its second day.

Last year, the 215 horses that sold grossed $20,681,000 and averaged $96,191.  The median price was $70,000, and the buy-back rate was 39.2%. Compared to 2008, the gross plunged 38% while the average dropped 32.9%. The median was down 30%.