The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February select sale of 2-year-olds in training is in a precarious position in a precarious market. As the leadoff auction in the juvenile selling season, its results can be important in setting the tone for the year, but it must overcome a smaller than usual catalog and a recession-battered economy to make the positive impact that sale company officials and consignors would like to see.
The 160 horses originally scheduled to go through the sale ring Feb. 16 in Central Florida represented a decrease of 20% from last year’s total of 200, and scratches had reduced this year’s total to 127 as of Feb. 12, the day of the under tack show.
“Hopefully, the fact there’s not an unlimited supply will make the horses sell better because of the laws of supply and demand,” said Florida bloodstock agent Barry Berkelhammer. “But if you get a catalog that is too small, people just don’t make an effort to come because they’re afraid there won’t be enough horses to choose from.”
OBS director and consignor Eddie Woods was cautious in his outlook.
“You always want to start off on the right foot and have an upbeat kind of sale where people want to talk about the good things coming up rather than hearing all about doom and gloom if the sale wasn’t all it should have been,” Woods said. “But it’s going to be a little tough. It’s a smaller book and that narrows your chances right away. Once the target has narrowed it's harder to hit. The good horses will take care of themselves, but I’ll be praying for the rest.””
Because of the auction’s small size, Woods added, people shouldn't read too much into its results.
“I would have to say it won’t tell us too much about the overall market because there aren’t going to be enough horses there to be able to make a proper comparison,” he explained. But Woods also pointed out that the smaller catalog is in line with the prevailing trend because the Fasig-Tipton Florida and Keeneland April sales' books are smaller than they were in 2009, and the OBS March auction's catalog, which has not been released, is down in size.
“The February sale has been a great sale for selling racehorses, and great horses have come out of this sale over the years and probably will continue to,” Woods said. “Everyone says it’s too early and they want to give the horses more time, but I think they (the sellers) are really more worried about being the first ones to try the waters.”
The market at last year’s OBS auction was difficult. The gross revenue for the 93 horses that sold dropped 29.7% from 2009 to $9,868,700 while the average price plunged 32.7% to $106,115. The median was down 28% to $90,000, and the buy-back rate soared to 39.6% from 28.2% in 2009.
“I guess what we’re all hoping is that we bottomed out last year and we can start crawling our way back up a little bit,” said Nick de Meric, another OBS director and consignor. ”I’m not naïve enough to think that it’s all going to be peaches and cream or that all the hard times are over, but at the same time I do hope we can make some forward progress from last year or at least maintain the (sale's) results -- maybe not the gross, but at least the average and median. We’ve got a heck of a nice group of 2-year-olds and I hope some people show up and buy them because there are some horses that can stack up to anything in any sale’s book.”
The auction begins at noon (EST).