Still reeling from the effects of the worldwide financial crisis, buyers approached the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March select sale of 2-year-olds in training cautiously, and their reluctance to spend the really big bucks was a major factor in the opening session's setbacks. Compared to a year ago, when the auction enjoyed a record-setting run, the gross revenue dropped 29.6% while the average price fell 32.6%,and the median price declined 22.2% March 17 in Central Florida.
“My basic thought is that it doesn’t look too bad unless you’re trying to sell a horse big,” said consignor Joe Appelbaum of Off the Hook. “I just don’t think the buyers are going to pay $600,000, $700,000, or $800,000. Maybe they will on one horse, but not on multiple horses.”
OBS reported that 115 horses were sold for a gross of $11,080,000. The average was $96,348, and the median was $70,000. Last year, the 110 juveniles that sold during the first session grossed $15,734,500 and averaged $143,041. The median was $90,000.
The buyback rate this year was 40.1%.
“The numbers obviously were down, but there was still pretty good strength at the top, I thought,” said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. “We had 16 horses that brought $200,000 or more, and I thought it was pretty competitive for those horses. I think the buyers got good value. We’re dealing with an economic situation that has certainly impacted the horse market, and think because of that, the buyers have had the edge this year and it continued here.”
In 2008, for the entire sale, seven horses sold for $500,000 or more apiece. This year, no horse reached that price level during the first session.
Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, representing wine mogul Jess Jackson and his wife, Barbara Banke, bought four horses for the couple in the names of Stonestreet (used for three colts) and Grace Stables (used for one filly). He spent $1,225,000, and purchases included the session’s top-priced offering, a $425,000 Indian Charlie filly, and the most expensive colt, a $400,000 son of Grand Slam. Moynihan also paid $230,000 for a Perfect Soul – Copper Belle colt and $170,000 for a Maria’s Mon – Uluvitnunoit colt.
The Jerry Bailey Sales Agency, agent, consigned the bay Indian Charlie filly, which worked an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5 prior to the auction. She is the first foal produced from the 8-year-old Tactical Cat mare Hollywood and Wine, who captured the 2004 Bob Bryant Stakes at Prairie Meadows.
“She’s a really, really pretty filly,” said Moynihan, who held off California-based trainer John Sadler in the bidding battle. “Jerry Bailey loved her, and that had a lot to do with us liking her. We loved her physically, but Jerry really absolutely loved her. She’s gorgeous and looks like she’ll run far, and I love the stallion. That stallion has been very good to me. A lot of horses I’ve bought by him have turned out to be good horses such as Pampered Princess, who won the (Juddmonte) Spinster Stakes (gr. I).
Of the Indian Charlie filly’s $400,000 price, Moynihan said: “It was higher than I expected. I thought she would bring $250,000 to $300,000, but I talked to Jerry and he said everybody loved her. She moves good, and she’s a great big filly. She’s definitely a two-turn filly, so the fact she did what she did on the track was good enough. We’re happy to have her.”
Gulf Coast Farm, operated by Bailey and his wife, Leslie, along with Lance and Marla Robinson, purchased the filly for $200,000 from Meg Levy’s Bluewater Sales, agent, at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. Bred in Kentucky by Shattuk/RPM, the filly was sold as a weanling for $155,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale by Eaton Sales, agent, to Desperado Stables.
“I think the filly sold very well,” said Bailey, who protected her at the OBS March auction with a $299,999 reserve. “Almost everybody who has money to spend here was on her. She was out nonstop for two days. She had 16 vets (endoscopic and/or X-ray exams). I think she brought as much as the market would let her bring right now. I’ve liked her all winter because of the way she moved, the way she looked, the way she acted, and the way she breezed. Every breeze, she has progressively gotten better, and better, and better. She’s also been very sound, and she’s got a lot of leg. And what more can you say about Indian Charlie? He can get the big horse. ”
Moynihan said he was talking to Jess Jackson on a cell phone when he bought the $400,000 Grand Slam colt. The immediate underbidder was New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, who was sitting with Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds in the sale pavilion.
The smooth-striding gray or juvenile breezed a quarter mile in :20 3/5.
“I thought we would buy him a little bit cheaper, but he was certainly a lovely horse – a really, really nice horse,” said Moynihan, who made his offers from behind the auction stand near chutes where the horses wait before entering the sale ring.
The colt “moved beautifully on the racetrack and came back good, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Moynihan added. “I was getting ready to stop. That was kind of at our limit of where I thought he was worth, but he went absolutely gorgeous on the racetrack. He looks like he can get a little distance of ground, and that’s kind of what we’re looking for, so I thought we would take a shot.”
Off the Hook, a pinhooking venture and sales agency that Appelbaum operates in partnership with Carlos Morales, consigned the colt to the OBS March auction as agent.
“He had a lot of interest -- double digit scopes (endoscopic throat exams), multiple X-rays, all the right people looking at him,” Appelbaum said. “His breeze, I think, was very impressive to people. Even though he’s not the largest horse in the world, people really liked his physical. They loved his walk, and they liked his balance. There aren’t a lot of knocks against him. His vetting was good; everything passed the tests.”
“We’re happy with the price,” Appelbaum continued, “and we’re happy with the people he’s going to. They’re the right sort of people; they know what they’re doing, so it kind of makes us feel good.”
Off the Hook purchased the colt for $80,000 from Indian Creek, agent, at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is the third foal out of the 8-year-old winning Dixieland Band mare Cosmic Wish, who is a half-sister to grade III winner Cosmonaut (by Lemon Drop Kid ). She has produced a winner, Cosmic Time (by Gilded Time).
“He didn’t have the scope and size that everyone loves to buy, especially at the yearling sales,” said Appelbaum of the Grand Slam colt. “But if you look at his family, it’s a pretty good running family. Cosmonaut is in there, and I think Mr. (Will) Farish owns a half-brother, Atomic Force, who is very highly thought of. They (the buyers) loved his workout. It was fast, but it wasn’t out of control. It was done in a way that suggests he wasn’t allowed to kill himself in that workout.”
Patricia Pavlish bred the $400,000 colt in Kentucky.
The second and final session of the OBS March auction is scheduled for March 18, beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT).