OBS 2YO Sellers Hoping for Better Market

The Thoroughbred marketplace will switch its focus to racing prospects.

After generating a grim series of results for breeding stock and weanlings, the Thoroughbred marketplace switches its focus to racing prospects beginning with the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. February select sale of 2-year-olds in training in Central Florida. Auction firm officials and consignors are hoping that buyers will be more enthusiastic about acquiring young horses nearly ready for competition even though the global economy continues to struggle.

The sale will be held Feb. 17, beginning at noon. Twenty-two of the 200 horses cataloged for the auction had been scratched as of Feb. 15.

“We have a few more entries this year, which is a good sign because it gives people more horses to choose from,” said OBS chairman Mike O’Farrell, who operates Ocala Stud. “We also feel like we have a very good group of horses from a physical standpoint – every bit as good as last year’s group if not better. In normal circumstances, we would be optimistic. But, unfortunately, we’re not in normal circumstances. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there, and we just don’t know how it will affect us.”

Conditions were ideal for the auction’s under tack show Feb. 13. The skies were sunny; the weather was cool in the morning and warm in the afternoon; and the track’s synthetic surface was fast. Three fillies each worked an eighth of a mile in :9 3/5, which was a record for an OBS juvenile auction. And three colts breezed a quarter mile in :20 2/5, also believed to be another OBS mark.

“I think everybody is rooting for the first select 2-year-old sale of the year to get off the ground pretty good,” said consignor Niall Brennan. “People have realistic expectations, and if it’s a solid sale, that’s going to be a positive confidence builder for the whole season.”

According to Brennan, the select juvenile auctions should be able to avoid the statistical drops of 40% or more that many of the mixed sales suffered.

“I don’t think we’ll see a 50% reduction by any means,” he said. “More people are interested in racing, where they can hopefully earn some money sooner, than in sitting on broodmares for several years. Also, one of the reasons I think we saw the big downturns during the recent breeding stock sales is because there were an awful lot of scratches of the better horses because people were afraid they weren’t going to get a fair price. In the 2-year-old sales, we don’t want to scratch our best horses and we don’t do it unless there is an illness or an injury.”

Brennan discussed several other reasons why he was optimistic that prices for select juveniles wouldn’t plummet.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who are planning to come to the sale, and I think the catalog reads very well,” he said. “I know I’ve got a very solid consignment, and I’ve seen a lot of nice horses on the track. Statistically, the OBS February sale has been an excellent source for good horses (with recent graduates, including champion Wait a While and grade I winners Mani Bhavan and Black Seventeen). I think OBS has done a good job trying to promote the sale and reminding people of its success; that’s important.”

The OBS February sale was among 2008’s strongest performing auctions. Its average price of $157,640 and median price of $125,000 established sale records. Its gross revenue of $14,030,000 was up 9.3% from the previous year.

“We have nice horses, and if people want to buy nice horses, they’re probably going to be able to buy them for a little bit less than last year,” O’Farrell said. “And there’s still going to be good purses to run for in a lot of different states. Things aren’t all doom and gloom. Let’s hope there are some buyers out there willing to take a chance that they can come up with the big horse and that the market will hold up reasonably well.”