Hip 47 brings $200,000, the high price for the opening session of the OBS August Yearling Sale.

Hip 47 brings $200,000, the high price for the opening session of the OBS August Yearling Sale.

Joseph DiOrio

OBS Yearling Sale Struggles at Start

The Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s August yearling sale got off to a rocky start in Central Florida, suffering significant downturns from the previous year in the number of horses sold, gross revenue, average price, and median price. Meanwhile, the buy-back rate soared to 42.5% during the auction’s lone select session Aug. 18.

“Apart from a couple of the smaller guys out of Calder and Kinsman Farm, it’s just a bunch of pinhookers beating up on one another, and that’s basically it,”  said Florida horseman Eddie Woods, who thought there were fewer end users and shoppers from outside of the Sunshine State than usual.

The 115 select yearlings that sold grossed $5,778,000 and averaged $50,243. Their median was $40,000. Compared to last year’s select session, the number sold declined 31.3% from 167 and the gross plunged 40.3% from $9,679,500. The average fell 13.3% from $57,962 while the median dropped 20.0% from the select session’s all-time high of $50,000. Last year’s buy-back rate was 25.1%.

“It’s about how I thought it would be; the RNAs (buy-backs) skyrocketed,” said Justin Casse of Casse Sales. “You can’t even give away a mediocre or a less-than-mediocre horse.”

Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales, wasn’t sure why the setbacks were so widespread. Among the reasons he mentioned for the lack of buyer enthusiasm was Florida’s loss to Kentucky of successful sires such as Songandaprayer and Successful Appeal, which has caused an increase in the percentage of yearlings by young, unproven stallions in the OBS catalog.

“When you go over 40% in the buy-back rate, I think that’s the number that is the most bothersome,” Ventura said. “Maybe people in general are just pulling back and not buying as many horses or being even more particular because there are a lot of horses for sale. And there is some impact, obviously, from the economy; it has to be affecting the sale somewhat. But it’s hard to put a finger on any one particular reason.”

A daughter of Macho Uno topped the session, bringing $200,000 from Dr. Robert Fishman, who was bidding on the telephone. He had to fight off a flock of pinhookers, including Nick and Jaqui de Meric and Off the Hook’s Joe Appelbaum and Carlos Morales. Hidden Brook, as agent for Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, consigned the filly.

“She is the first horse I’ve ever bought that I haven’t physically seen (in person),” said Fishman, a 62-year-old retired general practitioner, in a telephone interview with The Blood-Horse. “But I’m an old friend of Dan Hall (a consultant to Adena Springs and partner in Hidden Brook), and I had spoken to him at length about her, and I had also talked to people at the farm. I had heard good things about her from the time she was born.”

Fishman, who lives in Pennsylvania and has owned horses for more than 40 years, teamed with Bill Roebling of New Jersey to purchase the filly. Roebling’s uncle, Joseph Roebling, bred and raced grade I winner and Kentucky broodmare of the year Fall Aspen, whose nine stakes-winning offspring included champion and 1995 Preakness (gr. I) winner Timber Country.

“He (Bill Roebling) will probably be the owner of record,” Fishman said. “We’re going to do everything we can to do right by her. She may not even race at 2. I wasn’t just looking for a horse to buy; I was looking for this one particular jewel. I’ve looked at the Keeneland September (yearling sale) catalog, and none of the horses in there raised my eyebrow like this one did.”

Fishman has been a fan of the $200,000 filly’s bloodlines for a long time. He said he was the immediate underbidder to Frank Stronach at the 1992 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale when the Adena Springs owner purchased Primal Force, who later produced Macho Uno, for $92,000. Fishman subsequently tried to buy the mare privately from Stronach, but failed. He also tried to buy Top of the League, the dam of the $200,000 filly, privately from Stronach after she completed her racing career and again after she was carrying the filly.

Top of the League, a 10-year-old daughter of Lite the Fuse, raced only twice, and Fishman said he saw both of those efforts. She broke her maiden at Belmont Park and finished first in the 2000 Manayunk Stakes at Philadelphia Park. Top of the League later was disqualified and placed last in the Manayunk because of a medication positive, according to Hall. She fractured a hind leg while being pointed for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and never raced again.

“We expected a high number for her; she’s a nice filly,” said Hidden Brook's Sergio de Sousa of the Macho Uno yearling. “We were a little worried about the (low) number of buyers here. We had to make a lot of calls, and she was an easy filly to get people to come look at her, so it worked out well.”

Added Hall: "She is very mature, and she's very, very, well-balanced and has a good walk. She has all the parts, obviously."

Dream of Atlantis, a Stormy Atlantic colt, sold for the select session’s second-highest price of $165,000. Joseph Greeley of Sabine Stable purchased the yearling from Summerfield, agent. The colt is the first foal out of the 6-year-old unraced Carson City mare City of Dreams, who is a half-sister to stakes winner Little Miss Zip (by City Zip, son of Carson City).

Woods will prepare Dream of Atlantis to be offered at a sale of 2-year-olds in training next year.

The OBS yearling sale is scheduled to run through Aug. 21 with three open sessions, but they could be disrupted by Tropical Storm Fay, which hit Key West Aug. 18.

“We’ll have to see what Mother Nature does to us overnight and see if we have to make any plans,” Ventura said. “It’s kind of wait and see at this point.”

View complete Day 1 results here.