The market for young horses sizzled as the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. kicked off the selling season for 2-year-olds in training Tuesday in Central Florida with its February select auction, which attracted a large, diverse group of enthusiastic shoppers. The average and median prices both established sale records while the gross revenue rose significantly from a year ago even though the number of horses sold was the lowest since OBS took over the operation of the auction from the Florida Breeders' Sales Co. in the mid-1980s.
"We're obviously thrilled with the results; the buyers were fighting for the good horses," said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. "The depth of quality was very good, and we had more top colts than we did last year. With the low numbers of horses in the sale, you can’t project greatness for the rest of the year, but it (the auction's performance) was a good sign, and we certainly hope the success will continue. We have a very strong group coming up in March and wouldn't be surprised if we surpassed what we did last year. We're going to test the market a little better with numbers, but the quality is definitely there."
The 89 horses that sold Tuesday grossed $14,030,000 and averaged $157,640. The median was $125,000. Compared to 2007, the number sold dropped 7.3% from 96, but the gross advanced 9.3% from $12,831,000. The average grew 17.9% from $133,657, and the median increased 25.0% from $100,000. The buy-back rate fell from 29.9% last year to 28.8% this year.
The previous record for average, set in 2006, was $139,430. The former mark for the median, established in 2005, was $120,000.
This year's February sale marked the first time OBS had conducted under tack shows for a juvenile auction over the new Safetrack surface on its track, and the synthetic product received rave reviews from sellers, who said it was consistent and safe in addition to fast.
"We couldn't have asked for more from our track," Ventura said. "It worked well from a safety perspective. I don't think we had chips and (bucked) shins and things like that and also, I thought from a consistency standpoint, the track stayed fair throughout the day (during the under tack shows.)"
A Silver Deputyfilly, which was the first horse in the sale ring, topped the auction, bringing $520,000. New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace signed the sale ticket on behalf of West Point Thoroughbreds and automobile dealer John Williams of Georgia.
"She's a long-striding filly that moved beautiful over the racetrack," Chace said. "She's a nice good-sized filly with a good attitude. I thought we would probably get her for a little less, under $500,000, but I guess somebody else really wanted her, too."
Trainer Steve Klesaris and his client, Jeff Puglisi, were the immediate underbidders.
Produced from the 10-year-old stakes-winning Ghazi mare Daisy Dukes, the dark bay or brown filly is a half-sister to Japanese added-money winner Surplus Singer (by Songandaprayer). Barry Eisaman and his wife, Shari, bred the filly in the name of Eico Stable and consigned her to the sale in the name of their Eisaman Equine. The filly was one of 14 horses that shared the honors for the fastest time for an eighth of a mile during the auction's first under tack show, covering the distance in :10.
"I'm very happy," Shari Eisaman said. "She's always been big and beautiful, but when she breezed, I knew Hip No. 1 would never bother her after that. She's awesome on the racetrack. She is just very fluid, and she has an awesome reach (with her stride)."
Mythical Border, a filly by Johannesburg, sold for the auction's second-highest price of $500,000. Irish bloodstock agent John McCormack bought the chestnut 2-year-old for a client from the Middle East, whom he declined to identify.
"We'll bring her to England," McCormack said. "She's by a champion 2-year-old (in Europe and North America), and she looks very precocious; she looks fast. This sale comes at a very timely part of the year in relationship to acclimatizing and going back for quarantine. To be honest with you, she was bought with particularly one purpose in mind, which is to run in the Queen Mary Stakes (Eng-II) at Royal Ascot. We have big hopes. She's been given a specific job. It's a very long shot, but you live and hope."
Ciaran and Amy Dunne's Wavertree Stables consigned the racy-looking filly for Alan Pesch, the chief executive officer of Second Wind Racing, which is based in Ocala. Pesch purchased her for $150,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction.
The filly, who worked an eighth of mile in :10 on Feb. 3, is out of the 6-year-old unraced Boundary mare Border Dispute and is from the family of Canadian Horse of the Year and North American champion Fanfreluche, the dam of two-time Canadian Horse of the Year L'Enjoleur and Canadian champions La Voyageuse and Medaille d'Or.
"It's bittersweet," Pesch said. "We wanted to stay in her for 25% to 50%, but we couldn't find somebody who wanted to do that. She's a really, really nice filly. She just has beautiful balance, and she's a little ornery, which I think the good fillies are, and that sold me on her."
McCormack, for the same Middle Eastern client, also purchased the OBS sale's highest-priced colt, a $475,000 son of first-crop sire and champion sprinter Speightstown. Parrish Farms consigned the colt as agent. He is out of the 12-year-old stakes-winning Unbridled mare Unbridled Lady.
A filly by another first-crop sire, Lion Heart, sold for $475,000 to Irish agent Demi O' Byrne, a member of the Coolmore Stud buying team. Consigned by Mike and Britt Mulligan's Leprechaun Racing, agent, the filly is out of the 16-year-old stakes-placed Crafty Prospector mare Coffee Springs, who won five times. The 2-year-old is a half-sister to stakes-placed Pine for Java (by Pine Bluff), who has four wins.
Anne and Satish Sanan's Padua Stables was the auction's biggest spender, paying $2,380,000 for 10 horses.
OBS implemented an anabolic steroid regulation policy for 2-year-olds starting with the February auction. Ventura said the company received approximately 15 requests from buyers for horses to be tested after they were purchased.