The sale-topper, hip#147, c. Cape Canaveral - Caveat Apt.

The sale-topper, hip#147, c. Cape Canaveral - Caveat Apt.

Louise E. Reinagel

Record Median Set at OBS Yearling Select Session; Gross, Average Down

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. got off to a solid start, setting a record for median during its select session.

The select session of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August yearlings sale posted an all-time high for its median price Monday, but failed to surpass last year's records for gross revenue and average price. Considering the significant downturns at many other Thoroughbred auctions lately, OBS director of sales and general manager Tom Ventura was pleased with the results.

"Going in, based on earlier returns at the yearling sales and this year's 2-year-old season, we thought if we could stay within that 10% range (of last year's yearling sale statistics), plus or minus, we'd be happy, and as it turned out, it was right in that ballpark," Ventura said. "We had end users here as well as the pinhookers, and I think that made it a competitive sale."

The 167 yearlings sold grossed $9,679,500 and averaged $57,961. The median was $50,000. Compared to a year ago, when 176 horses were sold, the gross declined 7.2% from $10,427,000 and the average decreased 2.2% from $59,247.  The median rose 11.1% from $45,000 (which had equaled the former record, first established in 2004). Meanwhile, the buy-back rate dropped from 32.3% in 2006 to 25.1% this year.

"It's a jam-up sale, absolutely," said consignor Francis Vanlangendonck of Summerfield. "There are two or three people on (each of) the nice horses, and a lot of people are here buying. If you want $50,000 for a horse, it brings $60,000 or $70,000, but it's not bringing $100,000. People have a limit; they're stopping and not going on and buying a horse for whatever. But it's still a very good sale."

A handsome son of Cape Canaveral  brought the select session's top price of $210,000 from Kentucky-based trainer Kenny McPeek, who outlasted Northern California conditioner Greg Gilchrist in the bidding battle. Produced from the 14-year-old winning Chief's Crown mare Caveat Apt, the Florida-bred chestnut ridgling is a half-brother to 2002 Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes (gr. III) winner Crowned Dancer.

"I thought he was the best colt in the sale," McPeek said. "Physically, he was fantastic. He's from a Mr. Prospector sire line, and I love the broodmare sire. He's a star. He has a great hip and great balance. He's a special horse. I figured it would take at least $200,000 (to buy him)."

McPeek purchased the top-priced horse, Hard Strike (by Smart Strike), for $300,000 from the select session at last year's OBS auction. The trainer wasn't sure which of his clients would end up owning the Cape Canaveral ridgling.

"I haven't placed him yet," McPeek said. "I'll worry about that in the next day or two. I've got a nice list of people, and I'll call a few of them. He was bought to race."

Janie Roper consigned the ridgling for his breeder, Bill Hunter's Hunter Farms. Hunter lives in Colorado, according to Roper, who said the yearling was prepped for the OBS auction at Maurleen Miller's Winter Quarters Farm near Williston, Fla.

"It was a pleasant surprise for all of us; I'm ecstatic." said Roper, who is based in Ocala. "He's a big, stout, good-looking horse, and he caught everybody's eye. He was very popular and had a lot of vet work. He's what everybody wants to buy.

McPeek was the immediate underbidder to Nick de Meric, who bought the select session's second-highest-priced yearling, a muscular colt from the first crop of the Unbridled stallion Spanish Steps, for $200,000. The dark bay or brown yearling is out of the 14-year-old unraced Ogygian mare Poqito Polly and is a half-brother to 2000 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) winner Fiesty Countess (by Count the Time), who produced 2007 Kentucky Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) winner Rated Fiesty (by Exchange Rate).

"We thought he was a wonderfully athletic-looking colt," de Meric said. "He had all the poise and balance that you look for in a young athlete. The pedigree is on fire, and he's just an outstanding prospect in my view. He was bought for a racing stable rather than to pinhook. The price was about what I personally pegged him at, but we would have gone a little further if we had had to."

De Meric declined to reveal who would be the colt's new owner.

Eddie Martin's Martin Stables South consigned the colt and stands his sire at its farm near Reddick, Fla. Spanish Steps is a full brother to the grade I winner and successful stallion Unbridled's Song.

"Having a colt from the first crop of Spanish Steps as a potential sale topper is just awesome," Martin said. "He was special the day he hit the ground. He about killed the mare when she was foaling him because he was so big, but we saved her and she's in foal now. Everything's good."

Florida pinhooker Murray Smith bought the select session's most expensive filly, spending $185,000 for a daughter of Harlan's Holiday out of the stakes-winning Unreal Zeal mare Zealous Folia. Summerfield, operated by Vanlangendonck and his wife, Barbara, consigned the bay yearling as agent.

She's gorgeous; I love Harlan's Holidays," Smith said.

The sale runs through Friday, with four open sessions scheduled. Selling begins each day at 11 a.m. (EDT).