The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s February select sale of 2-year-olds in training will be held at the auction firm's Central Florida base for the second year in a row in 2008, and it might not ever return to its former site at Calder Race Course, according to OBS chairman Mike O'Farrell.
"It just makes sense," said O'Farrell of the OBS board's recent unanimous decision to keep the February auction in Ocala. "It worked well for the sellers, and from all the comments that we had, it worked out well for the buyers."
OBS started conducting what was then known as the select Florida-bred juvenile sale in 1985 at Hialeah Park after absorbing the Florida Breeders' Sales Co. the previous year. In 1986, the auction moved to Calder and remained there until this year when OBS officials shifted it to Ocala. They said they were concerned about a conflict with Super Bowl XLI, which was conducted in South Florida around the same time the sale was scheduled at Calder. But the auction had been losing popularity with consignors, and the size of its catalogue had decreased.
Even though the 2007 median price for the February auction fell 9.1% from 2006, the gross and average price didn't change much. They declined 1% and 4.1%, respectively, while the number of horses sold increased slightly.
"The consignors felt the sale went equally as well here (in Ocala) as it would have in Miami, and obviously it's a lot easier for them (because many live in the Ocala area)," O'Farrell said. "We also had very positive comments from the majority of buyers who came from out of town.
"A lot of the trainers liked it," O'Farrell continued. "For example, if you’re a Todd Pletcher type and you're in Miami, you’re expected to be there training your horses in the morning. Then, you've got to rush over and look at sale horses. Then, you usually have a horse running at Gulfstream Park, so you've got to run over to Gulfstream in the afternoon. It's just hectic. Here, in Ocala, the trainers only have one thing to do, and that's look at the sale horses. But I shouldn't really say that because most of them have young horses training in Ocala, so they can go take care of business with those horses and then concentrate on the sale."
According to O'Farrell, OBS president Tom Chiota talked to Calder president Ken Dunn following the OBS board's decision.
"It didn't take Ken by surprise," O'Farrell said. "He kind of understood what the situation was."
Beyond 2008, "there is a very good chance that the Ocala Breeders Sales Co. February sale will continue to be here in Ocala," O'Farrell said. "You never say never, but unless something changes our minds in the foreseeable future, it will no longer be in Miami."