OBS March Sale Might Have Its Strongest Catalogue Ever

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March select sale of 2-year-olds in training is a middle market auction by tradition. But the quality of its stock has improved significantly in recent years.

Dr. Barry Eisaman and his wife, Shari, target this auction with their horses, and many consignors offer some of their top juveniles in March rather than in February in South Florida. The timing means they don't have to rush their horses as much, and the sale also is convenient because it's conducted in Central Florida, which is where many pinhookers live. This year's catalogue is probably the best in the history of the auction, which is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Selling begins each day at 11 a.m.(EST).

"I think we have more depth at the top of the market than we've ever had before, and it shows that the consignors have enough confidence in this sale to bring some of their better horses here," said Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager and director of sales. It's something that's evolved over the years. This sale has just been getting better and better, and it's produced solid results along the way in terms of prices and quality racehorses."

There are 535 juveniles catalogued by such stallions as A.P. Indy, Forestry, Fusaichi Pegasus , Johannesburg, Orientate, Pulpit, and Unbridled's Song. The auction's record for average price is $92,094, set in 2004. But the price for an individual horse has reached seven figures, and last year's sale topper brought $900,000.

"We had excellent previews during the first weekend of under tacks shows, and the interest has been solid, Ventura said. "All the indicators -- the hotel rooms, the DVD requests, and the credit requests -- have been very solid. We sold an Eclipse Award winner, Lost in the Fog, and when you have a headliner like that, it certainly helps. Overall, I'm looking forward to a good sale."

The latest crop of OBS March horses is full of speed. During the March 11 session of the under tack show, which featured approximately half the horses in the catalogue, more than 30 head breezed an eighth of a mile in 10 1/5. Three horses worked in :10.

"I think it's really good," said consignor Dean De Renzo of the large number of quick breezes. "When you only have one, then all the buyers seem to go to that one horse. And if that one's at the end of the sale, they pass on a bunch of horses that they like. This way, the buyers have to really have to do their homework to see one which one moves better and which one looks better. They look at the horses in every barn, all the way around."

Last year, the OBS March auction generated a sale record gross revenue, but both the average and median price declined. Here's what some other people had to say about the prospects for this year's edition:

Robert Harris, consignor: "When I was down South at Calder, I heard so many people, especially California people, saying, 'Im waiting for OBS March; I'm waiting for OBS March.' The stock is here, and there are plenty of horses for every price range. I think it's going to be a solid sale."

Niall Brennan, consignor: "It's been quite busy. We were showing the last couple of days pretty nicely, and today (Sunday) we were very steady all day. There were more people here than there were on this day last year. There are a lot of solid horses, I think. The quality has been getting better every year."

Norman Casse, chairman of the board of OBS: "I think it's going to very good if you've got a nice horse, no problem. But if you've got a bad horse it could be a problem. The market is strong, and we will take care of the middle market here. We have a lot of people who come here with the middle market in mind. This is a workmen's sale. Horses from this sale can run and pay their way. You didn't see many of the trainers in Miami buy horses down in South Florida, but several of them have been at the barns here. I'm happy with what I've seen so far."

Ryan Mahan, OBS director of auctions: "It's the first true test of the middle market, and I think it will hold up well. Historically, these horses run. They're in an affordable price range that brings people from all over this country and from others."