It's transition time in the Thoroughbred marketplace, and horsemen are eager to see if upswings in business will carry over from breeding stock to 2-year-olds in training.
Many seem to think the positive commercial trend will continue when the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. kicks off the select juvenile selling season Tuesday with its auction at Calder Race Course in South Florida.
"I don't see any indications that the sales would be any different now than they were in the fall with the yearlings and the big breeding stock sales," said Tom Ventura, the OBS director of sales and general manager.
"The market is good right now, and I don't see any reason for it to change. We have had good activity throughout the barns, and I think we have good horses here. This sale continues to produce racehorses, which will bring back the buyers. We had a real impressive win from one of our graduates Saturday in the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II), Wait a While. She won by 14 lengths."
Last year's OBS Calder auction produced sale records for both average and median prices while more horses than ever before sold for individual prices of $100,000 or more and $200,000 and up.
As for this year, "I think the 2-year-old market is going to be nice and solid," said consignor Becky Thomas of Sequel Bloodstock. "I know I've got more horses that I really like this year, and I feel good about them. The horses have shown well here, the buyers are here, and certainly our business indicates that there should be money here coming off the November and January breeding stock sales."
Said another consignor, trainer Mark Casse of Moonshadow Farm: "We're cautiously optimistic. So far, the turnout of buyers has been fairly good. Racing could be in better shape right now, and that always concerns me because we're dealing with the end product. But if you look at the successful horses that have come out of 2-year-old sales, it's remarkable."
The second and final under tack show Sunday for the OBS Calder auction attracted such well-known shoppers as Irish agent Demi O'Byrne, Jimmy Bell of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation, and Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, whose clients include wine mogul Jess Jackson.
"I guess it's okay," said Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell of the sale catalogue's quality. "The pedigrees seem a little bit light on the dams' sides, but it may be always like that. This is mostly a conformation sale."
The catalogue is smaller than last year, with 192 head. As of Sunday afternoon, OBS reported that 40 horses had been scratched, representing 20.8% of the book.
"We work very closely with our consignors to catalogue the right horses, so they only bring the horses down here that are ready," Ventura said. "Even though we wait until the very last possible minute to finalize our catalogue, things do change, and consignors don't want to bring a horse down here that they're iffy on. The majority of the outs took place before the horses shipped (to South Florida). And some of those horses, 10 or 12 of them, we were able to just move back to our March sale."
Selling starts Tuesday at noon (EST) at Calder.