Artax Colt Leads Way During First OBS Open Session

An Artax colt sparked some bidding fireworks at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August yearling sale Tuesday, bringing $160,000 during the first open session. California-based trainer Bob Baffert was the buyer, with long-time associates J.B. and Kevin McKathan handling the transaction at the Central Florida auction. They did not say which of Baffert's clients would race the colt.

"He was a dead standout in here," said Kevin McKathan of the handsome chestnut. "He was the one that everyone wanted, it seemed like. He's awesome. He has plenty of scope to him, and he already looks like a 2-year-old. He's a made dude.

"For sure, we thought he could cost more. But in this market, it was kind of what we thought he was going to bring. There's not many like him, and we knew a lot of people were going to be bellying up and trying to buy him."

The Kentucky-bred colt is out of the unraced 12-year-old Dixieland Band mare Dixieland Fantasy and is a half-brother to added-money winner Dixie High (by Anet). Other family members include Chimes Band, a grade II winner and a group III winner in France; grade II winner Freefourinternet; and grade III winner Fortifier.

"He's a really, really good physical horse," said J.B. McKathan. "And since he's a May foal, he's going to get better. He's got a good chance of turning into a super nice horse."

Beth Bayer consigned the colt for his breeder Donald R. Dizney, who is the president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association and the owner of Double Diamond Farm near Ocala.

"Yes, I was a little surprised," said Bayer of the price. "But he's a very nice colt with a great walk and a great mind. He's very athletic-looking."

Two other yearlings brought six-figure prices Tuesday. A Kentucky-bred Hennessy – Camptown Gypsy colt sold to Caldera Racing, with Florida bloodstock agent Tom McGreevy signing the ticket. He said Caldera Racing is a partnership consisting of himself and three of his brothers: Jim, Mark, and Dan. The colt probably will be resold next year at a sale of 2-year-olds in training through Eddie Woods. Justin and Mark Casse's Casse Sales consigned the colt for a Kentucky-based partnership, according to Justin Casse. Tony Lacy, agent, purchased the colt as a weanling for $20,000 at last year's Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

A Kentucky-bred Exploit – Carson Jen colt went to Florida pinhooker Murray Smith for $100,000. Bayer, as agent, consigned the yearling, which was bred by Gulf Coast Farms Bloodstock.

In all, 212 horses were sold for a gross of $2,622,600, an average of $12,371, and a median of $6,850. The gross was down 19.6% from a year ago, when the total was $3,261,700 for 240 horses sold. The average declined 9.0%, from $13,590 last year to $12,371 this year. The median fell 2.1%, from $7,000 to $6,850. And the buy-back rate rose from 18.6% to 19.1%.

"It's hard to be fair and evaluate the market based on one open session; we have three more days to go," said Tom Ventura, the director of sales and general manager of OBS. "The numbers within reason in terms of last year. The gross was down because we catalogued 30 or so fewer horses (for the session)."

The OBS sale started Monday with a select session and preferred yearlings from the first phase of the Farnsworth Farms dispersal. The auction continues through Friday with three more open sessions. Selling starts each day at 11 a.m. (EDT).

The figures for the first two sessions of the sale combined were 433 horses sold for a gross of $12,198,800 and an average of $28,173. Last year, during the first two days, 417 horses were sold for a gross of $12,513,700 and an average of $30,009.

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