OBS Hoping March Juvenile Auction Maintains Last Year's Pace

Traditionally, the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March select auction has been considered a source for 2-year-olds with affordable prices. But last year, it produced a seven-figure colt that established a record for the most expensive juvenile ever sold by OBS. Named Warners, the $1,050,000 son of Dehere also was one of only two seven-figure 2-year-olds sold in North American in 2001.

Also last year, the OBS March auction recorded its highest average ever while suffering moderate losses in gross revenue and median. Tom Ventura, the company's general manager and director of sales, is hoping to hold steady in 2002. The auction will be conducted Tuesday and Wednesday in Central Florida, with sessions beginning each morning at 11:00 (EST).

"We kind of squeaked out a record average last year, and the million-dollar horse was obviously was real exciting," Ventura said. "We would be satisfied with similar results this year. If we can maintain our average or increase it a little, it will be a successful sale.

"The pinhooking average (for horses purchased as yearlings to resell) didn't change significantly one way or the other. The pinhookers don't have much more or much less invested, so that won't be a big factor in whether the market is up or down."

The auction may benefit from more favorable news about the American economy in recent weeks. This is an important development because nearly all the major buyers in March are domestic. Last year's biggest players included Eugene Melnyk (who purchased Warners), Choctaw Racing Stable, New York bloodstock agent Brian Morgan, New Jersey bloodstock agent Buzz Chace, and James MacIngvale. Narvick International, representing Japanese clients, also ranked among the leading spenders.

"We do seem to be getting good response in terms of credit requests and people indicating that they are coming," Ventura said.

In 2001, the 216 horses sold grossed $15,166,000 and averaged $70,213. The median was $51,000. The gross and median declined by 13.4% and 7.3%, respectively from the previous year. The average rose by less than one percent. The buy-back rate was 37.0% in 2001 compared to 34.4% in 2000.

In other sale-related news:

Warners is scheduled to compete in the sale company's annual day of racing on Monday. He has been entered for the colt and gelding division of the $50,000 OBS Sprint Stakes. Warners has not raced since breaking his maiden at 6 ½ furlongs last September at Saratoga.

Ventura said he is doing well after recent surgery for a detached retina even though his left eye remains swollen. His grueling post-op regimen included wearing a neck brace and maintaining his head in various positions for long periods of time to aid healing. The problem arose from an old injury suffered when Ventura was hit in the head by a golf ball.