The last time Ocala Breeders' Sales conducted a yearling sale, prominent trainer Mark Casse was in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., saddling horses in that boutique meet's major graded stakes.
But with OBS rescheduling the sale to October from August, which not only competed with the Saratoga Race Course meet but also with the Del Mar race meet on the West Coast, Casse was one of the top buyers who helped push numbers for the Oct. 10 selected session well beyond the comparable session a year ago.
OBS reported 107 yearlings sold Tuesday for $9,841,400, compared with 148 yearlings bringing $5,573,300 at the 2016 selected session. The average price was $45,247, up 20.1% compared with $37,657 last year, while the median was $32,000, up 28% compared with $25,000 last year. The buyback percentage was 38.5%; it was 33.6% a year ago.
"We saw a number of people here we haven't seen here previously," said OBS sales director Tod Wojciechowski. "I think the change in the sales calendar helped that. Also, people brought us good horses. There is obviously a lot of competition in the upper end of the market as we've seen all year and that was no different here."
The session-topper was a Violence colt purchased by top Casse client John C. Oxley for $275,000. Consigned as Hip 126 by Richard Kent's Kaizen Sales, the dark bay or brown colt is out of Frank's Hope, by Pulpit, a winning daughter of grade 1 winner Silver Maiden and a half sister to graded stakes winner Dreaming of Liz. The colt was bred in Kentucky by Lantern Hill Farm.
"I thought there were some very nice horses," Casse said. "I thought the Violence colt was an exceptional colt. I bought some nice horses that have the chance to be any kind."
Casse, who plans to keep shopping for yearlings during the Oct. 11 OBS open session and at the Fasig-Tipton October sale when he will also be prepping his seven or eight Breeders' Cup World Championship contenders in Kentucky, said he would not have bought any horses had the OBS sale still been on the August calendar.
"To me, this is so much better timing," Casse said. "Normally in August it is impossible for me to attend here."
The day's second-highest price of $240,000 was paid by de Meric Stables for Hip 96, a chestnut colt by More Than Ready consigned by Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck's Summerfield, as agent for breeder Amy Tarrant's Hardacre Farm. The Florida-bred colt is out of Coal and Ice, by Tapit , a half sister to graded stakes-placed Blueridge Traveler.
"He's a beautiful colt, a stretchy horse," said Tristan de Meric. "Hopefully he will go on and do well. We thought he was a top horse in the sale and we're more than happy to have him."
De Meric also went to $230,000 for a daughter of Will Take Charge consigned by Stuart Morris as Hip 121. The bay filly is out of Final Heiress, by Forest Wildcat, a full sister to grade 1 winner and successful sire Wildcat Heir and graded stakes winner Forest Heiress.
De Meric, whose family's operation was leading buyer with five bought for $625,000, said there was a lot to like in the selected session offerings and that the competition for the better lots was not unlike that seen in earlier yearling auctions this year.
"We've found some horses here we're pretty excited about and hopefully they will turn out in the long run," de Meric said. "When you find one you really like, you have to be ready to really pay for it."
With Summerfield the leading selected session consignor with 16 head sold for $1,123,000, Francis Vanlangendonck said the market was similar to the recent marathon Keeneland September yearling sale.
"The market isn't anything different than we saw at Keeneland," the horseman said. "The good horses are bringing plenty of money, but if you have vetting issues you are going to be in trouble, like everywhere else."
Vanlangendonck said moving the sale was a logical move, considering all the competition for interest from owners, trainers, and agents in August.
"We fought that battle in August for years and the bottom line was we could never get the people out of Del Mar and Saratoga," he said. "You have to have the product but the people have to be able to come, so I think the October sale will the way to go. It will only get better and better."
The OBS sale concludes Wednesday with a session that begins at 9 a.m. ET.