When Ocala Breeders' Sales stages one day of racing Jan. 24, one day before its two-day winter mixed sale, the program will consist of eight Quarter Horse events and one race for Thoroughbreds, but will not include the Day of Champions stakes.
The stakes restricted to OBS sale graduates had been held in conjunction with the mixed sale or one of the auction company's 2-year-olds in training sales in recent years. Last year the four Day of Champions races, with purses totaling $300,000, drew 40 entries and were conducted on a card with seven Quarter Horse races one day prior to the start of the winter mixed sale.
Highlighting the card was a victory by Master Plan in the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes (colts and geldings division) and Dynatail's gate-to-wire win in the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes for fillies.
While the day of racing was popular, with a crowd estimated at 3,500 packed into the metal bleachers and surrounding park-like area on a sunny day in Central Florida, OBS management is repositioning the stakes on the calendar, with a tentative return set for fall of this year.
In order to conduct intertrack wagering, OBS must conduct non-wagering Thoroughbred races with purses of $250,000 within the calendar year. The sales company holds Quarter Horse races as part of its pari-mutuel Quarter Horse license.
While holding the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred races the same week as the auction is logistically challenging for management and staff, OBS president Tom Ventura said the difficulty of drawing sufficient entries was the overriding concern in the decision to delay the Thoroughbred stakes.
The January race date coincides with live race meets (albeit on the tracks' dark days) at Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs in South Florida, with OBS competing for the same pool of horses to fill its races.
"It became very challenging to put the races on in the middle of the Tampa meet and the Gulfstream meet, even though they are stakes races," Ventura said. "At one point, when there were a lot of horses and the racehorse population was larger, it was fairly easy to fill those races and with quality fields. Now we're tripping over each other to try to get the same horses.
"Since we're the ones they would have to ship to race in, a trainer with a horse running for $50,000 maiden might not want to come here, although it's a stakes and they would get black type. We thought there was a better spot in the calendar, and that will probably be in the fall, before the Tampa meet begins."
Ventura said the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races could conceivably be held the same day in the future, but in the fall rather than spring. OBS is constrained from doing that this year, because of a mandate that the pari-mutuel events be run before the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
"Putting the races together all on one day makes sense, but it's just something we need to rethink for this year," Ventura said.