Let the bull run.
That seems to be the prevailing sentiment of Ocala Breeders' Sales management and consignors with horses entered in the Jan. 24-25 winter mixed sale in Ocala, Fla.
As they showed off their drafts on a pleasant Jan. 23 morning, those involved were optimistic the auction will be a continuation of the robust mixed markets in the fall and at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale earlier this month.
The regular and supplemental catalogs total 712 entrants, compared with the 645 cataloged during the 2017 auction—the first after OBS combined its previous fall mixed sale in October with the winter sale. That move enabled the sales company to schedule its annual yearling sale in October, a more favorable calendar spot than its previous August date.
During the 2017 winter mixed sale, 326 horses sold for a total of $2,970,700, compared to 361 horses bringing $4,597,600 in 2016. The average was $9,113 compared to $12,736 in 2016, while the median price declined to $4,500 compared with $6,000 the previous year. The buy-back percentage rose from 29.6% in 2016 to 36.8% in 2017.
With sessions beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET daily, this year's sale begins with consignor preferred session Wednesday that will be followed by the horses of racing age segment. The sale concludes Thursday with an open session.
As of early Tuesday, there had been 145 horses withdrawn.
OBS president Tom Ventura said the sale will likely follow other markets, and quality will be in greatest demand.
"At the upper end, for those horses it will follow along the trend seen throughout last year," Ventura said. "The ones that filter to the top—with some sire power and are nice physically, those horses are going to do very well."
"I don't anticipate the market to be any different than it was in Kentucky in November and January," said Francis Vanlangendonck, who with his wife Barbara operate Summerfield and have one of the largest OBS consignments.
Dr. Barry Eisaman, who operates Eisaman Equine with his wife Shari and only has a two-horse OBS coinsignment, said the healthy bloodstock market of 2017 and overall positive economic factors are among the reasons for optimism going into the OBS sale.
"I'm a believer that the ups and downs of the horse market in general parallels the stock market," Eisaman said. "As healthy as the stock markets has been and as healthy as the sales were in late 2017, along with the new tax laws that are going to give extra incentives to buy Thoroughbred horses, I think the mood is set for us to have a good season going forward."
Reflecting a belief by consignors that many buyers—especially pinhookers—did not fill all their orders when shopping for weanlings last fall, the 374 short yearlings entered represent more than half the catalog.
A yearling daughter of Shanghai Bobby sold for $110,000 topped the 2017 sale, where 172 yearlings sold for total receipts of $1,926,500, with an average of $11,201 and a $5,000 median.
"From what I've heard, some of those weanling-to-yearling pinhookers have had a difficult time this fall and winter getting horses bought," said consignor David O'Farrell of Ocala Stud. "I think the good short yearlings will sell particularly well."
"There is a big market for babies, and I think they are going to sell well," said Vanlangendonck, noting that the OBS move to a January-only mixed sale was beneficial to the foal market. "It was hard to get weanlings ready for October and (January) has worked out to be a much better spot for yearlings."
Another niche filled by the OBS January sale is the availability of horses in training at the start of a new racing season. With the addition of 17 supplements, there are 111 horses of racing age cataloged for the Wednesday session.
"There is always a demand for 3-year-olds ready to run," said sales director Tod Wojciechowski, noting that the pre-sale workouts by some of the potential racehorses are beneficial to buyers. "The thing that is a little different with our sale is the ability see them under tack, which you don't necessarily see at others."
While the yearling and horses of racing age markets are expected to be strong, the tepid demand for broodmares—especially those in foal to less-than-fashionable stallions and/or with spotty produce records—seen in previous markets is likely to continue.
"It doesn't seem like there is a lot of vibrancy in the broodmare market unless it's real quality," O'Farrell said. "There seems to be fewer people who want to carry these mares, pay boards and stud fees, and roll the dice on breeding. There are also a lot of culls in there from people who are wanting to restock, and you just have to hope there is someone there to pick up the slack."