In a departure from past years when Fasig-Tipton marked the beginning of juvenile sales, the 2018 season starting this week with the Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale will offer a broader test of the marketplace.
With 158 entries, Fasig-Tipton has moved its sale conducted in Gulfstream Park's walking ring to March 28 to coincide with Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) week at the Miami-area track.
A total of 571 juveniles are cataloged for the OBS sale March 13-14 in Ocala, Fla., that begins at 10:30 a.m. daily, down 15.3% from the 674 cataloged a year ago. As of March 11, there were 119 horses withdrawn from this year's auction.
Last year's sale ended with record gross receipts of $56,765,000 paid for 304 head, representing a 10.4% gain over the 2016 gross. The average price rose 16.5% from $160,275 in 2016 to a sale record $186,727, while the median fell to $95,000 from $102,500.
OBS president Tom Ventura said he doesn't believe Fasig-Tipton's decision to hold its sale later will have an impact on the market, and both sales have buyers who like one or the other or both.
"Depending on the type of horse they are looking for dictates which sale they're going to," Ventura said. "One advantage for this sale, whether it's first or last, is it will be able to attract buyers with different budgets."
With the three-day under tack show pre-sale workouts completed with no on-track issues, Ventura said OBS and consignors are prepared for an auction that will continue to build on the bull market of 2017.
"I think they've been able to show themselves on the track, and walking around the barn area, I see there is a lot of activity," said Ventura, as he joined the large group inspecting horses during a seasonably warm, sunny Sunday morning. 'I'm looking forward to a good sale."
Consignor Hoby Kight said he sees no reason why the juvenile marketplace will not remain strong throughout the OBS sale and beyond.
"I think it is going to be a great year for the horses in training sales," he said. "Racing is good and purses are good at the upper end. I expect to see a very strong 2-year-old sale, especially for those perceived to be the very good horses."
"There's good traffic at the barns, and people are ready to buy 2-year-olds," said Steve Venosa of SGV Thoroughbreds. "It's the first sale of the year, and we're excited to begin selling horses. It seems like there are a lot of people out here looking, so we'll see how it goes."
"I think it's going to be a good sale," said consignor Cary Frommer. "It will probably be more of the same, in which everybody will be on the same horses. The middle market might be a little light. Some of those middle-market horses worked very well, so it will be interesting to see if they are appreciated (by buyers). I will be very interested to see how having this sale first works. I would like to see how having it plays out."
Instilled Regard, who graces the cover of the 2018 catalog, is one of at least 26 horses sold during the OBS March sale that have won graded stakes races since the beginning of 2017. According to the sales company, March graduates accounted for 96 stakes wins and won or placed in 221 stakes races.
Purchased by Larry Best's OXO Equine for $1.05 million from Tom McCrocklin's consignment at last year's March sale, Instilled Regard is ranked 14th on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 19 points, the majority of which he earned with a win in the Jan.13 Lecomte Stakes (G3) for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Diamondsandpearls, the Congrats filly purchased by Kerri Radcliffe, as agent for Phoenix Thoroughbreds, for a sale-topping $1.7 million from the McKathan Bros. consignment at last year's sale, broke her maiden by an impressive 6 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park in her career debut, and was subsequently fourth in the Sorrento Stakes (G2).
Also coming out of last year's sale were Pure Silver, the $125,000 purchase by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock from Paul Sharp who went on to win the Adirondack Stakes (G2), and grade 3 winners Lombo ($75,000, bought by Pender Racing from Julie Davies), The Tabulator ($460,000 to Carolyn Wilson from Wavertree Stables), Engage ($550,000 to Woodford Racing from Crupi's New Castle Farm), and Analyze It ($190,000 to Bradley Thoroughbreds from Hoppel's Horse and Cattle Co.).
The catalog can be viewed via the OBS website, which also includes searchable and sortable master index and provides links to past performances, under tack videos, pedigree and consignor information, as well as pedigree updates occurring since the catalog was printed. It has also been updated to allow shortlist creation, with a link to instructions for using the new features that can be found in the index header.