The final opportunity this year for buyers to obtain near race-ready young horses and for sellers to move inventory occurs June 13-15, when Ocala Breeders' Sales conducts its June 2-year-olds in training sale.
The auction in Ocala, Fla. is the final juvenile sale of a solid season season that began in March.
With 936 entered (including a handful comprising the horses in training segment), the catalog is 21.7% larger than last year, when 769 were cataloged. The 2017 auction saw 439 head sold for gross receipts of $15,476,900, as the average price of $35,255 and the $18,000 median represented gains of 21.7% and 38.5%, respectively, from the much larger 2016 sale. Last year, the 90 horses that did not sell represented 17% of the total through the ring.
Heading into the June sale, the 2018 juvenile market is tracking slightly below last year through the same period, with 1,521 head grossing $169.5 million, compared with total receipts of $177 million for 1,505 sold in 2017. This year's median of $52,000 to date equals the figure at the same juncture a year ago and the average is down from $117,614 in 2017 to $111,415.
Like most 2-year-old auctions, the June sale is dominated by horses previously purchased to be resold. OBS president Tom Ventura said the larger number of entries this year is likely a result of a greater number of yearling purchases by pinhookers who enjoyed strong returns at 2017 2-year-olds in training sales.
"The market was very good last year and the pinhookers went back into the market and bought a few more yearlings," Ventura said, adding that some Florida breeders reserve part of their juvenile stock for the June sale, also providing a boost to the numbers.
With sellers—especially those with pinhooking partnerships structured to end with the June sale—in a position where they must sell their stock and move on to yearling sales or decide to retain them for racing, the June sale can present value for buyers.
"Being the last 2-year-old sale of the season, it gives the buyers one last opportunity to get a 2-year-old at auction and sellers that same chance to sell their horses as they move on to yearling markets and start the process all over again," Ventura said. "Some of the consignors have partnerships structured where it's time to sell the horses and not take that next step to the racetrack and there is opportunity here to take advantage of that situation. There are some very nice horses here."
"What you run into with it being the last sale of the year is on the selling side they either have to take what they can get or pick a trainer," said agent Steve Young. "Many of them need to have cash flow to keep operating to buy yearlings to present to the market next year. So in that sense I think you do run into motivated sellers."
While the better-quality horses may stand out more in a sale like the June venue with a large number of 2-year-olds in all price ranges, Young said buyers must continue to be prudent.
"There are so many horses of different worth in the same locale," Young said of the June marketplace. "When you buy a horse to go to New York, the Southeast, or to go California or to Kentucky, they still have to stand on their own merit. It doesn't matter what sale they came from, but where they are going to run they're going to have run against horses that came out of theoretically better sales. You can't drop your guard. When they get off the van where you send them they are going to be running against horses from these other sales and have to be of like ability."
Eddie Woods, last year's leading consignor when he sold all 18 offered at the sale for total receipts of $1,599,500, said there was a larger divide between the top and bottom at the June sale than most other 2-year-old sales in 2017.
"I think it was a little more polarized than the other sales," Wood said. "Last year this sale was good at the top end, but there was a severe drop-off to the bottom, more so than at any other sale last year. And we have more horses this year."
Jimbo Gladwell, who with his wife Torie operates Top Line Sales, is among consignors hopeful for vibrant trade at the OBS sale.
"It's the last sale so we need to make sure we take every advantage and get things sold," he said.
While the June sale may lack some of the cache or prices of the earlier-season juvenile sales, it has a good track record of producing horses that can compete at the highest levels.
Gracing this year's catalog front cover is Stormy Liberal, a $100,000 purchased by agent Dennis O'Neil from Wavertree Stables in 2014 who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T).
The back cover features grade 1 winner Seeking the Soul, who was offered at the 2015 edition of the sale and was bought back by breeder Charles Fipke on a final bid of $37,000.
Last year's $400,000 sale-topper sold by Top Line, a Florida-bred colt by First Dude named There and Now, was successful in his career debut for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Byerly Turk Racing when he won a 6-1/2 furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita Park June 9.
The OBS June sale, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m. ET daily, will be streamed live via the OBS website and via the BloodHorse website. The entire catalog, including supplements, can be viewed via the OBS website.